Last updated: February 26. 2013 4:18PM - 496 Views

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Tom McHugh, South Abington Twp., was recently named the new AEIO Development Director. He had been involved with the AEIO for 10 years previously and was a member of the advisory board for 8 years.

McHugh also served on the Abington Heights School Board when the AEIO was first initiated in 2002.

The South Abington Twp. resident is excited to get out into the community to explain to businesses the advantages of donating to the AEIO and You.

“We’re going to go out looking for businesses that qualify for Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC),” he said.

McHugh is looking forward to meeting new businesses, finding out who is qualified for the EITC program and being able to solicit support from community businesses to enhance the extracurricular programming in the Abington Heights School District.

McHugh’s goals are to enhance the programs in the district that are offered outside of the regular curriculam.

“I want to increase the financial support from community businesses so we can increase the financial support that we are provided to the school district for all the extracurricular programming,” he said.

According to McHugh, AEIO and You has many advantages to the district

“Without the AEIO and You, there would probably be a number of programs struggling financially to support the student participation in that program, if not being outright eliminated,” he said. “The school budgets are getting tighter and tighter every year. With the AEIO and You monies that the school district has been provided, they are able to continue to support some of the programs that otherwise would have been cut in these tough budgetary times.”

McHugh added that members of the board are always in communication with teachers in an effort to form new programs.

“We’re constantly offering financial support to teachers from kindergarten through high school to encourage new programming that will support a present academic curricular activities that are going on right now and to encourage and support the development of any other outside programming that will help support and help the kids learn a little bit more from the curriculum,” he said.

According to McHugh, the state of Pennsylvania has been encourgaing schools to think outside the box in terms of educational programs.

“The EITC program has actually been supported and increased the amount of money that is being put into the EITC program as an alternative to educational support,” he said. “They are encouraging school districts to look into the private sector for financial support, where in the past the Pennsylvania Department of Education have provided the financial support.”

McHugh added the due to the fact that many more districts are creating EIO’s, money is harder to acquire.

“I think it’s getting the EITC monies that are available in Pennsylvania are getting more and more competitive as other institutions are creating and forming EIO’s (Educational Improvement Organizations),” he said. “The amount of money available to a growing number of EIO’s. It’s the same amount of money, but there are more EIO’s looking for the same kind of money.”

He and his wife Marianne are raising four daughters, Jennifer, Megan, Kathleen and Kelly, who is currently a student in the district.

McHugh is proudest of the fact that the organization has been able to keep many of the district’s successful programs and add more new ones.

“I think best thing that’s going is the continued support for programming that is in the school district and the increase in the number of innovative programs that have developed as a result of our financial support,” he said.

McHugh mentioned the success and growth of the Odyssey of the Mind program as example of what the AEIO money supports.

“When it was first started by Mary Beth Adelman, we had two or three teams, now we have 10 or 12 teams and they almost regularly go to state and world competitions and that is a costly endeavor,” he said. “We are able to support that programming and cut down the cost for students to participate, which increased the number of students who are able to participate in the program.”

According to McHugh, the AEIO programs prepare students for life after high school.

“There are kids that have graduated from Abington Heights that have been in the Robotics program that are now working in companies and are able to use the skills they learned in Robotics to go out in the world,” he said. “It’s really hands-on. The extracurricular hands-on experience allows the students to become interested in things they might not be interested in before and become almost experts in that area so when they graduate they have a lot of hands-on experience that really prepares them for college and beyond.”

He added that the TV studio also received a favorable review from Gov. Corbett’s wife, Susan.

“Governon Corbett’s wife was terrible impressed with the TV studio at the middle school that we’ve provided funding for,” he said. “The kids did a fantastic job, she was very impressed. She goes back talks to the governor about this program. That’s a perfect example of what they want this money to do for these kids. I think Abington Heights is one of the premier organizations in the area when it comes to EIO’s.”

McHugh believes that many more businesses would likely take advantage of the program if they were more informed about the specifics.

“Our objective to getting this done is to highlight the fact that we have this program and encourage area businesses to look into this,” he said.

“If a small businesses has to pay $5,000 for state taxes, instead of sending it to Harrisburg they can keep it in the school district. They get recognition and it’s not really a contribution because it’s of no cost to the business.”

According to McHugh, businesses can also fill out a one-page application give it to the AEIO and they will send it to Harrisburg.

“It’s a win-win situation for the school district, for the AEIO, for the business. There is no catch.”

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