BEF Executive Director Renee Behrend is passionate about education
By Mark Ambrogi
It might be a part-time job, but for Rene Behrend being executive director of the Brownsburg Education Foundation is a full-time passion.
“I love the mission of the organization. As a former teacher, I’m passionate about education,” Behrend said. “My job isn’t really a job. It energizes me and it feeds my soul. It’s always something that I enjoy doing.”
Behrend was hired as executive assistant, a part-time position, in 2012.
“As things progressed, I transitioned into executive director (in 2016) because again the foundation is growing and there needed to be more organizational responsibility as we continued to support the schools the way we do,” Behrend said. “I’m still part-time, but I’m little less part-time than I was. I went from 20 hours to 30 hours.”
Angela Falcone, who recently retired after 10 years on the board, served as board president for Behrend’s first three years. Todd Jackson is the current board president.
“I cannot express how much she has done for the foundation,” Falcone said. “She is a woman that started out with a small list of things to do — keeping track of donations, writing thank you notes — and she went above and beyond in that role as executive assistant. As president, she was my right-hand partner. Now moving into the role of executive director, she is making big strides with our long-range goals. She meets with donors, sponsors and community groups to spread the good news about the BEF and to find out what we can do for them.”
Falcone said the best thing about her time at the foundation was gaining a lifelong friend in Behrend.
“She is an amazing advocate for the foundation but an even better friend,” Falcone said.
Behrend is quick to recognize Falcone’s contributions as well.
“She poured her heart and soul into the organization,” Behrend said. “With she and I worked together for three years, we were really able to put some processes in place and have a more consistent presence in the community.”
Behrend said with her being consistently in the office, helped communication with the board and various committees.
During the five years, Behrend said BEF has had significant increases in corporate sponsorships.
“Our corporate sponsorships have more than doubled since 2012,” Behrend said. “When I got here in 2012, our corporate sponsorships were between $50,000 and $60,000 and now I think we’re over $100,000 from our corporate sponsors. We get a lot of great support from local businesses and individual donors.”
Behrend said there is a payroll deduction donation for Brownsburg Schools employees for the BEF and that increases each year.
“All the money they contribute we put that toward the scholarship program because we figure they’ve been working with these students from kindergarten through 12th grade, it’s one more opportunity to help them get their wings in the world,” Behrend said.
The BEF, which is 30 years old this year, supplies classroom grants and student scholarships.
“We just gave away $33,000 in scholarships to the graduating class of 2017,” Behrend said. “We have $100,000 we’ve budgeted to do classroom grants for the teachers.”
One set of grants are for the District Excellence Awards and are curriculum based and impact every grade level in every department.
The second round of grants is for teachers and are called InCredible Award grants. Behrend said the spelling is to indicate the grants support Innovation and Creativity, two key components of the foundation’s mission statement.
“Those grants are more specific to special projects that teachers want to do, sometimes it’s an after-school club,” Behrend said.
For several years, there have been grants for Purdue’s Science Express for the high school. The grant allows science teachers attend training at Purdue.
“Once they attend that training, they have access to a catalog of $2 million of lab equipment Purdue has,” Behrend said. “When they want to use the equipment, the reserve it for whatever week fits into their lesson plan and then Purdue will drive the equipment down, set it up in the classroom and let them use it for a week.”
Behrend, who has lived in Brownsburg for 25 years, taught fourth grade at Eagle Elementary in Brownsburg for three years before her daughter, Julia, was born. She was a stay-at-home mother from 1995 to 2012.
Her two children are Brownsburg High School graduates, Julia, 2013 BHS graduate, recently graduated from Miami University in Ohio and will attend Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis in August. Ben, a 2016 BHS graduate, has finished his freshman year at St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y.
Her husband, Bill, works in compliance for Fifth Third Securities. They have been married for 26 years and known each other since the third grade. The friends, who graduated from Cloverleaf High School in Lodi, Ohio, started dating at Miami of Ohio.
For more on BEF, visit brownsburgeducationfoundation.org.