Franklin Countys First News

RSU 9 receives $470,000 donation to fund Foster Tech programs

Richard Bjorn, holding a check produced by Foster Technology Center's graphic design class, is applauded by Glenn Kapiloff, the director of Franklin County Adult Education; Melissa Williams, the Foster Tech director; and Superintendent Tom Ward. Behind them is the Mt. Blue Robotics team.

FARMINGTON - Regional School Unit 9 directors, educators and students gave a standing ovation to a local business owner at Tuesday's board meeting, after the district announced it had received a $470,000 donation to fund Foster Career and Technical Education Center programming over the next two years.

The donation from Richard T. Bjorn has significance beyond the two-year window, as vocational programs funded locally for two years qualify for full reimbursement. State-approved programs at Foster CTE are paid for by the state, rather than with funds appropriated from the local assessment.

Superintendent Tom Ward said that he met with Bjorn, the owner of Kyes Insurance, before the holidays and that they talked about improving student access to Foster CTE programs. In the past, the board has discussed expanding popular programs such as the Composites Program or adding pre-engineering courses. Those additions have always been cut as part of the budget process.

"This is just amazing," board Chair Jennifer Zweig-Hebert said, noting that it was easy to see the "enthusiasm and passion" of many Foster CTE students. "Some of the decisions we've made have just been heartbreaking."

Funds would go toward supporting some of those programs. A total of $20,000 would be donated each year to expand Composites to a full-time course, something that the district says will help address the constant waiting list that accompanies that program. Those funds would augment another $10,000 the district has secured in other outside sources to support the expansion.

Another $60,000 per year would go toward paying for a pre-engineering instructor and supplies to create that program. The campus currently has space for the program and even some relevant equipment, but hasn't been able to fund the necessary teaching position.

Another $60,000 per year donated by Bjorn would support a new introduction program for 8th graders, freshmen and sophomores. That yearlong program, which would include a full-time teaching position, would focus on the four CTE areas currently offered at Foster Tech.

Bjorn, who spoke briefly at the board meeting, highlighted that outreach program as a particular need, saying that it was critical the district get younger students interested in CTE programming.

The funds donated by Bjorn include $65,000 to pay for either a small bus or van and a driver to transport students to local businesses as part of their CTE program. Ward noted that the district had been challenged in the past in providing transport for students, such as nursing program participants to Franklin Memorial Hospital, or taking trades students to job sites. The district's goal is to place more CTE program students in businesses in the community.

More funds would be donated to support the Mt. Blue FIRST robotics team, which has previously operated on money collected via fundraising. A total of $20,000 would be donated in each of the first two years into Foster Tech's supply line, with that money supporting the team and paying for entry fees. Team coach and Computer Technology teacher Richard Wilde and his current team's students were on hand to applaud Bjorn.

An undetermined amount of funding would be supplied to support the development of a specialized training facility for local police and fire departments. The concept of an "all hazards" training facility is a longstanding one, with the school board approving an initial planning process last year. A committee of local public safety personnel and campus staff has formed, and most of the supplies, utility and equipment costs for the facility is expected to be covered by grants.

Both Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck and Fire Chief Terry Bell have indicated their support for the project in the past, saying it was a need for the entire state. Currently there are only seven training sites for firefighting statewide and even fewer for law enforcement. For Foster Tech, the building would assist the school's firefighting program.

Bjorn's donation would provide an estimated $10,000 for the initial site design work.

It isn't the first donation made by Bjorn that will benefit RSU 9. Bjorn, who noted Tuesday that he himself had previously served on a school board, has previously provided funds that supported the campus' turf athletic field and the auditorium.

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15 Responses »

  1. Outstanding! Thank you Mr Bjorn,

  2. Thank you Mr. Bjorn for the support you have given to our children at Mt Blue.
    Your genuorsity is heart felt in this community.

  3. Thank you Mr. Bjorn for your continued "focused" generosity, that moves the dial in a way that positively affects the citizens and the future of this community.

  4. Thank you for your superb support for excellence in education. Your investment in Foster Career and Technical Center will help prepare students for the future with real world skills today. Bravo!

  5. Thank you to the Bjorn family for their unwavering support and commitment to RSU 9 over the years. This generous donation will have a long-lasting impact for our students, teachers and communities.

  6. Thank you for supporting our children.

  7. Thanks to the Bjorn family to the support to the Foster Technology Center and the Town of Farmington. The support will help develop Maine's future work force.

  8. Thanks to the Bjorn family to the support to the Foster Technology Center and the Town of Farmington. The support will help develop Maine's future work force.

  9. This is what we need to be talking about ! People helping people and our community!

  10. How lucky we are to have such a person in our community! Thank you, Mr. Bjorn!! :0)

  11. As the article notes, this is worth so much more than $470,000, since after two years the state will pay for these programs going forward. It is literally a gift that will keep on giving.

    These programs are so needed, and it's been painful at budget time to have to cut them because the budgets are so tight and opposition to any increase so intense. This gift will benefit Franklin county youth for years, decades to come! Thanks!

  12. Yes this is a very wonderful gift, and we are all thankful.
    I am not so sure that the state will automatically take over these costs once this 470K is spent.

    Is that is what the superintendent has stated?


  13. Interesting. Hope all goes as said, but will the extras be picked up by the State? Those being salary increases, equipment replacement, benefits, subs, insurance increases, extra transportation, administrative costs, utilities, etc. during and after the two year period? Still a generous gift to the most deserving of RSU9! Thank you to the Bjorn family!

  14. I was thrilled to see this because Foster Tech produces kids ready to go on to more education for blue-collar jobs.Those are the people we need to fix our "stuff". But like Woodsman and Susie, I am concerned that the State won't pick up the costs. Only time will tell on this, but for now, some kids are going to benefit greatly by this tremendous support. Thank you, Bjorn Family.