With school budgets cuts across the country, the creation of educational foundations to stop the bleeding is not unusual. “What is unusual,” explains Lake Oswego School District Foundation Director Mary Puskas, “is the success that we’ve had.”
The numbers back her up. Since 1994, the Foundation has raised close to $20 million and funded between 10 and 33 teachers every year since 1997. Keeping teachers in the classroom is what the Lake Oswego Foundation is all about. Ninety five percent of all donations go towards funding teacher salaries in order to keep class sizes small.
The Foundation’s success can perhaps best be measured by what it managed to accomplish the last couple of years during lean economic times.
Last year 2.3 million was raised and 1.4 million the year before that, drawing on the contributions of 60 percent of all school families in addition to the community at-large. “People made some sacrifices,” explains Puskas. “They care deeply about their kids’ education and that comes through over and over again. We have a real passionate group of parents and it has benefited the Foundation enormously,” she adds.
Those parents reach out to other parents and members of the community on a one-on-one basis during the annual campaign which is currently underway. School captains drum up support on their campuses, aided by grade captains in a pyramid-type model that has proved effective. A phone-a-thon reaches out to the larger Lake Oswego community as volunteers explain the Foundation’s mission and ask for support.
In addition the Foundation holds an annual luncheon that raised $62,000 this year as well as a major donor event, a table at the Farmer’s Market, and a year-end appeal. Community service work days enable students to volunteer their time to local businesses or citizens who then in turn donate what they would have paid the student to the Foundation.
New this year is a mobile giving option that enables donors to text TEACHERS to 501501 to make a one-time $10 donation. At a recent Civil War basketball game between Lake Oswego and Lakeridge, there was a competition to see which school could text in the most money during the game. Lakeridge won.
Supporters look to the growing Endowment Fund to provide reliable ongoing contributions to the Foundation. This year it is kicking in $22,000. The goal is that in 25 years the Endowment Fund will contribute $5 million to the campaign every year.
This year’s campaign slogan is “Excellence Has a Price.” Fortunately for the children of Lake Oswego, they live in a community that has proven it is willing to pay it.
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