Want to learn more about the Westfield public school district? Or maybe take a walk down memory lane guided by Westfield's mascot the Blue Devil? The Education Fund of Westfield has put together a picture book for all ages, 'Caps Off to Westfield's Blue Devil,' just in time for the holidays.
Tasked with speaking at Westfield High School's graduation ceremony, the Blue Devil takes readers along for the ride as he embarks on a journey through town, visiting each of the district's 10 schools to gather information before making his speech.
Written by Education Fund members Amy Seid, Erica Pivinski and Claudia Andreski, the authors began working on the book in May of 2012. In order to highlight what makes each of the district's 10 schools special, the writers sought help from those with first-hand experience: the students. Andreski, who taught at Jefferson, McKinley and Franklin Elementary Schools, sent a questionnaire to each school for students to complete.
"It was interesting to see how there was a theme for each school," Andreski said. "The kids came up with what they really liked the best."
Meeting often at Panera, the authors said much of the work fell to Pivinski, also a teacher, who not only came up with the idea for the book but also wrote versions in both rhyme and prose before the three chose the current narrative format. The group then worked together to refine the story.
Seid said the Ed Fund is particularly excited about the book because they haven't had a fundraiser like this one in a while.
"Over the last 10 years, we had a big photo book for adults and then did a Westfieldopoly game and then we decided to do this," she explained.
Established in 1991, the Education Fund has raised over $300,000 to benefit Westfield schools, Andreski noted. Most recently, the non-profit funded an iPad lab at Westfield High School.
"What we do is we respond to the grants," Seid explained. "When we did the iPad lab, it was a little bit different. We had gotten a grant for an iPad lab and we couldn't fulfill it. But then we felt that we really wanted to, so we asked them to resubmit the grant and make it more updated and we did some special fundraising for that but that's not typically how we do things. Typically, we responds twice a year to the grants."
Seid noted that the Ed Fund likes to see a wide range of programs benefit from grants. Andreski added that as an educator she had been the recipient of a grant for an incubator that allowed her to raise chicks in her classroom.
"We like to have a variety so we're not just doing computers all the time or technology," Seid said. "We really enjoy spreading our monies to many types of projects."
"We want to help as many people as we can," said Andreski, who has been reading the book, which features photos as well as illustrations, aloud to the children at McKinley and said they've been a great audience and are excited to see their ideas and their school come to life in print.
"It was so cute, one little girl said to me, 'Oh, Mrs. Andreski, I'm very interested in getting my book published, tell me how you went about that,'" Andreski shared.
More than 100 books, priced at $15 each, have already been sold and Seid and Andreski noted that it makes a fun gift for students, alumni and even teachers. The authors added that they went out their way not to include teachers' or principals' names to make the book as timeless as possible. All three authors have also signed the books and have offered to include a personal note if purchased as a gift.
"Every penny of the proceeds goes toward the Education Fund," Andreski said.
As for the Blue Devil himself, the authors said there really isn't much information available on how he came to be the schools' mascot. Even a check with the Westfield Historical Society yielded very little, they said, and so he remains a mystery.
With the book sale underway, Education Fund members are focusing on other upcoming fundraisers, which include 'Rock for Schools'—an evening of live music featuring local musicians at The Crossroads in Garwood from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2. The Fund's annual wine tasting will take place on Saturday, April 27 at Echo Lake Country Club.
'Caps Off to Westfield's Blue Devil' is available at The Town Book Store or by sending a $15 check (made payable to the Education Fund of Westfield) to your child's school, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with a request.