S. Butler eyes new stream of funding
By Jodi Weigand
Published: Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, 12:06 a.m.
The new Knoch Knights Legacies Foundation is forging ahead to create a new era of alternative revenue funding for the South Butler School District.
“The school board is hopeful the new foundation will help us continue to provide quality educational programs and facilities for our students during these difficult financial times for school districts and taxpayers,” school board President Nelda Burd said in a emailed statement. “The new foundation has been established to help the district fund educational programs, technology enhancements and facilities improvements.”
The school board started the nonprofit foundation in April. It establishes a formal channel for community donations like those received for lights at the football field and basketball courts and construction of the band shelter at the stadium.
The nine-member Knoch Knights foundation board includes three school board members, Burd, James Jones and Linda Rieck.
The board recently elected as president Brian Kanterman, 50, of Penn Township. He is a former school board member and is a self-employed sales and marketing consultant.
The other community members include: Ray Conlon, an attorney with Conlon Tarker; Corina Diehl, president of Diehl Automotive Group; Keith Frndak, CEO of Concordia Lutheran Ministries; Steve Muck, president of Brayman Construction; and Regis Schiebel, a retired South Butler School District administrator.
The foundation is still in its infancy. The next steps include finalizing bylaws and forming foundation goals and a mission statement.
South Butler is among several local school districts that have recently formed foundations to support school district classroom activities that can no longer be covered by the district budget. Freeport, Allegheny Valley and Mars Area school districts also have fledgling foundations.
There are about 230 foundations among the state's 500 school districts, according to Bob New, founder and CEO of Pennsylvania Education Foundations, which is dedicated to promoting the foundations and aiding them in being successful.
“There's a financial crisis in education,” New said. “Public school districts are in pretty dire straits and, in a lot of cases, are trying to keep up with declining state funding in their districts, knowing that they can't raise taxes.”
South Butler School District's foundation stemmed from a successful fundraising campaign for a new stadium scoreboard and marquee. The foundation board has been talking with New to get his advice on how to make their efforts successful.
Of the seven school districts in Butler County, at least five have education foundations. All but two of the 15 districts in the Alle-Kiski Valley — New Kensington-Arnold and Franklin Regional — have nonprofit education foundations.
Among the oldest are Apollo-Ridge, which formed in 1996, and Riverview, which was established in 1991.
Nearly all of the local foundations offer grants to teachers to fund classroom projects.
The Dynamo Education Foundation in the Allegheny Valley School District supports mini grants of up to $500 for classrooms.
“When they developed the foundation they were very big on educational and cultural opportunities for students,” said district and foundation spokesman Jan Zastawniak. “We wanted some way to help the district in some activities in supplemental programs that can support the classroom initiative.”
One of its first initiatives was collecting donated string instruments for Colfax Upper Elementary School's new string instrument curriculum.
Meanwhile, long-established foundations are searching for new ways to be effective.
The Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation has begun seeking donations from businesses that qualify for tax breaks under the state Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, or EITC.
New said the state's foundations have been generating between $2 million and $3 million a year through the EITC.
“It's really a major benefit,” he said.
Apollo-Ridge officials said the EITC program is an incentive for businesses to financially support their local school districts.
The district has been able to use donations from First Commonwealth and F&M banks made through the EITC program to buy telescopes for the science department and pay the cost of AP course exams for students in AP courses.
“We try to find areas where we can help the district where they might not have funding to buy these things,” said Chris Clark, president of the foundation and the district's director of customized student services. “We're almost like a booster organization for the classroom and academics.”
Getting qualified to receive EITC funds is at the top of the foundation board's list, board members said at a recent meeting.
“We don't want to make goals that would create a barrier between us and EITC funds,” said board member Steve Muck. “It's one of the largest funding sources out there.”
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or email@example.com.
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