Thursday, May 9, 2013

A new experience . . .

Today brought a new experience for me that took place at the Issaquah Community Center this afternoon that was shared with about 1200 others.  I may have been the only one in the room from the Tahoma School District as it was the Issaquah Schools Foundation fifteenth annual luncheon fund raiser, Nourish Every Mind.

How did the Tahoma Superintendent end up at an Issaquah fund raiser?  I was invited to join the table sponsored by Cedar Grove Composting, an organization that this year will sponsor a $2500 scholarship for a Tahoma student and that also sponsors student attendance at Camp Snowball. I had previously met the Foundation Executive Director when I presented last month at an Eastside Business event and wanted to follow-up with her on an offer to assist our foundation effort.

The Foundation is impressive and the event was truly inspiring.  They raise over a million dollars annually and provide the school system with support in multiple areas.  A focus for this year is to create a fund that will annually put $100,000 into the school's art programs and $360,000 into purchasing a writing program.  They sponsor rocketry and robotic programs and a four week summer school program for ELL students.  And, the list goes on.

What did I learn?  I learned that systems like Issaquah and Mercer Island whose foundation can raise over $500,000 in a breakfast meeting have resources that create opportunities for their young people and staff out of reach to most other systems in the state.  There is no level playing field when systems have this capacity and can also pass maximum levies and $200 million bond measures that result in lower taxes for their home owners. Though it concerns me that our current reality does not include these flexible resources or ease at passing levies and bonds, I do not fault their system for this incredible support.

Today also reinforced for me the tremendous job that our teachers and staff do without this additional support.  I left the meeting with increased tension to grow the capacity of our foundation to replicate the success in Issaquah.  We will be meeting with their Executive Director to learn from their journey what we can transfer to our school community.

Oh, in case you are wondering, I did make a contribution.  It did seem a little odd when they passed me an envelope with my name on it as I had not given any thought to the possibility of needing to contribute until I walked in the door without my check book and little cash.  It was a good thing that they took credit cards.

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