The Gloucester Education Foundation (GEF) was founded in 2005 by Ed Shoucair, who led a group of Gloucester residents who were committed to public education and who wanted to bring support to the Gloucester Public Schools, which at the time were facing serious budget challenges threatening programs in arts and music, science, and other areas that enrich education for children. GEF’s first Board of Directors wanted to help fill some of these needs— but they were also determined to help transform how education took place in their community’s schools.
GEF’s first mission was to make the Gloucester Public Schools one of the top best public school districts in Massachusetts in five years—a bold idea that caught the attention and passion of the Gloucester community. During its first year, the GEF board raised $100,000 from the community and in 2006—the same year GEF was incorporated—made its first grants.
Early funding restored music instruction to the schools. It also funded after-school programs, including foreign language instruction, at the O’Maley Middle School and various after-school clubs and activities at Gloucester High School, and establish the first program in robotics at the high school—an after-school program that ultimately became incorporated into the school-day physics curriculum.
In 2007, a $1.3 million commitment from a generous family foundation established the SEA Initiative, a multi-year program that helped the Gloucester school district realign its curriculum in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). A number of important projects grew out of this funding. Notable among these was the creation of the Birdseye-Hammond STEM Center at O’Maley, now a set of three separate laboratories –wet lab, drafting and design lab and engineering laboratory—that is used by every student at O’Maley for applied learning experiences.
Other SEA Initiative programs included the Summer Engineering Adventure, which for several years took Gloucester middle school students over the bridge and to the MIT campus each year to work in the labs at the Edgerton Center, new equipment and curriculum materials for O’Maley, and field studies and new math textbooks for the elementary schools.
Most importantly, however, the SEA Imitative and its resulting programs helped set the stage for O’Maley to apply for and receive state designation as an Innovation School with a focus on STEM and project-based learning. Today, the O’Maley Innovation Middle School is one of a handful of middle schools in Massachusetts bearing that distinction.
Over the years, GEF continued to engage the community in raising funds for a number of innovative programs for all students at all of Gloucester’s schools and has brought more than $6 million to the table for the benefit of the Gloucester Public School District. Click here for more on the programs that GEF has helped bring to the schools.
GEF appointed its first Executive Director, Maggie Rosa, in 2008, who serve four years as a full-time volunteer. In 2012, a generous three-year grant from a local family foundation enable GEF to hire its first full-time Executive Director, a position that continues today.
In 2014, GEF updated its mission and vision statements, and in 2015, updated its strategic plan to help guide the organization over the upcoming years.
In 2017, to accommodate its growing staff and increased volunteer activity, GEF moved to its current location at 185 Main Street in downtown Gloucester.
As ever, GEF remains committed to making Gloucester one of the best public school districts in Massachusetts by supporting innovation that will excite and engage all of Gloucester’s students in a love of learning.