Schools Foundation ready to raise $764,600

‘Really Big Idea Committee’ still in infancy

By Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island Schools Foundation presented its 2008-2009 financial request list to the School Board on June 26. The document covers the foundation’s fundraising goals for next year — money that will be raised in order to meet the district’s “instructional improvement initiatives and ongoing commitments.”

In total, the foundation hopes to raise $764,644 for the 2008-09 school year.

The foundation is aiming to pay $114,000 for a district-wide school improvement plan, $40,000 for the fine arts, $70,000 in enrichment grants, which encourage innovation and creativity, and $25,000 for the Mercer Island High School Bridges program. Under its list of improvement plan initiatives, the foundation plans to give the school district $57,000 for a K-12 math curriculum review and elementary learning support program, and $33,750 for instructional materials in math, science and health. Committed initiatives — funds that were raised in 2007-08 and will be expended next year — total $203,744.

In order to expand existing MISD programs next year, the foundation is hoping to fund a total of $221,150. This will cover the K-5 social studies and 10th-grade world history curricula ($78,150), special education materials and training ($50,000), secondary teacher leadership support ($28,000), new textbooks for honors and AP classes ($35,000), as well as math/science books for the 2009-10 school year (30,000).

In its proposal, the foundation states that “these priorities are essential components of the 2008-09 District Instructional Improvement Plan and have been carefully reviewed as critical to ensuring that all students meet district, state and federal standards for success.” The 2008-09 request list will be published in the foundation’s annual report and distributed to more than 8,000 homes on the Island.

With a crunched budget, MISD is increasingly dependent on funds raised through the Schools Foundation. The annual donations raised by the organization, now in its 26th year, now exceed $800,000. Looking over next year’s request list, foundation director Penny Yantis pointed out that the group had a new project in site -- the $70,000 for teacher enrichment grants.

“Without your support, we couldn’t run the district as we have been,” said Superintendent Gary Plano, thanking the foundation.

Meanwhile, the Really Big Idea Committee (RBIC), an innovative fundraising group recently set up by the School Board and Schools Foundation, is still formulating its “2020 Vision” for the district: What can we do to make MISD the best school district? How do we prepare our kids for today’s globally competitive world?

The committee, which has met several times over the past few months, currently has a draft vision in place but has yet to develop a concrete plan.

“Right now we’re still in the discussion phase,” Plano said, adding that the School Board would bring the topic up again at its July retreat.

The committee includes district administrators and teachers, parents, School Board and Schools Foundation members, as well as city representatives. It will work side-by-side with the Schools Foundation to “provide the best education for Mercer Island children.”

Members of the RBIC have already spent hours researching and discussing their visionary aim. The group’s current focus is defining the parameters and objectives of its 2020 Vision. After that, the committee will focus on realistic methods to reach its goal.

In May, the district hosted Michigan State University Professor Yong Zhao, nationally acclaimed for his forward-thinking ideas on education, who spoke about preparing children for the 21st century. The purpose of Zhao’s visit was to provide the committee with keen insight and spur ideas for creating its own vision.

The RBIC has also established a financial sub-committee, which will brainstorm ways to raise funds and realize the 2020 Vision. As for now, the financial committee is waiting for its colleagues to formulate their ideas.

The committee expects to have a defined vision on paper by fall, which it will fine-tune over the following months and hopefully implement by spring of 2009.

- Math, science and health textbooks and computer software, K-12.

- New textbooks for honors/AP high school curriculum.

- Grade 6-12 science curriculum review, to review and select instructional materials for 2009-10 school year.

- Secondary teacher leadership support, providing extra time and materials to improve the quality of instruction.

* This is not a complete list. For a full list of Schools Foundation’s requested funds and objectives, visit the school district Web site:

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