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School board updated on district fundraising

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At last week’s school board meeting, the Yellow Springs school district’s Director of Advancement and Community Relations Dawn Boyer presented the board with an overview of her office’s fundraising efforts. According to Boyer’s presentation, donations and grants have brought approximately $25,000 to the district so far this year.

Boyer was hired in June to help the district achieve its goal of raising $150,000 per year, with an ultimate goal of raising around $5.5 million by 2026.

Given the relatively modest amount raised so far, District Superintendent Mario Basora said the $150,000-per-year goal may be a bit “optimistic.” More realistically, he said, it is the kind of goal that could be met over two years, or when the district has a wider fundraising network in place. 

“We’re learning more about the challenge of a position like this,” he said in a follow-up interview. “But we’re not abandoning the [$150,000 annual] goal. We’re still shooting for it.”

Basora also stated that the first year of fundraising requires building future relationships with donors, which take time to develop. Additionally, the district is always looking for new sources of revenue, he said, such as major benefactors and bequests, which are likewise predicated on relationships that take time to develop. However, Boyer is “at a point where she’s created many of those structures,” Basora said in the follow-up interview. 

In addition to Boyer’s $70,000 annual salary plus benefits, the district has hired a consultant from Springfield firm Linda Butler Consulting to mentor Boyer as she gets the fundraising efforts off the ground. The consultant will be working with the district for approximately six months, Basora said, at a cost of around $12,000.

Regarding the consultant’s hiring, Basora said it is “important that Boyer be paired with someone with development expertise who can offer guidance on how to use her time to best serve the community.”

In response, board members appeared supportive of the fund-raising efforts. 

“You’re just starting,” said Sean Creighton. “Imagine the possibilities.”

Breakdown of fundraising

In her presentation last week, Boyer gave a breakdown of the fundraising proceeds.

The district’s first annual fund drive netted $15,033 for the district. The campaign yielded 99 donations from parents, community members and district staff, the average of which was “a little over $100,” Boyer said at last week’s meeting. The district also received $3,995 in donations from local artist Richard Lapedes, who gave all of the proceeds from his show in October to the district.

In-kind contributions came in at $3,600, Spirit Wear sales at October’s Street Fair netted $1,543 (with online sales figures pending), while the district’s DLTC has brought in $2,390 so far, with a pending $5,740 coming from teacher training sessions already booked for later this year. Basora said he anticipates more revenue from the DLTC as it grows in prominence.

Boyer also gave an update on her efforts to create a Yellow Springs Alumni Association at last week’s meeting. The list of YSHS alumni currently has around 700 names, she said, less than half of the 2,000 names that will make up the full list once it is completed. Considering the number of alumni and the breadth of their professional achievements, Boyer said she is “going to push the alumni piece more in the second half of the year” as an additional source of revenue. Additionally, starting this year, all outgoing YSHS graduates will be added to the alumni/donor list.

Finally, Boyer said that the district should be getting word on two additional grants the district applied for by the end of the month. The advancement office applied for a Lowe’s grant of $13,700 to build an outdoor classroom at Mills Lawn and for a $54,155 grant through the Ohio Department of Higher Education that would help create a career-track program that would partner high school seniors with local industries. The latter grant would be distributed over two years.

In other school board business:

• The board passed a “resolution of necessity” at its meeting last week that will put a renewal levy on the ballot in May. The levy under consideration, one of two levies that fund local schools, is a renewal of a levy passed by voters in 2012. The vote in May will extend the levy for eight years. Basora stressed that the levy up for consideration will not cost residents more money in taxes. The levy brings the district approximately $915,000 per year and is funded by property taxes.

The district is asking voters to renew the levy for eight years so that its expiration coincides with that of a 10-year levy passed in 2015. Both levies would expire in 2025, at which point the district will ask voters to combine the two into a single levy. Voting on a levy every 10 years “reduces the amount of voter fatigue” by reducing the frequency with which levies appear on the ballot, Basora said, adding that a single, combined levy would also reduce the amount of time administrators spend on levy issues.

• Basora announced the names of the three architecture firms selected as finalists to undertake the district’s possible facilities update. Annette Miller Architects and Ruestchle Architects Inc., both of Dayton, and SHP, a larger firm from Cincinnati, were selected from seven applicants that responded to the district’s request for qualifications for the project. The firms will be interviewed by the school board at a public meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 25.

“It is far better for the community to make this a very public process,” he said in a follow-up interview last week.

The firms will offer an assessment of the options the district has in rehabilitating existing school buildings or building new. The board will choose one firm to help the district engage with the public in a series of meetings intended to gather villager input about the project. If villagers are interested in a school construction project, the district will put a levy on the ballot to fund the initiative, likely in spring 2018. Alternately, if village support is not there, the plans will be tabled. The firm chosen to lead the public engagement campaign will not necessarily be the firm that plans any future construction; the district would open the application process again for firms interested in the building project.

Basora said that all three firms have experience working with schools, and he believes that the district has three great choices in the potential firms. 

• Teachers at Mills Lawn received the results of a state-mandated, English Language Arts online test that third graders took in the fall. The school received a 58 percent passing rate, which Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh said was higher than most schools. The test was the first online test that third graders had taken, according to a handout Housh provided at the meeting. 

• The district selected a contractor to install video cameras at the entrances and exits of Mills Lawn and McKinney/YSHS. The security measures follow an incident at Mills Lawn in December in which a former student entered the school and was found wandering the halls. The cameras will cover the front and back doors, as well as the secretarial stations at both schools. The installation will cost $12,500.

• Students at McKinney Middle and Yellow Springs High School will be able to meet with long-term substitute counselor Shannon Morano, hired by the district in December. Morano comes to the district with 15 years of experience with Planned Parenthood, where she worked with young people.

• YSHS was recently added to the College Board’s Advanced Placement Honor Roll, which “recognizes school districts … for increasing AP access to these students while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning AP exam scores of 3 or higher.” The school is one of 32 Ohio districts — among the top 5 percent — to receive the distinction.

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