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The LO Schools Foundation kicks off its fundraising season - with some changes

The Lake Oswego Schools Foundation is kicking off its fundraising season, and presented an update to the school board at the Sept. 9 meeting about what to expect over the next year. LO Schools Foundation executive director Mary Kay Larson and board president Bink Greene thanked the school board members for their support of the LO Schools Foundation, and discussed recent updates.

The LO Schools Foundation raises $1.5 million annually to hire and retain additional teachers at every school in the district. The money funds the equivalent of 20 full-time teaching positions.

"We serve as a beacon for families and community members to show their support for education," Larson said. "Eighty-five percent of families have given to the Foundation during their tenure in LO schools."

Foundation has done "a bit of a pivot," and plans to increase the clarity of what donations are specifically used for. "People want to know exactly where their money is going," Larson told the board. "It's very direct and very easy to track where foundation donations are going, so we can report back to our supporters what impact they are making."

According to Larson, saying the Foundation funds 20 positions isn't specific enough. "In early October I will have a spreadsheet with all of the Foundation-funded positions at each school," she said.

Another change this year is the Foundation's collaboration with parent clubs like PTOs and PTAs. Parent clubs raise money for things like equipment and materials, experiences, community events and campus improvements, while the Foundation dollars go solely to funding teachers. "We both have a fundraising component. We needed to work on making sure that we were coordinating with each other," Larson said. "We worked hard at reestablishing connections with the parent clubs."

Greene agreed. "It's proven you can build off of each other instead of competing for dollars," he said.

Greene is also focused on building formal connections with other groups within the school district, such as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Committee. He told the board he was inspired by Neelam Gupta, who is on the board of the Foundation as well as co-chair of the DEI Advisory Committee.

"We need to have a more formal relationship with the groups that our board members are a part of, so we can be informed and be a resource to anyone in the community," Greene said. "There are a lot of informal connections that are beneficial to the Foundation. Formalizing those relationships creates a level of accountability that should amplify those results."

The LO Schools Foundation has both an annual fund and an endowment fund. The annual fund is used to fund teaching positions each year, while the endowment fund is a more permanent source of funding meant to keep the Foundation successful in perpetuity. "With our endowment, we disperse a little more than $40,000 a year," Larson said.

This year, they decided to use that money for something different.

"We turned the endowment into grants for each principal to apply for with their staff, to be used for what is needed this year at that school," she said. Larson said possible uses for those funds range from social-emotional support to literacy support and more.

"This is an important time for the Foundation," Greene said. "There's a lot of change going on."

School board members agreed. "We are so incredibly fortunate in LO to have the support of our community through the foundation," board member Sara Pocklington said. "I'm really excited about these changes. I love the partnership with the parent clubs."

Board member Liz Hartman, who has a long history with the Foundation, also sang their praises. "I feel like the foundation has arrived. Everything feels so pulled together this year. You're doing all the right things." she said. "The growth of the Foundation is exponential. I've invested so much of my time and energy in the schools, and I feel like it's paid off."

The LO Schools Foundation is now accepting pledges and donations, and will be hosting a variety of events throughout the fall. Visit www.losfoundation.org for more information.


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