FARMINGTON — Richard T. Bjorn, owner of Kyes Insurance agency, on Tuesday donated $470,000 for programs at Foster Career and Technical Education Center at the Mt. Blue campus.

Bjorn said his donation will come in installments over the next two years.

Bjorn, known for his support of the school district and community, received a standing ovation and appreciation from students and others during the presentation at the Regional School Unit 9 board meeting at the campus.

After the meeting, Bjorn said he made the gift to the center because “I can” and “I believe in it.”

He said he has made his living in Farmington, where he has lived for about 50 years.

School directors voted unanimously to accept the gift.

Bjorn contacted Superintendent Tom Ward before the holidays and asked what was needed to increase student access to programming at the Foster center, which serves students from Franklin County high schools.

Center Director Melissa Williams and Adult Education Director Glenn Kapiloff met with Ward to look at needs that were not budgeted, Ward said. He presented the board with a list and approximate costs.

The state reimburses the district for center programs after two years of them being funded by other sources.

The district has tried for years to get a pre-engineering program funded, but has been unsuccessful, Ward said.

There is space and equipment at the campus, which also houses Mt. Blue High School, but no teacher. The donation would provide $60,000 a year for two years for a full-time teacher and supplies. The program would need to be submitted to the state for approval.

The part-time program in composite manufacturing could be increased to full time with the help of $10,000 from outside sources. The gift will provide $20,000 per year to move to a full-time teacher, now half time, and pay for supplies.

The district will also be able to start an exploratory program for career and technical education designed for eighth-graders, freshmen and sophomores. The yearlong program would meet the state guidelines by meeting for one academic block and focusing on four career and technical areas offered at Foster.

The money could also be used for a small bus or van and driver to get students to and from businesses for internships and job shadowing. The one-time cost is $65,000.

The funds would also help pay for design work to build a regional “all hazard’ training facility on school property for firefighting, law enforcement and other first responders. Foster center offers a firefighting course. Permits and approvals have already been granted.

Fire Rescue Chief Terry Bell and Farmington Police Chief Jack Peck have been involved in the planning and development. Grants for the project can cover equipment and training materials, but not the costs of initial construction. The first thing would be to complete a site plan and construct a small training building. The cost to begin design work is estimated to be about $10,000.

The facility would greatly help the firefighter program, Ward said.

The donation would also go to help the computer technology program and robotics club.

The school’s robotics team, established in 2016, has been very successful and gained national attention, but has never been funded by the district, Ward said.

Students and mentor Richard Wilde raise funds each year to bring students to competitions and pay entry fees. The donation would provide approximately $20,000 a year for two years, and would be part of the supply expenditures for the Foster center but would be dedicated for this purpose.

Bjorn said he was interested in getting seventh- and eighth-graders going and interested in career and technical education programs.

School board Chairwoman Jennifer Zweig Hebert said the gift is amazing. Some of the board decisions not to fund programs have been heartbreaking, she said.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.