Nov. 20 was the annual meeting of the Kennett Education Foundation (KEF). It was done over Zoom and the incoming President, Alison Biloon, gave her report, thanking Dr. Rudy Karkosak for his past 8 years of service as president. When she announced a scholarship in Rudy’s name of almost $5,000, I choked up. You see, KEF was Rudy’s idea.

KEF provides;

  • Scholarships and awards for seniors to celebrate their experience and continue their education.
  • Recognizes the best teacher from each of the schools.
  • Supports teaching innovation with grants.
  • Supports the school board and the schools in working towards making KCSD the best District in the state.

Twenty years ago,a dynamic experienced School Superintendent was hired to replace Dr. Larry Bosley, who was retiring.No one could fill Dr. Bosley’s shoes with what he did to improve the caliber of instruction, advance the level of curriculum and improve the facilities,but Dr. Karkosak would be competitive.

Rudy has been described as tall, white-haired, unfailingly cheerful, and a walking encyclopedia of the school district. The only criticism I’ve ever heard of him is he doesn’t like to criticize other people. But to me his greatest strength is his love of family. He got the biggest kick out of his middle school grandson trying to get him to call a snow day.

The idea for KEF started with something Rudy had learned when he was the principal of Wilmington High School. A famous alumnus, Harry Levin of the drugstore chain Happy Harry’s, offered to donate a lot of money to the school that had meant so much to him.

There was no way to accept the money, so Rudy created a non-profit education foundation for the school. By then,Harry Levin had passed on and his kids had decided to go a different direction with his money. Rudy was not going to let that happen to Kennett.

So, he took Skip Reynolds from the school board and myself (Class of ’64, the sponsor of the Ken Webb award for School Spirit) to a meeting where a school teacher from Altoona, PA talked about his foundation. It was set-up to provide tax deductible donations to the school to pay for classroom materials that were being paid for out of the teachers own pockets.

In the car on the way home we agreed we could do better, so I pulled a board together, and Skip worked with the school board for support. Our first actions were to give it a name, apply for 501(c)(3) status and build an investment fund for money that could go to support for teachers and students with Ed Wood.

Today KEF has great support from the teachers even though they still are paying for supplies for their classrooms.Currently KEF is the conduit of over $70,000 a year to graduating seniors and time has shown that KEF is so much more than money.

Early on a KCSD student went through a terrible period of depression and took his own life. His family dedicated an award for students who were supportive of their classmates when they saw them in trouble. This award goes to the graduating student but the teachers and counselors are critical to nurturing the supportive behavior and “If you see something, say something”.

There are awards for math, chemistry, and biology and for languages. One for being creative and innovative. Another is the “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” award. (Gandhi) One of my favorites is the one for being the spirit of the Kennett Community- volunteerism.

And there is one for the all-around kid who is just good at everything they do in school. There is an award for music in the name of Carol Karkosak, Rudy’s wife, who was a music teacher and passed away.

There are $45,000 of innovative teacher’s grants given out each year for ideas the teachers have to advance the educational experience. A TV studio and electronic blackboards are permanent teaching aids.

KEF’s main spring fundraiser is where sponsors can show their support for the district and parents and teachers can mingle socially and share a celebration of education. It has become a way that parents can donate money to worthy programs like bringing football to the high school and lights to the football field.

It helped introduce the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program and raised money for training the teachers to help the program excel. Not long after STEM, the students brought the Society of Women Engineers Club to the high school.

KEF has secured its sustainability in the community by ensuring strong leadership and continued sponsorship. Executive board members include Alison Biloon (President), Ann Schlitz (1st VP), Heather Connolly (Second VP), Dr. Mike Cari (Treasurer), and Laura Linderman (Secretary). Communications & Marketing will be further developed by Susan Gaughan.

This along with a healthy bank account with money donated for future programs and awards is a great legacy.

So, thank you Rudy. With the great student guidance program Kennett has few students who graduate without a path forward for higher education. And someday we hope that every child will have the means to continue their education. “Happy” Harry Levin was voted least likely to succeed by his Wilmington High School class but I bet he would also be proud of what he did for this school district with his humanitarian gesture all those years ago.

For more information about KEF, go to www.kennetteducationfoundation.org or like and follow them on Facebook & Instagram.

The Story of Kennett may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. Contact Joan Holliday at dochollisv@aol.com.
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