Williams-Rockwell Education Gift Fund Committee Awards Nearly $65,000 in Grants

The Williams-Rockwell Educational Gift Fund Committee met on February 13, 2024 and March 7, 2024, to distribute this year’s round of grants to applicants from the Gardner Public School System. The committee was able to distribute $82,831.60 for 14 different projects which will take place over the remainder of the academic year and beyond.

Gardner’s Superintendent of Public Schools, Dr. Mark Pellegrino remarked, “The Williams-Rockwell grants continue to generously give to Gardner Public Schools. These funds allow us to offer very creative programs that enhance the experience of our students beyond the core and essential expectations of our community. From service dogs to laser cutters, this program supports our students social emotional needs and academic growth. Thank you to everyone on the committee for supporting our students!”

The Williams-Rockwell Education Gift Fund was established in 2014 following the auction of Norman Rockwell’s “Willie Gillis in the Convoy” painting. The fund was set up to provide financial assistance to projects and programs requested by the faculty and administration of Gardner Public Schools to enrich the experiences of Gardner’s students. The grants are funded by the interest and capital gains earned from investments of the sale price of the painting.

From the auction to the disbursement of the grants, the Williams-Rockwell Educational Gift Fund has been a collective effort in bringing about a way to give back to the city and its students for years to come. To date, the Committee has awarded $610,064.00.

“I am very happy to hear that we are able to continue to give back to our students through this program,” said Mayor Michael Nicholson who serves as the Chair of the fund’s Trustees. “The projects submitted for this year’s round of funding were certainly unique and help provide valuable resources to help enrich our students’ academic careers. This fund truly makes a big difference in helping Gardner Public Schools provide our students with a modern academic experience that stands out from other districts. I’m looking forward to seeing our students take advantage of these programs in the future.”

Council President Elizabeth Kazinskas added, “The Williams-Rockwell resource enriches the quality of our education in Gardner, and we are incredibly lucky to have it.  These grants continue to serve their purpose providing valuable opportunities for our students each year.  Such options would likely not be possible otherwise, or their funding would draw from the city’s budget.”

As required by the fund’s governing statute, awards were given out to both arts related applications as well as applications that promote athletics and academics in our schools.

“The funds received by GMS from the Rockwell Grant will be used to help subsidize our 6th grade trip to Nature’s Classroom,” explained Annette Lussier, Gardner Middle School Science Teacher. “Students look forward to this trip every year! This amazing educational experience provides our students with an opportunity to think and learn about the natural world around us and more importantly our place in nature and how we, humans, are uniquely responsible for the stewardship of our planet. GMS would like to thank the Rockwell Grant committee for this award and their continued support for this unique and powerful educational experience.”

“20 years ago when I started teaching at the middle school, I used the spotlights that were shared with the high school to light a lot of each production due to a lack of an auditorium at GMS,” said Joanne Landry, Gardner High School Music and Drama teacher. “It was clear to me even then that the spotlights were not very effective and had two very different illumination capacities. One is very dim with fuzzy edges while the other is brighter but with no filter capabilities any more. They are also very bulky and heavy and difficult to transport from one school to the other.  I am thrilled that after 20 years, we will finally be able to acquire new spotlights for the theater program. All the drama students from both the high school and middle school will be able to benefit from better lighting. The units are portable, quieter when in use, and use LED lighting so they will be less expensive to maintain. These should be easier to operate as well and we can have students on stage crew run the spots for the shows. I am excited to have the new spotlights shine brightly on our hard working performers.”

“We are so excited to receive this grant for the Great East Festival for the 4th Grade Band,” said Michelle Heffner, Gardner Elementary School Band Director. “Great East provides a competitive opportunity for our young musicians in a supportive environment.  Students will perform in front of a panel of judges and then receive a clinic where the judges will work with our 4th Grade band students to help them improve their playing, listening and ensemble skills.  It is exciting to provide our youngest band students with this opportunity to demonstrate their skills in a real-life competitive setting and provide them with their first experience with adjudication!  The students are eager to begin learning their music and are excited to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in front of a panel of well-respected music educators.  Thank you to the committee for providing our 4th Grade Band with this opportunity!”

“We ordered these boards a few years ago and they were so successful in their ease of setting up artworks that we wanted to obtain more,” said Frances LeMieux, Gardner High School Art Teacher. “This has allowed us to be able to rotate where our All School Art Exhibitions are held, in an effort to connect with all facets of the community. The venue change allows for greater community access, allowing the public to see all of our schools, but also gives the host school an opportunity to display a higher amount of its students’ work. The color of the boards are varied, which will show off our art pieces better. The grey backing will help to specifically show off works that have a darker composition, that we have noticed get lost while viewing on our current black backings.

By law, the membership on the Board of Trustees who votes to award the grants is made up of three members appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council, the City Treasurer, the Superintendent of Schools, a member of the School Committee, the City Council President or their designee, and the Mayor or his designee who serves as chair.

A full listing of the grants awarded can be found here: