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Private fund for schools may be revived

December 25, 2000

Private fund for schools may be revived



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer


The Washington County Board of Education is considering reviving the Washington County Educational Foundation, a private fund set up in 1996 to benefit the school system.

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Board member Roxanne Ober suggested rejuvenating the foundation at a recent School Board meeting. She and board Vice President Bernadette Wagner campaigned heavily in their election bid on bringing the fund back.

They believe that with enough donations, the foundation could be a significant source of alternate revenue for the school system.

"It would be a win-win situation," Ober said. "It could also help with renovations scheduled over the next five years."

The School Board unanimously agreed to continue looking into reviving the foundation.

The non-profit foundation began with $10,000 in donations, but the fund never grew beyond that amount. It's down to about $8,200, but it's unclear how the money was spent. Over the years, the foundation's 14-member board also began to shrink. Details have become so muddled that the Board of Education isn't sure who remains on it. The foundation's last meeting was held in November 1998.

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Phil Ray, director of human resources at the Board of Education, is trying to track down the remaining members, if any.

"When it was set up, it probably didn't have a chance to grow to a second stage," Ray said. We want to get it to the next level."

The organization is run by its board members, not by the Board of Education. It was set up by business and community leaders to collect and distribute money for county educational purposes.

According to its bylaws, the foundation can accept financial contributions, stocks or bonds and real or personal property, but Ray had no details on whether it ever received anything more than money donations.

Ober and Wagner said the key to keeping the foundation running this time around is to hire someone on either a full-time or part-time basis to oversee the organization. The foundation would pay the salary of that person.

"You actually need someone who is committed to doing that," Ober said.

She also said it would probably need new board members who could bring a new enthusiasm to the keeping the foundation afloat.

Ober said large, private foundations, such as Citigroup Foundation, are known to offer grants for educational purposes, while corporations such as Target and Allegheny Power often contribute money to education funds.

Whomever is hired to oversee the foundation could write grants or letters seeking money, she said. Individuals could also make donations.

"Charitable giving has been incredible over the last four years," Ober said. "The economy is healthy. The stock market is healthy. This is the time we should be seeking alternative revenue for our school system. Other school systems are doing it."

Teachers or schools could then apply to the Education Foundation for portions of the money to be used for projects, programs, equipment, etc.

Wagner said a healthy foundation that uses some of its donations for staff development would make the school system more attractive to teachers. "As a school system that has an educational foundation in place ... this is going to be one desirable school system to be employed in," she said.

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