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Education foundations work with districts to pay for programs


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Parents and teachers want to give more Franklin students the chance to participate in a program that builds their creative thinking skills, and they’re looking for donors in the community to make that happen.

The Destination Imagination program is designed to develop creative thinking, problem solving and teamwork skills by having students compete against other schools. In one of the program’s challenges, for example, students select a piece of artwork from another country and write a skit based on the piece. Parents and teachers can explain to students how to write a script and show them how to build sets, but students must do all of the work preparing for and performing the skit, Franklin Education Connection development director Bea Northcott said.

Franklin Education Connection has raised about $13,000 for Destination Imagination over the past two years, and there is now enough money to expand the program to all of Franklin’s schools next school year. But that’s not enough. Northcott wants to be sure that the program continues beyond next school year, and the group is preparing lists of businesses and residents who might be willing to donate to support the program.

“As students move from the elementary schools to the intermediate school to the high school, we want to make sure that’s available for them,” Northcott said.

Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools also have education foundations that raise money for scholarships, field trips and other programs that schools can’t afford themselves. That’s especially important for school districts such as Franklin, which have less money to work with because property tax caps limit the amount of money those school districts can collect, Northcott said.

“There are more and more needs in the school corporation that can’t be funded by the traditional public, state funding,” she said.

Some of the funding the education foundations collect is used for grants that teachers can apply for. Center Grove’s education foundation, formed in 1998, provides about $20,000 in grants to teachers once or twice each year. Franklin Education Connection, formed in 2010, has raised $34,000 for teacher grants.

Officials with Center Grove and Franklin’s foundations want to continue to fund teacher grants. But they also want to raise money for larger projects that will impact more students, Northcott and Center Grove Education Foundation executive director Carla Johnson said.

“We’re just trying to maximize the amount of resources we can bring to the school corporation,” Northcott said.

Center Grove’s foundation is trying to raise about $60,000 for a program called REACH. The money would pay for a family resource officer who would find out why elementary school students who missed school are absent. Johnson said the funds eventually could cover the cost of a middle school alternative program and a weeklong learning session during fall breaks where students could review lessons they don’t know or work ahead.

After the education foundation committed to raising $60,000 for REACH, officials started looking for ways to find more donors. The foundation has been around for more than 15 years, Johnson said, but many Center Grove parents and residents still don’t know about it.

To change that, the foundation created social media accounts, and it has been receiving more donations from administrators and teachers, who can have donations taken from their paychecks, Johnson said. Updated fundraising figures weren’t available, but the foundation raised more money during one of its biggest fundraisers earlier this year. At Gala for the Grove, the foundation raised about $49,000, up from about $39,500 last year, she said.

“We’re trying to make sure what we do lines up with them and really helps the corporation as a whole,” Johnson said, “because we feel students and teachers really benefit from that.”

At Franklin, Northcott believes working more closely with district leaders will help the group raise more money.

Donors don’t always want to contribute to a grant program and would rather know exactly where their money is going. If Franklin can show donors specifics about what Destination Imagination or other programs do and how they help students, they may be able to raise more money, Northcott said.

In September, Franklin’s education foundation combined with Franklin Study Connection to form the current Franklin Education Connection. Both groups were trying to raise money for student programs. Now that they’ve combined, that will stop them from competing for money or visiting the same potential donors multiple times, Northcott said.

“By working together, we can identify more programs, more funding agencies, more foundations that can support both groups, rather than competing with each other,” she said.

PAST&FUTURE FUNDRAISING

Here’s a look at some of the past fundraising by the education foundations for Center Grove and Franklin and a look at their future goals:

Center Grove

  • Established in 1998
  • Total grant amount given to teachers: Typically about $20,000 once or twice per year
  • Goals: The education foundation is fundraising $60,000 for REACH, a program that would pay for a family resource officer to ensure students are attending school, provide a middle school alternative academy and lessons for students during fall and spring breaks enabling them to catch up on assignments or work ahead

Franklin

  • Established in 2010; combined with Franklin Study Connection in September
  • Total grant amount given to teachers: $34,000
  • Goals: Franklin Education Connection is now working with Franklin schools to create a specific list of projects the group will raise money for. That could include expanding and keeping the Destination Imagination program in all of Franklin’s schools

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