Featured Grants

Student Led Club “Teaching English Through Play” Completes It’s First Year

cwvDm9asA3Lw9btnAfl5esWDJoILast December, Morristown High School sophomore, Caleb Septoff, started a new club at Morristown High School called “Teaching English Through Play.” It was inspired by a trip he took to China last summer organized and sponsored by Morristown resident and MEF donor, Betsy Harvin. The trip, designed to “Teach English Through Play” to children overseas, made Caleb realize he could use the same tools in his hometown to make a difference here.  With a grant to the MEF from Harvin, he brought his newly learned skills to MHS and started the club.

The goal of the club is to use games, such as “Go Fish”, as tools to teach the English language to non-English speaking students. Caleb worked with high school advisor, Heidi Heinsohn, to establish the club and found over time, students also began to work together on schoolwork or just ended up talking and hanging out.

“One of the best times was helping a student write a History paper.” -Caleb Septoff, MHS student

Caleb is pleased that the program has been so successful.  He is confident that it will continue to grow over the years.  However, next year Caleb must entrust the program to his peers.  His trip to China not only inspired the creation of the “Teaching English Through Play” club, it also inspired a junior year abroad in Germany.  He looks forward to seeing the progress when he rejoins the group in the 2016-17 school year. Aspiring Authors!

District Wide “Newsela” Grant Touches All Students In Grades 3-12 During 2014-15

IMG_1605This year the MEF funded the Newsela Pro computer literacy program for all students in grades 3-12 in the Morris School District.  The program allows students to read non-fiction articles at their appropriate reading level making learning accessible to all students.  It was integrated into classroom learning in all subjects.

As of April 30th, almost 250 teachers across the district accessed Newsela almost 108,000 times! 3,235 articles were assigned, 30,734 quizzes were given and even the newest features of highlighting and annotating articles were each used close to 1,000 times each. The response from teachers and students has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Newsela is a great classroom resource. The fact that students can adjust the articles to match their reading level makes it adaptable for all students.  Students can select individual articles, or I can assign a class article.  Some of the articles even come with short, on-line assessments that are helpful for assessing student understanding of the article.  I use Newsela in my classrooms in different ways.  Newsela articles are perfect Do-Nows (or warm-ups) to get their brains going.  They are excellent for making modern day connections to topics we cover.” -Kristie Fulton, Morristown High School

Teachers at the lower schools report the same levels of excitement about Newsela. Our number one user of Newsela, Anthony Lewis Leahy, science teacher at Sussex Avenue School had this to say:

“Part of what makes Newsela successful is the various teaching strategies you can employ in using it. Knowing that the PARCC assessments this year were going to be asking students to be able to pull information and supporting details from multiple sources, I was able to find two related articles in which I could provide annotations and questions in which they had to read BOTH pieces to be able to complete the task.” -Anthony-Lewis Lahey, Sussex Avenue Science Teacher

The Morris Educational Foundation is proud to have the opportunity to reach so many students through one grant.  We strive to serve all 5,000 in all 10 schools in the Morris School District through grants such as this one.

Normandy Park School Celebrates “All That Jazz”


The Jazz-themed year at Normandy Park, Morris School District’s multiage K-5 school, began with Principal Lora Clark’s fascination with jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong’s signature song, “What a Wonderful World.” The year became a reality thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Morris Educational Foundation,along with funding from the Normandy Park Home and School Association. “All That Jazz” was the culminating event of the Jazz theme at Normandy. Students performed under the guidance of teachers and parents, along with dance residency artist Christin Kennedy, owner of Art in Motion Academy of Dance, who worked diligently with all students at the school teaching jazz numbers for the show.

Every student shimmied and shook on the stage, delighting the audience. Interspersed between the energetic dancing, were vignettes from the jazz era written and directed by teacher Christopher Miller and performed by the Normandy Park Players, fourth and fifth graders at the school. Prior to this cul- minating event, all children at the school were totally engaged in the Jazz theme under the direction of Media Specialist Wendy Pollock Gilson, who submitted the $5,000 MEF grant with the cooperation of all 25 teachers at the school.

Naturally, music teacher Ariella Schwam delighted in introducing the students to different jazz artists and to its popular forms such as blues, be-bop, swing, Dixieland and New Orleans jazz. Meanwhile, art teacher Catherine Polcaro taught her students to appreciate the work of outstanding African- American artists such as Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. Student artwork was displayed in the Morristown High School atrium on the night of the show.

All in all, students, families and teachers agreed with Principal Clark that the Jazz-themed year “brought the whole school together as one Normandy Park family.”


Four MHS Seniors Start College Early Thanks to a Generous Donation to the MEF

The Morris Educational Foundation is honored to announce the creation of the Ficarra Fund for Early College Scholarships, funded by a generous donation from the Haralampoudis family. The scholarship, named for retired Morris School District Superintendent Dr. Thomas Ficarra, allows students with a financial need to begin college before high school graduation as part of the new Senior Options program at the high school. The Early College Senior Option allows students in good standing to attend County College of Morris for a full spring semester, earning 15 credits that could be transferrable to college in the fall.

“We are pleased to be able to provide this opportunity to deserving students to help them as they transition from high school to college. We asked to name the Early College Scholarship in honor of our former superintendent Dr. Thomas Ficarra in recognition of his longtime commitment and passion to support all students in pursuit of their academic ambitions.” – Greg and Patty Haralampoudis

Four seniors have been selected for the scholarship this year. The students attend classes at County College of Morris through their Challenger Program, which allows high school students to enrich their education through college coursework. Because Challenger students are enrolled on a non-matricu- lated basis, they are ineligible for financial aid. The Ficarra Fund for Early College Scholarships provides the means for students in excellent academic standing with a financial need to take advantage of the program.

Scott White, MHS Director of Guidance, explains,“In our inaugural year for Senior Options, the Early College Option has gotten a successful start, thanks to the generous gift of the Haralampoudis family and the extensive efforts of the Morris Educational Foundation. Four students are attending County College of Morris full-time, three of whom have full scholarships and one has a partial scholarship.”

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