An old proverb instructs that it takes a village to raise a child, and Lawrence Township Education Foundation aims to take the historic adage to heart—and so does Karen Faiman, the foundation’s new executive director.
The organization appeals to local businesses to support important projects for classrooms in Lawrence Township Public Schools, and Faiman said she plans to continue to grow the organization’s ability to support the school district. She said that she also hopes to further strengthen parental and community awareness about the services the organization provides.
Faiman is a Lawrence resident and a mother two young sons, Elliott and Joseph, who attend school in the district.
Carol Katz Connelly, LTEF board president, said in a press release, “we conducted a broad search and were delighted to find such an outstanding new executive director right in our backyard. I encourage all parents, teachers and neighbors to welcome Karen Faiman in her new leadership role.”
Faiman is originally from Maine, where she earned a bachelors degree in Spanish from Colby College and a masters degree in public policy and non-profit management from the University of Southern Maine. As an undergraduate, Faiman studied abroad in Spain and Argentina.
Faiman’s family relocated to New Jersey in 2009 when her husband, Casey Faiman, became general manager of New Jersey Interactive, a company in Trenton that builds and hosts government websites.
After looking at different areas within Mercer County, Faiman said, “we knew that Lawrence was the right place for us.”
She said that both of her children enrolled in pre-K in LTPS when they moved to the area, so Faiman has been actively involved in the school district for years. She served as PTO President at Ben Franklin Elementary School for two years before becoming executive director of LTEF.
‘I feel strongly about the community working together to support education.’
Faiman said that the new career path merges two of her greatest passions, non-profits and public education.
“Early in my career, I was a high school Spanish teacher, so I have a very strong passion for public education,” she said. “I feel strongly about the community working together to support education.”
Faiman has an impressive background with local nonprofits. She has worked as a grant writer for Womanspace in Lawrenceville and as the Director of Wildlife Center Friends in Titusville.
Faiman said that she enjoys volunteering in her for her sons’ schools and watching them play sports. Another hobby she likes is working out at New Jersey Athletic Club, where she also teaches a variety of group fitness classes—something she is very passionate about.
“I am passionate about many charities, including the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, as my father has Parkinson’s Disease,” Faiman said. “In 2004, I combined my love of fitness and fundraising and ran a marathon in Alaska for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In 2013, my husband and I both raised money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation and rode in the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City.”
Faiman said that an education foundation is established to support teachers and schools by sponsoring or co-sponsoring educational opportunities that fall outside what a school’s budget can afford.
According to its website, “the Lawrence Township Education Foundation was created to be a bridge between our community and our public schools- to encourage private philanthropy to enhance public education for students at all levels.”
Faiman said that the educational foundation has established itself over the years through the generous sponsorship of community businesses, ETS, and fundraising events. A popular fundraiser is the group’s annual bingo game event in which designer bags are given as the prizes. Its success, she said, if apparent in the community.
According to its website, LTEF has recently been able to provide schools with a 3D printer for STEM, sensory equipment and iPads for special education, crossfit gear for physical education, computers for a music program, assemblies and an artist-in-residence program for high school students.
“A challenge for the schools is being able to fund everything on a tight budget,” Faiman said. “The teachers will come with their administrators with their idea and apply for grants. We’ll fully or partially fund their idea if it is aligned with our mission.”
Faiman has many goals in mind to continue to build on the success of the foundation, which she said was able to reward $3.3 million in grants to local schools since 1992. The foundation also organizes volunteers to assist the schools where needed.
‘Even if you don’t have children in the Lawrence Township Public Schools… a strong public school system benefits everyone.’
This year alone, she said, the foundation was able to provide fundint to all seven district school in all areas of curriculum.
“Our educational foundation also fosters a supportive community. First and foremost, we provide grants for programs and projects, and we provide volunteer time,” said Faiman.
Faiman said not all school districts have an educational foundation. Even in New Jersey, not all townships have the benefit of such an organization to support the local school district, and in Mercer County, LTEF is one of the most established.
“We’ve been around a while now and have been able to grow through support from businesses in the area and parents,” Faiman said.
One of her many goals is to share with parents exactly what the organization is and what it has to offer. Parents new to the district may not be as familiar with what an educational foundation is and how it advances educational opportunities for their children.
“Where I came from they didn’t have an education foundation,” Faiman said. “I want to get into the schools and let other parents know what we bring to the table for improving those schools.”
The support of the local community and local businesses is important to maintaining the foundation’s success. Faiman said that like all nonprofits, the biggest challenge is competing with other worthy causes that are seeking for donations.
One of Faiman’s goals as the new executive director will be to communicate to businesses and the community how supporting the education of the children in the community directly benefits them. She also wants to share with the community the type of projects and successes that schools are experiencing because of the organization.
“Even if you don’t have children in the Lawrence Township Public Schools, if you live or work or run a business in the township, a strong public school system benefits everyone,” Faiman said. “It is very important that we support our local schools to make sure we are creating successful children and keeping our community wonderful.”
Businesses or community members who would like to contribute to LTEF may find more information at ltefnj.org, or by contacting Faiman directly.