Chamber’s Golden Bell Foundation Hands Out $85K in Grants to Boca Schools

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By: Dale King Contributing Writer

The 21 public schools in Boca Raton are richer today by some $85,000.

Students, teachers, school officials and Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce members and guests gathered last month at the Embassy Suites to share breakfast and to see how the Chamber’s Golden Bell Education Foundation would divvy up the money it has collected this year through donations and fundraisers.

The $85,000 total was noteworthy, said Chuck Stout, Golden Bell Foundation chair. “This is the Foundation’s highest return,” he said. In fact, the tally bumped the total amount the fund has given to local schools to about $1.8 million.

Chamber President and CEO Troy McLellan said its members created the Golden Bell program in 1991 as a means of augmenting school budgets and help pay for special programs not normally covered by regular educational spending.

Stout called Boca Raton “the best place to live, work, play – and learn. These grants promote innovation and achievement.”

Actually, it didn’t take long for Golden Bell to start raising money for next year’s allotments. Using a special text message number, guests attending the breakfast could make donations to the fund. Susan Saturday from Bluegreen Vacations, the firm that sponsored the breakfast, and her husband, agreed to match the donations up to $2,500.

The final numbers, shown on a tote board, reached figures far higher than that mark.

Keynote speaker Frank Barbieri Jr., chairman of the county’s School Board and the panel’s representative from Boca Raton for the past 11 years, exuded pride as he heaped praise on the local school system and the Golden Bell fund.

“Great things are happening in the Boca schools,” he said. “All are rated ‘A,’” he noted.  Every high school has a commendable graduation rate, but Olympic Heights hit a milestone with 99 percent of seniors leaving with diplomas in hand.

Barbieri pointed out that Verde Elementary will be replaced by a new Verde school building in 2020. Addison Mizner School will be demolished and replaced by a new educational facility in 2021. Both will be K-8 schools.

A brand new school – the first to be added in the Palm Beach School District in 12 years – will open in 2022 next to the Don Estridge High Tech Middle School, he said.

He said all this work is being funded with the 1 cent increase in the sales tax approved by Palm Beach County voters a few years ago.

To conclude the meeting, McLellan and Stout presented grant awards to officials from all the city’s schools.

Totals were:

A.D. Henderson University School (elementary), $2,750; Addison Mizner Elementary, $4,437; Boca Raton Elementary $3,000; Calusa Elementary, $2,800; Coral Sunset, two grants of $1,200 and $3,700; Del Prado, $400; Hammock Pointe Elementary, $4,776; J.C. Mitchell Elementary, $1,158 and  Sandpiper Shores Elementary, two grants of $1,012 and $2,500.

Also: Sunrise Park Elementary, three grants of $430, $3,050 and $4,000; Verde Elementary, two grants of $543 and $2,674; Waters Edge Elementary, $4,950 and Whispering Pines Elementary, two grants of $1,700 and $4,950.

Middle schools: A.D. Henderson, $330; Boca Middle, two grants of $1,000 and $1,604; Don Estridge High Tech Middle, two grants of $2,450 and $2,500; Eagles Landing, $2,998; Loggers Run, $4,400 and Omni Middle, $2,900.

High schools: A.D. Henderson/FAU High,$2,500; Boca High, $3,000; Olympic Heights, three grants of $867, $1,670 and $532; Spanish River, $3,062 and West Boca High, two grants of $1,200 and $2,500.

A $7,500 grant went to the Boca Raton Museum of Art and $7,600 was given to the George Snow Scholarship Fund.