Community-Funded CFEE Grants Will Support Innovation in the Cranford Schools

17 September, 2018. The Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence has awarded more than $32,000 in grants to support a variety of educational innovations in the Cranford schools during the 2018-2019 academic year.

The grants will benefit students across the school district. The Cranford school board has formally accepted the grants, which are awarded to the teachers who applied for them.

CFEE, relaunched in 2014, is a nonprofit, Cranford-based foundation that supports excellence and innovation in the Cranford public schools by generating resources through community involvement. This year, in consultation with the school district leadership, CFEE awarded grants in four categories in order to benefit larger groups of students across grade levels:

  • Differentiated or personalized education

  • Technology integration and 21st-century skills

  • Innovation zones/makerspaces

  • Classroom design

“We would like to thank every one of the Cranford educators who applied for a grant this year,” said CFEE co-president Pete Turnamian. “We would also like to thank the school district’s leaders for their advice and input into this year’s process of awarding grants.”

“And, of course, thank you to everyone who has given in support of CFEE’s mission and made it possible to bring these exciting new resources to our students,” he said.

This year’s grant awards were made possible by CFEE’s third annual Trivia Night fundraiser, held in February; by a back-to-school appeal sent to parents in September 2017; and by

the generous donations of parents, community members, and businesses throughout the year.

“Every year, it becomes more and more apparent just how much this community cares about supporting its teachers and giving them every resource for challenging and inspiring their students,” CFEE co-president Corey Walsh said. “I speak for everyone at CFEE when I say how honored and grateful we are for all the support and enthusiasm that the Cranford community has shown for advancing our mission.”

The grants for the 2018-2019 academic year, divided by category, are as follows:


Collaboration Stations in the Middle School. Orange Avenue School. Standing desks, custom tables, and flexible seating will provide options for students of varying needs to collaborate at centralized work sites throughout the classroom. Desks can be shared across classrooms. This grant also falls under the classroom design category. (Christine Ross and Angelique Eimer, applicants)


Find Your Fitness: A Heart-Guided Fitness Program for Body and Mind. Orange Avenue School. More than 400 students will have access to heart monitors and will be able to use data to see how their physical activity aligns with their goals. (Suzette de Araujo, applicant)


Maker/STEAM/Innovation Spaces. Grades K-5 across six buildings. Makerspaces provide opportunities for independent learning, invention, exploration, and the mental stimulation that comes from working with one’s hands. (Sue Ritter, applicant)  

EV3 Robotics. Orange Avenue School. Seventh-grade applied technology students will gain two EV3 robots to add to the eight that were funded last year by CFEE. (Shannon Pena, applicant)

Lego EV3: Robotics in STEAM Education. Hillside Avenue School. Ten EV3 robots will be purchased for use by 200 to 225 students in grades seven and eight. (Kristen Girone, applicant)  

CO2 Dragster Race Track. Orange Avenue School. Eighth-grade applied technology students will draw on their study of aerodynamics to design, build, and race balsa-wood dragsters, using a kit that will allow for precise data collection. (Shannon Pena, applicant)



Increasing Mathematical Discourse and Perseverance through Classroom Design. Cranford High School. Round whiteboard tables will allow students to share information and strategies in small groups, and will also promote more mobility in the room. (Elizabeth Sheehan, applicant)  

Flexible Library Spaces. Cranford High School. Enhancements to the high school’s library will make it a more inviting space and foster more collaboration and cooperative learning. CFEE is partially funding this project as part of a long-range initiative. (Robin Melleno, applicant)  

Other grants to improve classroom design were awarded at the following schools:

Hillside Avenue School: Flexible seating and work stations for second-grade students (Angela Cerchio, applicant)

Cranford High School: Collaborative work stations for ninth-grade biology students (Julia Lewis, applicant); sit-to-stand desks, whiteboard tables, and small-group mini lesson tables for all students in German class and any other classes that share the same room (Denice Schmidt, applicant)

