Foundation off to fast start

$1.6 million raised before phonathon starts

Positive energy characterizes this year's Lake Oswego School District Foundation campaign, which has raised $1.6 million - an unprecedented amount for this time of year.

The foundation has yet to dial into families' homes during its annual phonathon. And two other new prongs of the campaign have yet to be launched - the Door-to-Door-athon (see sidebar, page A4), in which the foundation will reach out to the greater community of households without school-age children, and the business campaign, which will ask local businesses to step up their support of schools.

For every $75,000 the foundation raises, the school district can support the salary and benefits of one teacher.

The money comes at a time when the need has never been greater. The district faces reductions to its budget for the third year in a row and expects more reductions in the next year. Over the biennieum, the estimated budget gap is $13 million, and the foundation is proving that it can be a major bridge for schools.

'Our goal is to raise as much money as possible,' said Mary Puskas, foundation director. 'We decided not to cap it.'

Last year, the foundation raised $1.4 million, an amount many saw as a sign of the times. In 2009, the foundation raised $1.6 million; in 2008, it raised $1.75 million.

'We're definitely seeing an increase in percentage of parent households that are giving,' said Puskas. 'We're seeing many people giving $750 per person, which is the dollar amount per child that would bridge the gap.'

Similarly, if every household in Lake Oswego donated - including ones without children - that number per student would fall to only $350 per student.

A gift of $750 per student this year would fill a projected gap of $5 million. (The school district has now decided to budget for a $6.5 million gap over two years, rather than $5 million in 2011-2012 and $8 million in 2012-2013).

The foundation has stepped up its presence on Facebook and made a YouTube video to get its message across.

Some local businesses are already helping in a big way.

Dan Heine, president of The Bank of Oswego, announced in February that the bank will be pledging $100,000 to the annual campaign over the next five years.

The bank is also sponsoring an ad campaign called 'Don't Fail Our Schools' to support the foundation's campaign.

A number of local retail stores are putting containers at the registers and asking patrons to round up their change for the foundation.

'We feel that there's just overall tremendous support in this community to keep the schools the best in the state,' said Puskas.