Group gives $3.3 million to schools
As student enrollment continues to soar in the Menlo Park City School District — next year, by a projected 100 students — and state and other revenue continues to fall, the district is reveling in the fact that it can keep pace and add teachers to meet enrollment growth for the next school year, thanks to a major boost in funding from the nonprofit foundation that supports it.
At the June 4 meeting where the school board passed a $32.7 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation presented the district with a $3.35 million check — a $750,000 increase over last year's gift.
Children from all four of the district's schools delivered an oversized "check" to the board. The gift will make up an estimated 10 percent of the district's revenue next year.
The lion's share of that money will fund salaries of 30 staff members (27 full-time-equivalent jobs), including nine classroom teachers, according to Theanne Thomson, co-president with Alison Leupold of the foundation.
The foundation's gift also supports specialists in the district's art, music, science, and library programs, and provides partial support for counseling services, Ms. Thomson said.
Other programs supported by the gift include the Jeanie Ritchie grants that fund innovative classroom projects, and professional development for staff.
The foundation set an ambitious goal of raising $4 million this school year, and was able to bolster contributions from parents with a number of matching grants. "We set a growth goal this year, and said, let's just do the best we can," Ms. Thomson said. "We're so proud of this result."
The milestone foundation leaders are most proud of, she said, was the increase in parent participation — one of its major goals.
Last year, about 53 percent of district families were foundation members, and the group wanted to raise that figure to 70 percent. Ms. Thomson said the goal was surpassed, with about 74 percent of families joining. For meeting the goal, the foundation will receive a $50,000 incentive that was offered by a district family.
In addition to having a strong foundation board, a key to the organization's success this year is that it collaborated with the PTOs of the individual schools, creating a new dynamic of cooperation and fundraising energy, Ms. Thomson said.
The annual spring auction also exceeded the foundation's goal and prior years' take, raising $367,000, she said.
With state funding cuts and enrollment growth, including kindergarten signups that far exceeded projections for the next school year, parent and community donations to the schools "is the new reality of funding for public education," Ms. Thomson said. The foundation's donation allows the district "to continue keeping pace."