The Johnston Educational Foundation was formed in 2007 with the best of intentions; to act as a fundraising entity to help save programming at Johnston public schools. Today, the economy has put a damper on that mission but Ray Domaingue is not giving up.
Domaingue, the chairperson of the Foundation, has been on the Board of Directors for the Foundation since it was formed six years ago. He admits that the non-profit has yet to reach the high potential and high fundraising amounts initially envisioned but is hopeful that as the economy turns around, so will the Foundation.
Back in 2007, the Johnston School Committee was looking at the possibility of eliminating sports teams from the high school and most of the after-school activities at N.A. Ferri Middle School. Instead, the committee looked at creating a non-profit to help with fundraising for the maintenance of programs for students, a formula they mirrored after a system in Barrington, according to Domaingue.
Domaingue explained that the initial plan was to have the superintendent as a board member of the Foundation, but the parents were not sure that was the best path.
“So we took the model they had and tweaked it a bit,” said Domaingue, explaining that the parents felt there would be more community support if the Foundation remained a separate entity from the School Department.
Nine parents came together to form the original Board of Directors, four of whom are still on the Board today.
“Once all the documentation was accumulated and filed with the IRS, and approval granted by the IRS for the 501(c)3 status, we began developing fundraising events that we hoped would bring the school populations and residents of the town together to enhance the educational experiences of the public school students of Johnston,” said Domaingue.
Domaingue took over as chairperson this past week when Glenn Haskins stepped down. Haskins had held the position since the organization formed. Domainque said Haskins, who will remain a board member, “has been instrumental in our success.”
The first event was a 10-day carnival organized with Rockwell Amusements. Domaingue recalled Rockwell making a generous donation to the Foundation, and in turn, the Foundation was able to give $4,000 to the School Department for sports equipment and the cost of buses for sporting events. Over the years, the Foundation also hosted Magical Pancake Breakfasts, a cell phone-recycling event, ice skating events, and had a booth at Apple Fest.
They also worked with the Johnston High School Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO), which Domaingue is the president of, to sponsor an annual 5K, an event they took over this year in an attempt to raise funds for all of the schools in the district instead of just the high school.
“We have always felt that events that would bring the community together were the correct direction for our fundraising efforts,” said Domaingue, adding that the Foundation is not tied to one specific school but the district as a whole.
In the past six years, Domaingue said the Foundation has been able to donate more than $15,000 to the schools in Johnston, specifically helping to purchase large items such as choral risers and a new sound system at Johnston High. The sound system, which costs between $19,000 and $20,000, was purchased as a joint effort between the PTSO, Johnston Dance and Performing Arts organization and the Johnston Music Association.
“The sound system is the perfect example of where groups need to come together,” said Domaingue. “No one group can come up with that [money] anymore.”
Domaingue explained that the Foundation often sponsors fundraisers and events with other organizations such as PTOs from the specific schools or the parent organizations associated with various sports teams because having two organizations working to raise funds is often more successful.
“We’re willing to get involved wherever we can help,” said Domaingue.
Despite these small victories, Domaingue says the original vision has yet to be realized.
“We haven’t hit the high numbers we want to; all we can do is continue to try,” said Domaingue, adding that if they continue to work in the right way for the students, when the economy turns around he believes people will believe in the organization and support it because it is important.
“At the beginning, there just wasn’t the money in the budget to support things. Even now, it’s a struggle every year. We believe that we’d like to be more effective and be able to do more of the extras that make the education process rewarding to the students, to give the students what they really need that the budget isn’t able to,” said Domaingue.
There are currently eight individuals on the Foundation’s Board of Directors: Glenn Haskins, Mike Murray, Elaine Cabral, Dave Robbins, Deb Spaur, Pat Hannagan, Gail Pereira and Domaingue. They are actively searching for someone to fill the vacant ninth Board seat. They are also always looking for volunteers to be involved with the Foundation. Domaingue said all who wish to volunteer are welcome; you do not have to have a child in Johnston Public Schools.
“We are open to whoever really wants to be involved,” he said.
For information about becoming a member of Johnston Educational Foundation or to provide financial support to the Foundation, contact Ray Domaingue at firstname.lastname@example.org.