Earlier this year, the Foundation for Saline Area Schools asked the school district to partner with the foundation to create a full-time foundation director's position.
The district was asked to pay about $40,000 annually and provide office space at Liberty School in support of the new position.
With major budget challenges and contracts in the picture, the board declined to begin the partnership with the foundation, but left the door open to revisiting the issue when some of the tough issues had been dealt with.
The Foundation for Saline Area Schools has become a more important source of funding for important district initiatives in recent years. Foundation leaders say they're not sure how much more the foundation can do as a strictly volunteer organization. And they say the district could be losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate donations without a professionally-run foundation.
On the other hand, the district is still running tight budgets and can't get class sizes down to optimum levels. Can you justify $40,000 on a foundation director when you can't find money for a third grade teacher?
There are four candidates running for two open six-year terms on the boards. Smita Nagpal, Diane Friese, Karen Delhey and Paul Hynek will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. The candidates have paired off to run as teams, with Nagpal and Friese running as one team and Delhey and Hynek running as the other. Voters, however, are free to choose any two they wish.
See the candidates side-to-side when the Saline High School student group Students Reinvesting In a Valuable Education (STRIVE) hosts a candidates forum at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 25 at Saline Middle School.
Here is today's question:
Should the school district partner with the Foundation for Saline Area Schools to help fund a new full time foundation director?
The Foundation for Saline Area Schools has been an incredible partner to the district over the last 25 years. Between the support given through staff grants and the newer strategic grants, they have only begun to scratch the surface of what can be accomplished. Currently, it is a completely volunteer run organization, bringing in a full time director would be critical to sustain the level of support the district receives and grow it into the future. I think it is important for the board and the Foundation to sit down and figure out how the Foundation fits into the strategic plan for the district and then map out what levels of support can be allocated whether it’s monetary or a sharing of resources.
The Foundation for Saline Area Schools does great work. As a total volunteer organization, over the last several years they have funded district wide initiatives like Project Lead the Way, Literacy and this year’s foreign language initiative. What they also support is individual grants to teachers that have submitted ideas to improve education at Saline Area Schools. These grants spark some really great innovation for teaching our students. This partnership with the Foundation is critical to the success of Saline Area Schools. The issue of a fulltime director is one that requires thoughtful discussions with both the FSAS Board of Trustees and the Board of Education. If elected, I would advocate for these discussions to be resumed.
The Foundation for Saline Area Schools is an entirely volunteer-driven organization. Due to the commitment of its volunteers, the Foundation has provided a total of $500,000 to the Saline Area Schools since inception. This money has gone toward mini grants as well as strategic grants that support the quality of educational programming in our district. If they have done so much with a volunteer force, imagine what might be possible with a paid director, whose primary job is fundraising to support the schools.
Due to cuts in the per pupil foundation allowance and projected enrollment declines, sustainable solutions must be found to address the district’s budget shortfalls. I think a fulltime foundation director position could go a long way in identifying partners to help support the school district’s financial needs. However, as always, the devil is in the details. I would favor looking at the position early in next year’s district budget discussions. Caution is advisable as the district’s financial position is much improved but still tenuous. I would favor the idea of a time-limited contract with a full-time director, with the position contingent upon bringing in funding that exceeds the cost to the school district.
An emphasis on collaboration is essential to the survival of public education in these trying economic times. The commitment of the Saline Foundation has been immensely helpful in this struggle.
Leadership for the Saline Foundation has historically been done on an entirely volunteer basis. The Foundation has been responsible for funding so many wonderful programs including literacy libraries, technology, classroom projects, equipment for after school science programs, as well supporting social groups fundamental to the success of many of our students . Currently, the foundation is looking into funding yet another innovative program, setting a goal of developing a program which will enable Saline students to become fluent in a foreign language by the time they leave fifth grade. Not only is this a sound program for the development of students as learners, as a community school and school of choice we need these kinds of programs in help our schools stand out and attract new students, allowing us to remain a vibrant healthy public school.
Creating this position is more than worth discussing, keeping in mind the goal of the position bringing in more money for our system then it costs. At this point with all volunteer leadership, The Saline Foundation has been able to recently contribute 70,000 to 75,000 dollars yearly. Having an individual work on fund raising part or full time could yield much needed funds. Creative funding of education is definitely a reality of our time and looks like it will remain so for quite a while.
The funding of this position needs to be addressed early on in the setting of future budgets.
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