Bloomingdale Avenue School. Flexible seating for first-grade students in general education, resource rooms, and the media center (Karen Ferraioli, Mellisa Toddings, Ann Curtis, Greg D’Amato, applicants)

Walnut Avenue School: Collaborative round tables, wobble cushions, lap trays, and other furniture that fosters student engagement for approximately 90 first graders per year (Lauren Wilson, applicant); wobble chairs for 23 first graders, which allow for student movement during both structured and unstructured time, which have proven to increase focus without disruption (Erica Campbell, applicant)

CFEE Awards Grants to Support Innovation in the Cranford Public Schools


12 June, 2017. The Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence has awarded nearly $23,000 in grants to fund innovative classroom projects in the Cranford public schools for the 2017-2018 school year. The grants will bring new resources to students at all levels—from kindergarten through high school—and across subjects, from science and literacy to math and music.


The Board of Education formally accepted the grants on June 12, and they will be awarded directly to the teachers who applied for them earlier this year. This is the third annual round of awards since the 2014 relaunch of the CFEE, a Cranford-based nonprofit foundation that supports excellence and innovation in the Cranford public schools by generating additional resources through community involvement.


“Since 2014, we have been delighted to see how enthusiastically the Cranford community has embraced and supported CFEE’s renewed efforts. All of the thoughtful, creative ideas reflected in this year’s grant applications show, once again, how deeply Cranford’s teachers care about doing the utmost to challenge and inspire their students,” CFEE co-president Pete Turnamian said. “We thank everyone who made the effort to apply for a grant.”


All grant funding comes from Cranford residents, businesses, and organizations. This year’s grant awards were made possible by the CFEE’s second annual Trivia Night fundraiser in February, which raised more than $20,000, and by a Back to School appeal sent to parents in September.


The CFEE received 30 grant applications and made 12 grant awards, working with applicants and the school district to make sure funds would be spent in a strategic and effective manner that was aligned with the district’s mission. In addition, alternative solutions were found within the district and community that may accomplish the goals of several applicants who were not awarded funding.


“We thank the school district leadership for their partnership, and we thank everyone who contributed to CFEE over the past year,” CFEE co-president Corey Walsh said. “New, creative classroom methods are critical for preparing students for our rapidly changing world, and we are thrilled to see that the Cranford community so readily supports this vital work.”


The grants awarded funding are as follows:


The Creative Mindset Literary Project. Orange Avenue School. Applicant: Thais Jackson. Sixth-graders will develop and publish their literary works and present them at a book release event.


PebbleGo Database Subscription. Bloomingdale Avenue, Brookside Place, Hillside Avenue, and Walnut Avenue schools. Applicant: Arline McCloskey. This is the second CFEE grant providing access to this database, which uses videos, read-along audio, and other supports to help all the district’s K-2 students build literacy skills and learn about social studies and science.


Intergenerational Book Study. Cranford High School. Applicant: Jennifer Hilborn. Students in grades 9 through 12 will meet with school staff and community members after school to discuss five texts having to do with privilege as a way to build empathy for challenges facing other people.


Ellison Starter Set. Cranford High School. Applicant: Lisa Williams. The multiple disabilities class will use this letter- and shape-cutting tool—which they can manipulate with little assistance—for making posters and other crafts for use around the high school, learning a skill in the process.


Middle School Band Instruments. Hillside Avenue School. Applicant: A.J. Falisi. Outdated band instruments, some of them more than 50 years old, will be replaced with new equipment to meet the needs of the growing music program and allow for more challenging lessons.


Robots. Orange Avenue School. Applicant: Shannon Pena. Older robot kits used by third- through seventh-graders will be replaced by newer, better models to support robotics education, which integrates math, programming, and engineering.


We Do Need STEAM! Livingston Avenue School. Applicant: Kimberly Scutieri Crowder. LEGO Education WeDo 2.0 sets will help students develop problem-solving and other skills by making challenging STEAM topics (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) more approachable.


