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Foundation wants to take you higher

With the help of the Lake Oswego School District Foundation, the district should be in the position to add more electives and reduce class sizes in its schools next year.

It's puts the district in a much different situation than in years past, when Lake Oswego schools struggled to survive through periods of severe downsizing.

But with a fund-raising goal set at a record $2.2 million this spring, the foundation hopes to enhance what the district already has to offer.

'This is a key turning point for us,' said Superintendent Bill Korach. '(The foundation) kept us alive and they've kept us in a position where now we believe that foundation fund-raising will allow us to build back and get stronger.'

Foundation officials kicked off the start of their 2007 campaign with a luncheon Feb. 7.

This week, the foundation will begin its fourth annual elementary school drive, which precedes the foundation's annual Phone-a-thon by more than a month.

The goal of the school-based drive is for the foundation team at each school - which consists of 50 to 60 parents - to try and make contact with every parent or guardian at their school.

Throughout the spring campaign, members of the community are asked by phone or mail to contribute to the foundation effort. Various levels of support exist, including the highest, 'Chairman's Circle' ($10,000 or above). All donor names are published in the foundation newsletter.

According to district officials, a strong foundation fund-raising effort coupled with high state funding will provide schools with a long-awaited opportunity to build back what they've eliminated in years past.

In 1990, for example, the district made a number of major structural changes, program eliminations and staff cuts, and it's been trying to regain its optimal strength ever since.

Next year, the district hopes to hit that mark by hiring qualified teachers and reducing class sizes at all levels. Korach called it 'rebuilding with an eye on the future.'

n Priorities at the elementary level include adding on half-time teachers and counseling staff.

n At the middle level, officials aim to offer more academic electives, especially in technology, and a wider selection of world languages, such as Chinese.

n In the high schools, more electives are in the works, primarily in business and science. Officials also hope to add more counselors to the mix at both high schools.

'It's very exciting for the foundation to be able to say we're having a positive impact and we're trying to help build a world-class district so that our students will be able to compete globally,' said Mary Puskas, foundation director.

Last year, the foundation had its most successful year to date by raising $1.95 million, which enabled the district to pay for the salary and benefits of 19 additional teachers.

This year, issues such as declining enrollment and tea-cher negotiation contracts pushed the foundation to increase its goal.

'You have to have a higher goal to maintain what we've achieved and move forward with adding additional programming,' Puskas added.

A few new tactics were added to the effort this year, including a personalized campaign at each high school and a partnership program with local Relators.

For more information about the foundation, visit the organization's Web site at www.losdfoundation.org or call 503-534-2302.