Saturday, July 12, 2008

Alternative Revenue Sources for Our Schools

Following the recent resignation of his administrative assistant, Superintendent O’Malley opted to not fill the position. Rather, he asked his administrative officers where the greatest need was. The answer was finance. Given the drumming from last year’s financial audit, out-of control spending in the day-to-day operations, new reporting requirements under New Jersey’s QSAC regulations, and budgetary cap restrictions, Business Administrator Sue Irons has her hands full. A new assistant would enable her to do what she was hired to do – budgetary planning and oversight.

Remarkably, school board member Zavorskas opposed creating the new position on the grounds that the assistant was being hired to do part of the Business Administrator’s job. (The seeming inference was that, if Ms. Irons was unable to perform her job, rather than give her an assistant, we should find someone to replace her.) In her own defense, Ms. Irons cited a number of new responsibilities that she was assuming, including the search for alternative revenue sources.

Former board member, Ken Aiken, had repeatedly argued for a grants writer. How wonderfully reassuring to finally have a business administrator who doesn’t believe we should just shakedown the taxpayer for every budgetary shortfall.

With all due respect to Ms. Irons, may I suggest the following areas where the district could raise additional funds.

Grants –
Many of our extracurricular and special education programs would qualify for private and public grants. The school can provide grant writing workshops and then encourage faculty, students, and parents to apply for grants to support their programs.

At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any state grants available. On the federal level, how about writing a grant proposal for the National Center to Improve the Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Personnel for Children with Disabilities? The grant is $500,000. Best hurry. Deadline is July 24th.

As for the private sector, here’s a list of the largest foundations and a list of the most generous philanthropists. To my knowledge, every Fortune 500 company supports charitable causes as well.

In all likelihood, many of the programs we now offer would qualify for grants if we simply altered the focus to align with the grants' goals. For example, if the district had a club or class that focused on natural science, they could qualify for a $2,000 grant from Lowe’s. If the music program focused on engaging as many people as possible, there’s a $5,000 grant from the Guitar Center Music Foundation. How about $10,000 for a literacy program from Verizon? Best Buy is giving $5,000 grants for innovative technology programs. And the list goes on.

In all likelihood, the biggest private grants will come from the major foundations. If our teacher’s union was willing to allow performance bonuses for teachers, we could possibly get over $100,000 from the likes of the Gates Foundation to fund the bonuses.

Sponsorships –
The list of sponsorship opportunities is quite long. From the athletic fields to the athletic programs to the vending machines to Huskievision to extracurricular programs to the outsides of school buses.

Alternative Energy –
New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program appears to be in flux but that’s probably a temporary situation. Given the state’s commitment to fighting pollution and promoting conservation, grants and financing will likely become available again to help districts transition to alternative energy sources. With financing, we could reap significant savings from wind and solar power solutions.

Program Fees –
The facilities are only being used for half a day. We could have adult education programs, tutorial classes, fee-based extracurricular programs (i.e. karate, yoga, and dance), and entertainment.

If we had a successful grants workshop program alongside sponsorships and fee-based programs, would it reduce the tax burden? Hardly. Even $400,000 in additional revenue would offset less than 1% of the school property tax. Yet, that money could go towards programs initiated by the teachers, students, and parents. Enabling the community to develop programs funded by grants would be a significant first step in shifting control from those who run the schools to those who use the schools.

The school budget is nearly $63 million. A couple thousand dollars to manage a grants workshop would be a welcome expense.
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9 comments:

jv said...

Grants from foundations would require some type of private audit. Or, perhaps, teacher's performance evaluations. We don't want that in our school. We might get exposed of all the useless money squandering.

Mim Song said...

Some good ideas here, Aberdeener. Grants can be tricky, but I think we could look for one-time grants to develop some programs that could sustain themselves if they were jump-started.

We have the Education Foundation, right? Wouldn't they be the right folks to take on some of this?

(BTW, I think the "National Center to Improve the Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Personnel for Children with Disabilities" grant is for *being* such a center, providing help to states and districts. That is beyond our ability (and these grants are often very academic and highly competitive), but we should find out who has that center funding now and seek their assistance, for sure.)

mrsb said...

There are literally hundreds of grants out there for schools, libraries and individual educators.

I've actually sent the link to grantwrangler.com to various people in the district (with absolutely no response from any of them). It's a great resource for finding grants geared toward schools.

A grant writer is probably one of the best additions that could be made to our district. It's a shame we haven't had one for years.

Aberdeener said...

Mim Song,

I've not gone through the actual application but, under eligible applicants, it lists townships and independent school districts.

In any case, this was just an example of the types of grants that are available.

Aberdeener said...

