By Dustin Luca
---- — The Andover Coalition for Education is looking to take its work to the next level, and the organization’s board of directors is actively recruiting its first, paid executive director to help it do that.
The nonprofit organization dedicated to its financial support of the Andover School District is advertising for a part-time director.
Board members are so committed to the position that they have put up their own money to fund it. Eventually, they expect the position will pay for itself through grants.
“It’s an idea we’ve actually been tossing around for a couple of years,” board member Tina Girdwood said. “We felt it was really important, at this stage, to move on it when we had a few of our board members step up and say, ‘Let’s put some money on the table for this.’”
Since it was founded in 2005, ACE has been guided by a 10-member board of directors, with a secondary advisory panel comprised of 26 former members, local educators and supporters of the school district.
Given ACE’s current size, that framework has now become the organization’s greatest challenge, according to Girdwood.
“It’s really difficult, we found over the years, for board members to be singly responsible for the various aspects of development and fundraising for an organization like this,” Girdwood said. “Some organizations can do that. They do one huge event and they raise the money for the year, and then donate that to their various projects.”
Over the years, ACE has made major contributions to the school district. In 2008, the organization gifted a two-year, $100,000 donation to create the district’s grants coordinator. The position has since raised $1.1 million — a 1,100-percent return on investment.
Through ACE, elementary and middle school engineering programs led to a natural development of STEAM courses at the high school. The purchase of a digital foreign language laboratory at the high school has transformed how languages are taught.
Most recently, the organization spent more than $20,000 for a weather station at Andover High — a heavy piece of roof-mounted hardware that’s currently being installed, Girdwood said.
Even with all of that support, financed purely by donations, there is “an awareness issue” between ACE and Andover, Girdwood said.
“We’ve been delighted with the community support for ACE, but we ought to do better,” she said. “There is still, as much as we try, plenty of people in Andover who don’t know about ACE.”
While specifics of the new job are limited at this time, the position could work somewhere between 10 and 20 hours a week. Benefits are unknown, and Girdwood declined to outline how much the organization pooled together to pay for the position’s first year.
Money donated to ACE up to this point will continue to go to the organization’s school-directed initiatives. Limited fundraising is possible, meanwhile, to target specifically the director role, according to Girdwood.
“We may need to go to some donors to help us for the second year, but that will be up-front,” she said. “If (someone) donated with the idea that it is going to the schools, that’s where it will go. We’re segregating the funds for this position.”
The ideal candidate for the job would be someone who lives in or around town “who might have done this type of work and is taking a break, having kids, small children, that type of thing, and maybe they want to get back into business,” Girdwood said.
The full job description, including requirements and responsibilities, can be found on the organization’s website at www.aceandover.org.