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Yellow Springs schools eye hiring fundraiser

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Yellow Springs schools are considering increasing expenditures next year for a new full-time employee to help raise private funds for the district. School board members discussed the issue at a work session last week in which they did not make final decisions or take any votes. They will address the topic again at the regular board meeting on April 9.

The district has already started down the private funding path. In 2013 the schools agreed to open a private fund known as Yellow Springs Exempted Village Schools Capital and Endowment Fund, or YSCAPE, to support the academic transition to project-based learning. The fund, administered by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation with an advisory committee of school personnel, was seeded with a private donation of $150,000 meant to support early teacher training and encourage additional giving.

The following year, the district also agreed to use some YSCAPE funds for a part-time position for Yellow Springs High School alumna Naomi (Sikes-Gilbert) Bongorno to start a Yellow Springs schools alumni fund for the district. Last summer she began working with an alumni development committee led by school board member Evan Scott and school counselor John Gudgel, to start an alumni database and begin networking for the alumni fund. Other alumni board members include Erika (Heaton) Grushon, Cammy Dell Grote, Annette Schooler Zander, Diara (Fleming) Spelmon, Mikasa Simms, parent representative Bruce Bradtmiller and school board representative Sean Creighton.

To date, the YSCAPE fund has been nearly spent down to support PBL training for teachers and is expected to be depleted by the end of the summer. And starting the alumni fund has been a larger undertaking than one part-time employee and a volunteer committee can manage. (So far the group has identified approximately 2,000 YSHS alumni and has contact information for almost 200.) The team’s members told the school board last week that the job demands a full-time fundraising expert at a potential annual cost of $100,000 in salary and benefits.

“You need a full-time dedicated person to work with the alumni association” to build an effective alumni fund, Gudgel said. Just to pay the fundraiser would require an endowment of $3 million, according to Bongorno, but the position will at first need to be funded by another source, such as the school district, in order to create even a baseline endowment.

To simplify all the private funds, the YSCAPE fund recently merged with the alumni fund to create a new Village of Yellow Springs Public Schools Fund.

The new fundraising position would increase cost without an equivalent revenue stream to cover it. That “deficit spending” would be an addition to the $120,000 in spending over revenue expected to start next year to support the full block schedule for project-based learning.

While the district has ample reserves of $3.1 million to cover temporary deficits, Basora cautioned the school board to consider the multliplying effect of unfunded spending over multiple years. He suggested that some revenue could be generated by increasing open enrollment or possibly more state funding, which he predicted might increase by 10 percent next year.

In school board business from the regular March 12 meeting:

• As of March 12, the schools had used nine calamity days for the 2014–15 school year. The state allows up to five days, which means the district will add four days to the end of the school year, which will now officially end on June 4.

• Fourth grade teacher Ben Trumbull resigned in February after 18 years with the district. His decision was effective immediately. McKinney school guidance counselor Linda Sikes announced her plans to retire at the end of the school year after over 14 years with the district.

The board approved the hiring of Kristin (Adkins) McNeeley as the Mills Lawn Title I teacher and coordinator.

• The board held an executive session to discuss a personnel issue and did not make any decisions following the session.

• The April school board meeting was rescheduled for Thursday, April 16, at 7 p.m.

A school board work session has been scheduled for April 23 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss board development and ongoing issues. Work sessions are official school board meetings in which issues are discussion only and no motions are passed nor votes taken.

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