MrsB,

Thanks for letting us know about grantwrangler.com. Will definitely check it out.

aberdeen2009 said...

Mim Song, You want the Matawan Aberdeen Educational Foundation to get grants? The foundation barely meets it’s own needs. They have the same amount of money that they had years ago? Check them out on www.guidestar.org. Yes, they do give out about $10,000 in grants every year, but waste a great deal of money on fundraising and congratulatory dinners for the teachers getting the grants.

Normally a trustee is supposed to have a personal fundraising goal? A foundation is supposed to grow capital to be able to give more sustaining grants. This one does not do that; they raise and give away roughly the same amount every year.

List of foundation trustees for 2007.

Janice Gallo, Chairperson
Michael Ash, Vice Chairperson
Linda Rossi, Secretary
Lyn Ostar, Treasurer
Pam Bellone
Suzanne Coven
Carole Cutar
Patrick McNamara
Randi Moore
Marc Naparstek
Harriet M. Primack
Jill Ratcliffe
Robin Schneider
Julanne Schmitt
Catherine Zavorskas (Ex-officio)
Bruce Quinn (Ex-officio)


List of foundation trustees for 2008.

Lyn Ostar, Chairperson
Linda Rossi, Vice Chairperson
James DeMatteo, Secretary
Loretta Assini, Treasurer
Jeffrey Shaw
Vicki Allen
Ruth Stoveken
Michael Ash
Jim Tobias
Pam Bellone
Benno Van Note
Jill Ratcliffe
Janice Gallo
Carole Cutar
Patrick McNamara
Barry Haber
Paul Buccellato
Kimberly Honnick (ex-officio)
Dr. Richard O'Malley (ex-officio)
Cathy Zavorskas (ex-officio)

What is the real purpose of this organization? They are not financially growing the foundation.

lo said...

Dear M. Aberdeen2009,

You gave me quite a chuckle this morning when one of the MAEF trustees pointed out your blog posting. I think that I can be very confident in speaking for all of the volunteers in every organization in both Matawan and Aberdeen on how much we all wish that there were so many more people willing to volunteer -- to give up time and money that they really don't have to spare. In that wonderful situation, the Foundation could limit the Trustees to only those people who have an abundance of money to give, connections to work, and time to work those connections and put together endless fundraisers. I'm sure that the athletic leagues would love to have so many people volunteering to coach that they could turn away anyone who is not an expert at the game. I'm sure that the fire department would love to have so many volunteers that they can fill every truck for every call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Pick an organization in town, and I guarantee that there are a few dedicated souls toiling away who would simply faint if they suddenly had enough volunteers to meet the need.

Alas, there is no sign of that any time soon. But perhaps next time you think of the Foundation, and you feel like writing, you could consider writing a check to support our efforts. Many of your neighbors -- those with money as well as those who struggle every day to make ends meet -- have already done so, with our tremendous appreciation for their sacrifice. And perhaps you might rearrange your busy schedule and join us. The members of the MAEF work hard to focus on our mission to support educational innovation and excellence, even in the face of personal, community and organizational challenges. We focus on the good that we can do with the resources that we have. If you help us increase our resources, then we could no doubt accomplish even more in the future than we have in the past.

Regards,
Lyn Ostar
Chair of the MAEF

Aberdeener said...

Lyn,

I'd be interested in contributing. Can you give us an idea towards what projects we can direct our contributions?

Please let me know if there's anything else I can do to assist your group.

Best of luck.

lo said...

Donations to the Matawan Aberdeen Educational Foundation may be sent to the foundation's mailbox at 1 Crest Way, Aberdeen, 07747.

Contributions that are not earmarked are generally used to support our grant program. The Foundation accepts grant proposals from teachers for innovative projects that they would like to try in the classroom. These are screened by school administrators to ensure that they are in harmony with the curriculum. Grants are then assessed by the trustees to look for innovation and creativity, inclusion of a wide range of children and so forth. We have supported a wide range of projects throughout the District, though we are admittedly poor at making sure that the Foundation gets credit for them. Science, math, reading, music, art.... We specifically can't pay salaries, and we don't fund field trips unless they are worked into a more comprehensive overall project.

We have applied and recieved an external grant for $5k from Columbia Bank to support the Instruments in the Attic music program. We are planning to go out for more grants, and have started to identify projects and teacher/partners to work with.

We have received donations in memoriam, and have worked with the families involved to fund something significant to them.

We do fundraise, and I have to admit that the teacher recognition dinner -- though structured specifically to give the teachers a networking and social opportunity -- has generally raised money. Events are difficult, though, in that they take more work on the part of our small cadre of volunteers.

So I don't know if I answered your question, but I truly appreciate your support and kind words.

Thanks so much,
Lyn