The Feoffees Trust
The Ipswich Public Schools are fortunate to have the Feoffees Trust as a source of funds to enhance and enrich the educational offerings in our district.
At his death in 1660, William Paine left the 36 acres of ocean front property known as Little Neck to a Trust put in place to benefit the Ipswich Schools. The management of this land was left to a group of Trustees known as “Feoffees” with the stipulation that the land be held in trust for “the benefit of the said school of Ipswich forever”. The general definition of a feoffee is a ‘trustee invested with a freehold estate to hold in possession for a purpose, typically a charitable one’. Four feoffees were privately designated as lifetime trustees with the power to appoint their successors, and the three oldest selectmen in Ipswich, known collectively as the “Old Feoffees”, served as additional trustees.
The use of the land changed over the years from space rented by farmers for cattle grazing to eventually becoming a summer community with 167 individual house lots leased by homeowners. Legal disputes over the amount of rent, desire for ownership by the tenants, and unpredictable annual payments to the Ipswich schools ultimately led to the property being sold to the tenants in 2012 for $29.1 million.
The proceeds of this sale, net of expenses and debts owed on the property, were placed in Trust under the oversight of seven “New Feoffees”. Now the School Committee, Finance Committee and Select Board each appoint (on a rotating basis) two individuals to serve. The Old Feoffees hold the right to appoint one individual. No appointed Feoffee may serve for more than two consecutive three-year terms. In an effort to maintain transparency and openness, all Feoffee meetings are open to the public, and meeting minutes and agendas are posted on the Town’s website. The Trust assets are audited each year by an independent third-party auditing firm.
The New Feoffees are responsible for general oversight of the Trust assets. Their duties include hiring and reviewing investment managers, creating and monitoring both the investment and distribution policies, as well as keeping the public boards informed of the overall health and performance of the Trust assets.
The amount of the annual distribution to the Schools is determined by the Feoffees’ distribution policy, which seeks to “provide a significant and relatively stable, predictable flow of funds to a supplemental budget to benefit the current generation of students while maintaining the long-term purchasing power of the principal to ensure the Trust is able to deliver equitable resources to future generations”.
It is important to note that the Final Trust Administration Order, the legal document which outlines the parameters of the Trust, clearly states that the annual distributions are to be used for “supplemental enrichment programs and uses that provide education enhancement for Ipswich public school students”. Foundational education budget needs must be funded within the annual school budget.
The Ipswich School Committee is deeply appreciative to the prudent management of the Trust by the New Feoffees, and has developed this mission statement in the district’s Feoffees Policy:
“To expand educational opportunities consistent with the Ipswich Public Schools Mission which aspires to empower ALL students to be global citizens who are effective communicators, analytic problem solvers and savvy consumers of information. Funding is intended to support programs and practices that enhance pedagogical innovation and enrich intellectual, physical, social, emotional, and cultural experiences for all learners in the Ipswich Public Schools.”
Funding for enrichment and enhancement programs and practices is not meant to replace ongoing public financial support of education. Instead, the intent is to improve the quality and value of educational experiences and increase the scope of learning opportunities by the initiation and customization of creative educational practices.
To honor the original intent of the Trust, funds are not to be used for foundational budget needs such as:
- Core academic programs
- Routine operational expenses such as utilities, building or grounds maintenance
- Regular and special education transportation
- Supplies and materials supporting the core curriculum
- Or other associated costs that are fundamental for educating students
The School Committee is committed to honoring the legacy of William Paine’s generosity and to focus funding on those programs and practices that will have a lasting and profound influence on the educational experience of Ipswich Public Schools students.
For more information, please see the Feoffees Policy and visit the Feoffees Committee Page on Ipswich’s town website.