Like all districts in Texoma, the Pottsboro Independent School District has found itself in need of additional funds recently in order to help the teachers and students at their schools. Superintendent Kevin Matthews suggested an idea he’d seen in action when he was an assistant principal at Denison High School — and one being utilized by the majority of the districts in the area — forming an education foundation.
Since being formed, the Denison ISD Education Foundation has distributed $605,019.34 in grants funds.
“We certainly couldn’t have done it without the generosity of our entire community,” DISD Education Foundation Board member Sherry Christie said. “The mission of the Denison Education Foundation is to provide innovative classroom programs and projects that are not available for funding by the school district’s general operating budget. Another facet of the foundation’s mission would be to build an endowment so that the foundation would continue to benefit future generations of Denison children.”
Looking for a way to help its students, the Pottsboro ISD Board of Trustees requested Matthews set up a special meeting to allow board members to speak with foundation development consultant Jo Nell Mellody.
“The Pottsboro trustees were a great group and I enjoyed visiting with them,” Mellody said. “They asked a lot of good questions about the process and purpose of foundations, and I hopefully gave them a better understanding of how a foundation works and the benefits of having one. We discussed fundraising and innovative classroom grants. They were very interested in the grant process and what the extra funding dollars can bring to the teaching process for their teachers and how it will help extend and expand learning for their students.”
Sherman Education Foundation Executive Director Kathy Bickerstaff said the Sherman foundation has been successful in raising extra funding dollars to enrich the curriculum in the district since being formed in early 1999.
“SEF has been able to fund grants that have truly pushed the curriculum into a higher level of learning — providing an opportunity for a cooperative effort between the community and SISD to provide excellence in SISD,” Bickerstaff said. “When committed citizens partner with a school district, it’s a win-win for the school district and the community.”
Christie explained grant requests, which come in from teachers and school administrators, are reviewed and rewarded anonymously so everyone is treated fairly.
“DEF has awarded grants to virtually every grade level across the district and touched the lives of thousands of children,” Christie said. “Most of the programs funded by DEF grants continue to be used year after year, which means that the number of children impacted grows annually.”
Following the special meeting with the foundation development consultant, Matthews said the Pottsboro ISD Board was definitely interested in the idea of starting a foundation.
“We’ve still got some discussion we need to do,” Matthews said. “(We) still need to look at budget considerations and things to get started. It’s an exciting opportunity that we definitely would love to have as part of PISD.”
Residents in Van Alstyne recently learned about the considerations needed to start a new foundation as the Van Alstyne Education Foundation was officially formed in August of this year. The VAEF is still waiting to receive its non-profit status before actively seeking donations, but members plan to focus on grants for teachers and campuses, and establish scholarships for Van Alstyne High School seniors. VAEF Executive Director Mandy Montgomery said she had heard of education foundations, but didn’t realize their importance until all three of her children had entered the Texas public school system.
“Like most parents, I want my children to have the best educational experience possible in the scope of a school district,” Montgomery said. “Unfortunately, what the state thinks is adequate funding, I find marginally acceptable. In the fall of 2011, I met with VA Superintendent Dr. John Spies and expressed my interest in starting an EF in Van Alstyne. I went before the VAISD Board of Trustees to pitch the idea and the Board was willing to support my endeavors.”
Montgomery called the process of starting an education foundation “a very arduous task” and said she couldn’t have done it alone.
“The foundation would not exist without the leadership of board president, Bill Benton, the board of directors and committee members,” Montgomery said. “All of the individuals involved truly care about the quality of education our students are receiving in Van Alstyne. Their commitment to the foundation is fundamental to its existence.”
Bickerstaff explained that a common vision with the district’s administration is one of the best ways to have a successful foundation.
“We have an excellent relationship with SISD administrators and work in tandem with them, always seeking their advice in what best benefits our students,” Bickerstaff said. “Their support is vital to our success. Another critical component is a board that is passionate about its mission and willing to roll up its sleeves. Everyone understands and values the need for outstanding public education and is willing to do what it takes to make it happen.”
Of course, the money to fund the needed programs has to come from somewhere, and each foundation points to its “generous community” for the success each has had.
“Raising money is always a challenge, but when it comes to children, it’s a much easier sell,” Christie said. “Everyone loves kids, and everyone knows the importance of making sure that all children receive the best education possible.”
Matthews said an item concerning a Pottsboro ISD education foundation will likely be on the agenda for the December Board meeting.