3D Printer. Orange Avenue School. Applicants: Marc Edery, Shannon Pena. A 3D printer will be used to build STEAM and computer science/design skills schoolwide.


Junior Birdwatchers. Walnut Avenue School. Applicant: Judy Grogan. Second-graders will use binoculars, field guides and other supplies to learn to distinguish various bird species from one another.


Sensory Diet. Hillside Avenue School. Applicant: Yvette Andriola. This personalized activity plan will help regular and special-education students in grades K-8 improve focus, attention, postural control, and self-regulation.


Ukuleles 2.0. Livingston Avenue School. Applicant: Colleen McDonald. Ukuleles for fourth- and fifth-graders, funded by a CFEE grant last year, will be supplemented with a storage cart and new teaching materials.


Flexible Seating/Personalized Learning. Bloomingdale Avenue, Hillside Avenue, and Orange Avenue schools, and Cranford High School. The school district will allocate a grant among six applicants, each of whom sought funding for chairs, tables, books, or other materials to improve classroom design and foster more personalized learning.

Cranford Rotary Club Supports CFEE

July 25, 2016 The Cranford Rotary Club hosted its annual golf outing at Echo Lake Country Club. The event was a 
resounding success and raised $7,500 for CFEE. Thank you Rotarians, and all those who took part in the event. This generous donation will support CFEE's continued efforts to bring exciting and innovative new resources to the Cranford Public Schools. 

CFEE Awards Grants to Support Educational Innovation in the Cranford Schools

Cranford, N.J., Sept. 13, 2016—The Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence (CFEE) has awarded more than $16,000 in grants to the Cranford public schools for the 2016-2017 academic year. The grants will pay for various educational resources sought by teachers who want to engage and challenge their students in inventive ways.

The grants will benefit children at all levels—from kindergarten through high school—across a range of subjects, from the sciences to literacy to music and art. The grants, awarded directly to teachers, were formally accepted by the Cranford Board of Education over the summer.

“Once again, we were impressed with all the outstanding grant applications we received, and with all the great ideas for enhancing the education of Cranford students,” CFEE Co-President Susan Caruso Green said.

The CFEE is a nonprofit, Cranford-based foundation that supports excellence and innovation in the Cranford public schools by generating additional resources through community involvement.

Founded more than 15 years ago and relaunched two years ago after a hiatus, the CFEE has awarded more than $200,000 for educational initiatives that are beyond the scope of the school district’s budget. Funding comes entirely from Cranford residents, businesses and organizations.

More information about the CFEE, including the criteria for awarding grants and descriptions of grants in action, can be found at

“We are thrilled to be able to inspire appreciation for our teachers and support innovation in our classrooms, and we deeply appreciate the community’s support,” CFEE Co-President Pete Turnamian said. “Our goal has always been to ensure that the Cranford sprit of pride and generosity is alive in our classrooms for our children’s benefit.”

The CFEE received 18 grant applications in May and funded eight of them. They are:

PebbleGo Database Subscription. Bloomingdale Avenue, Brookside Place, Hillside Avenue, and Walnut Avenue schools. Applicant: Arline McCloskey. All of the district’s K-2 students will use this award-winning database, with its read-aloud function and videos, to build literacy skills while completing projects in social studies and the sciences.

Ukuleles in the General Music Classroom. Livingston Avenue School. Applicant: Colleen McDonald. Fourth- and fifth-graders will learn instrumental performance on the ukulele, a user-friendly instrument that’s well suited to developing a love of music making.

Aerodynamics in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). Hillside Avenue and Orange Avenue schools. Applicants: Kristin Girone, Steve VanDam. A Flow Visualization Wind Tunnel will be used for hands-on study of aerodynamics and design processes in grades 6 through 8.

DrumFit. Orange Avenue School. Applicants: Suzette de Araujo, Amanda Innis, Connie Thomas. Students in grade 3 through 5 will take part in DrumFit, a drumming-based activity that promotes mental focus as well as physical and musical education.

