Donations lift Quaker Valley education, programs
By Bobby Cherry
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
More than $914,000 in donations toward Quaker Valley School District initiatives have been collected since 2009, leaders said.
The money outside the regular budget process keeps programs and services operating even as budgets tighten, Superintendent Joseph Clapper said.
“It allows us to do programming and provide services to children and sometimes to families who otherwise we may not be able to provide for,” he said. “We're working really, really hard here to have a very frugal ... budget that meets the needs of this tremendous educational program here.
“We have to be creative and innovate to do those unique and different things that our parents and kids have become accustomed to.”
More than $190,500 was donated to Quaker Valley during the 2012-13 school year, while the budget totaled more than $41 million, according to district records.
External support allows district leaders to “explore creative ways to fund programs rather than to eliminate them,” Assistant Superintendent Heidi Ondek said. She works closely with the nonprofit group Friends of Quaker Valley Schools, which supports a variety of programs in the district.
Since 2009, donations from individuals and organizations have totaled more than $214,000 for a community youth worker who coordinates after-school programming and provides mentoring to children, Clapper said.
“(The youth worker's) salary and the operational kinds of expenses that occur are fully funded externally, which is a powerful statement made by our partners in the community,” Clapper said. “They recognize the need for someone helping with those kids to make connections after school.”
Clapper said he'd like to see the district's after-school and summer programs increase.
“(They are) becoming more and more an integral part of what we do here,” he said.
“Funding externally makes it more palatable. Those (programs) are not mandated, but they're good for kids, and they're good for families. So if we can find ways to operate those programs for the benefit of our kids, by all means we should be doing that.”
Clapper said the $914,000 does not include support for the athletic booster organizations and extracurricular clubs, which also receive donations.
“Every girl and boy sport we have has a booster group, and it's not just athletics — band, juggling-club supporters,” he said. “People out there are doing incredible amounts of work and making subsequent donations for these children.”
A high school fitness center was fully funded by outside support, and the middle school's wellness center also received donations for equipment and technology, he said.
Clapper said the need for outside support — through donations or through sponsorship agreements, such as naming rights — will continue to grow as district leaders look for alternative ways to supplement the school budget.
“Public schools today are being asked to do more and more with less and less,” he said. “The mandates continue (and) the cost of doing business continues to increase dramatically.
“We are very blessed to have community groups and nonprofits and businesses and vendors and, of course, families and individuals who no longer have children in the schools step up and make those kinds of contributions.”
Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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