Virtual Reality with Google Cardboard. Orange Avenue School. Applicant: Shannon DellaFortuna. Students in grades 6 through 8 will use Google Cardboard glasses, smartphones, and virtual reality apps to simulate science-related adventures like traveling in space or exploring the oceans.

STEM Learning. Brookside Place School. Applicant: Carolyn Chelland. This grant paid for materials needed for problem-solving exercises—like how to clean up an oil spill or make a self-propelled car—that will bring together the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math) for second graders.

STEM/Gifted and Talented Program Development. Orange Avenue School. Applicant: Lisa Lesiak. The CFEE supported a teacher attending Confratute, a professional development conference, to learn about strategies for STEM and gifted and talented education that would be shared with educators in grades 3 through 5 districtwide.

3-D Printing and Design. Cranford High School. Applicant: Liz Azukas. A 3-D printer, and accompanying software, is being procured to support student projects across a variety of subjects including science, applied technology, computer science, business, social studies, and fine arts.

Ist Annual CFEE Team Trivia Night Raises Funds for Grants

At its first annual Trivia Night on April 23, 2016 the Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence (CFEE) raised nearly $8,000 to support innovative approaches to learning in the Cranford public schools.

The CFEE awards grants to teachers who want to bring advanced resources into their classrooms to inspire and engage students in new ways.

More than 250 people attended this year’s sold-out event, held at the Cranford Community Center. Twenty-five teams competed to answer questions in ‘social’ studies (current events), local geography (Cranford), phys ed (sports), science, music (audio round), and history, with a bonus ‘substitute teacher’ round to identify movie stills with education themes!

DJ Randy Geis, trivia-master Brian Andrews and our MC Gary Pascal led the competing teams through six rounds of challenging questions. Team ‘IU Crew’ took home the inaugural trophy.

Speakers included one of last year’s grant recipients, Therese Koellner, a teacher at Bloomingdale Avenue School who helped found the CFEE 20 years ago. “I can tell you firsthand that grants that this organization awards to teachers benefit not just those directly participating in a program, but through sharing and publicity, the grants create a stirring of conversation among the staff,” she said. “This in turn unlocks the potential in others to try something new.”

“Of course, without a doubt it is the students who are the greatest recipients of these inspiring initiatives.”

This event was made possible with support from the Cranford Township Committee, the Cranford Recreation & Parks Department, and the Cranford Board of Education. The CFEE board is grateful to our sponsors Jill Wohrle & Brian Andrews, the Cranford Jaycees, The Rotary Club of Cranford, and Szeles Construction, LLC.

Last year, the CFEE awarded more than $19,000 in grants for 12 initiatives that bolstered education across the curriculum, from reading and writing to music, public speaking, and the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math).

“This year’s grant deadline is May 1” announced CFEE Co-President Peter Turnamian. “CFEE is anticipating nearly $60,000 worth of proposals from Cranford’s educators and the proceeds from this year’s event will be added to additional funds raised this year to help fill those requests.” For more information about the Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence, the impact of its grants, or to add your financial support, please visit

Grants awarded for 2015-16 School Year

July, 2015—The Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence, a community non-profit organization that works to enhance educational opportunities for students in the Cranford School District, has announced the award of more than $19,000 in grants to fund twelve innovative programs.

The grants benefit Cranford students in classrooms from elementary to high school, in areas ranging from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to music; and from public speaking to Latin. Selected through a competitive application process, and presented to educators, the awards include a “First and Second Grade Engineering” program at Bloomingdale Avenue School; a “Digital Media Club” at Orange Avenue School; and a “Filtered Water Bottle Refilling Station,” to increase sustainability, at Hillside Avenue School.

The Cranford Board of Education accepted the grants in a resolution in June, and the expectation is that new programs will begin in the fall.

“We are pleased to be able to support so many excellent programs, and to have received so many strong applications from our district’s educators,” said Susan Caruso Green, Cranford Fund co-president. “On behalf of the entire board, we thank all the teachers who devoted time and energy to applying for grants.”

Cranford Fund Co-President Peter Turnamian said the hope is that the grants will spark creative learning opportunities for students and show community support for our teachers.

“The Cranford Fund is looking forward to continuing our work, and funding more programs in the future. We aim to host fundraisers during the coming school year where we will seek to inspire greater community involvement and support,” he said.

The grants were selected from among 19 applications.

Started more than 15 year ago, the Cranford Fund has awarded more than $200,000 for educational initiatives that are outside the scope of the regular school budget. For further information, please visit the website, Parents may also learn more about the grants and the Cranford Fund at Back-to-School nights in the fall.

Grants awarded by the Cranford Fund for Educational Excellence are as follows:

E-Portfolios for Public Speaking, Cranford High School. Teacher: Michelle Balseiro. Students in Speech Arts will strengthen their public speaking skills by recording and critiquing their presentations on E-Portfolios. Grant amount: $2,900

Music Composer’s Toolbox, Hillside Avenue School, Educators: Lynn Berry, Dr. Curt Fogas. The Composer's Toolbox teaches composition by using a software driven compositional tool. Grade 6 and 7 students receive the program as part of their music cycle. This program opens the doors of creativity for all students, and hands them 21st century tools to explore and create music. Grant amount: $6,540

Zooming Into Reading & Writing Composition, Hillside Avenue School. Teacher: Lynne Davis. Using an interactive document camera will allow students to connect better with reading and writing, by viewing and interacting with written work. Grant amount: $700

Using Technology to Develop as Writers, Hillside Avenue School. Teacher: Theresa Juliano. Enhances use of technology in the classroom, and allows students to efficiently publish stories and essays, by providing keyboards for the classroom iPads. Grant amount: $400

First & Second Grade Engineers, Bloomingdale Avenue School. Teacher: Therese Koellner. Students in grades one and two will conduct problem-based engineering scenarios, allowing them to test theories, research, observe, record data, reflect and write as they move through the learning process to a successful outcome. Grant amount: $1,459.16

STEM Brings Innovation to LAS, Livingston Avenue School. Educator: Filipe Luis. Creates a new elementary after-school program focused on STEM. Students will explore technology and engineering solutions, and apply math concepts to address real-life issues and solve problems. The new club is designed to serve as a model, which would then enable a similar opportunity for all students. Grant amount: $900

The Modern Essence of an Ancient Language, Cranford High School, Orange Avenue and Hillside Schools. Teachers: Aileen McGuire, Annamaria Bellino. Presents Latin vocabulary in a way that encourages retention and the application of meaning and use. Software builds a connection between image, meaning and pronunciation of the Latin word. Grant amount: $1,300

Personalized Learning, Brookside Place School. Teacher: Rosie Scholz. Takes learning outside the confines of a traditional classroom, by giving students the opportunity to choose their own path for learning. Students will conduct research, and become critical thinkers who want to make a positive impact on the world. Grant amount: $1,000

Digital Media Club, Orange Avenue School. Teacher: Daniel Reppert. Open to any student with an interest in writing for, filming, editing or producing video about Orange Avenue School, the club plans to produce a video each month. Videos could be broadcast to the community through TV35. Grant amount: $398

Filtered Water Bottle Refilling Station, Hillside Avenue School. Educator: Matthew Fichter. Installation of a refrigerated, eco-friendly, electric refillable water fountain will increase sustainability, reducing the number of disposable plastic water bottles used. Community members who use the gymnasium would also benefit. Grant amount: $1,400

Lego More-to-Math, Bloomingdale Avenue School. Teacher: Diane Cruz. Uses manipulatives, curriculum materials and interactive software to teach mathematical problem solving to first and second graders. Creates rich mathematics lessons that also inspire teamwork and help students make sense of problems and persevere to solve them. Grant amount: $829.95 Classroom Arduino, Orange Avenue School. Teacher: Steven Van Dam. Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than the typical desktop computer. The program will introduce students to the world of electronics and computer programming. Grant amount: $1,260.