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Realtors signs show support of LO schools

Personal attention: Lake Oswego Realtors give this every day - driving clients to homes for sale, sending e-mails with statistics to their sellers and hosting open houses. Kids in Lake Oswego schools also get special attention, thanks to the Lake Oswego School District Foundation, both from teachers, who the foundation helps, and real estate agents.

The Realtor Recognition partnership program - started this year - pairs Lake Oswego real estate agents with local students. Notice the small foundation boards hanging from real estate signs in front of homes for sale. They indicate that the Realtor is contributing funds to the program.

'Educated people know the importance of education and are highly supportive of it,' said Mary Puskas, director of the LOSDF.

Puskas said the idea to give Realtors the ability to display their contributions to the foundation through small signs is an idea she picked up while vacatioing in another state when she noticed a similar program.

'I hope our new Realtor program is a win/win situation for (the Realtors) and us,' Puskas said.

Last year, with the foundation's help the district kept all existing teachers, lowered class sizes, added additional teachers to classrooms, brought electives back to the high schools and increased reading and math support in all elementary schools, according to the LOSDF Web site.

So, what draws local Realtors to the cause?

'People often request to be in Lake Oswego because of the schools. It helps to increase the property values locally. And (the LOSDF is) a great way to give back,' said Ed Buchman, Realtor with The Hasson Company Realtors in Lake Oswego and six-year board member with the LOSDF. 'This year the Realtors are contributing quite a bit.'

Puskas agreed, citing their support as 'outstanding.'

Realtors donate to program

While the Realtor Recognition partnership began officially this year, local agents have been recognized for years for their contributions. Currently 80 Realtors make donations to the program, Puskas said.

Started in 1986, the LOSDF is an independent, non-profit corporation that has grown to become a multimillion-dollar fund raiser, pulling in more than $7 million for the district's 13 schools over the past five years.

Its Web site displays a thermometer, with the red creeping towards the top - the goal to raise $2.2 million this year. As of this week its already raised $2.04 million, Puskas said.

The school district's general operating budget is $53 million this year, according to Bill Korach, superintendent. These funds pay for the operation of all schools - and their roughly 6,850 students - including programs, athletics, staff, performing arts, janitorial services, etc.

'All funds are used to reduce the student-teacher ratios in the classroom,' Puskas said. 'People like to invest not only in a beautiful neighborhood and a community that offers numerous amenities, but also in sound education. Our community is unique in that it offers the whole package.'

Korach said that Lake Oswego middle schools and high schools are adding new electives and adding more teachers so that already popular electives can be offered to more students. He said the funds raised through the foundation help 'tremendously.'

'A couple years ago we had one class at Lakeridge for human physiology. Now we have three,' said Korach.

He said that while the Foundation helps financially, there have been years when up to 23 teachers have been cut due to the lack of state funding.

'The budget and goals are very much year-to-year,' he said.

The foundation's mission is, 'to sustain the tradition of outstanding schools in Lake Oswego,' and is truly a collaborative effort. The public funds for schooling plus the private donations may contribute to Lake Oswego schools receiving an 'excellent' rating by the state of Oregon on the State Report Card.

Each spring the foundation conducts an annual campaign with a Phone-a-thon organized through parent volunteers. Since 1994 the foundation has raised more than $7.39 million, said Puskas, and participation increases each year, she said.

A board shows support

After a 10-year trend in cutbacks and reductions, the Lake Oswego School District is on the mend, placing more teachers in classrooms instead of just saving them because of lack of state funding, Puskas said.

'The Program recognizes the impulse to give for education but recognizes the real pocketbook interest on behalf of the real estate community,' Dennis Hartman said, a board member. 'The timing is perfect because the school district is moving from defensive to progressive.'

Local Realtors are stepping up to the plate to contribute funds because their jobs in Lake Oswego depend a lot on location, location, location - and education, education, education.

The Realtor Recognition Partnership - depending on the level of membership - includes the Realtor's name and photograph in advertisements in the Review and Tidings, use of foundation rider board signs, Web site listing and photographs on the Recognized Realtors page and use of the LOSDF Recognized Realtor logo in promotional materials. Rider board signs are small rectangular sturdy signs that feature the LOSDF's logo and attach above or below a for sale sign in a yard.

Realtors can donate $250, $500, $1,500, $2,500 or $5,000 or more per year to receive different levels of recognition and promotional materials for their business. The larger the donation, the more rider board signs are distributed to the Realtor to hang on their for sale signs - and the more exposure.

For example, a Realtor donating $250 will see his or her name in newspaper advertisements, while a $5,000 donor will be placed in advertisements, get 10 rider boards to hang on signs, a photo on the LOSDF Web site and the use of the logo on individual advertisements.

Keeping the program progressing

Each year, Realtors can renew their partnership. Currently 20 local Realtors are a part of this program, Puskas said, who hopes this number continues to grow.

All donations go to the school district; no Realtor can choose a specific Lake Oswego school in which to give a donation to.

'We have a policy of equity,' Puskas said.

And the donation options leave room for anyone to participate.

'We are hoping that our program's tiered structure gives the agents doing business in Lake Oswego an opportunity to participate at one level of benefit or the other. We hope that some day a sign will appear to be missing something if it does not have one of our rider board signs,' said Barbara MacIntosh, a board member.

MacIntosh's Lake Oswego house is for sale and listed with Windermere Cronin and Caplan Realty Group Inc. agent Susan Stier, a foundation supporter and past president and past board member.

Stier said this program between the foundation and Realtors might heighten the awareness about the Foundation and the partnership between agents and schools.

'When I was on the board I was completely taken with the potential to help grow a start-up foundation into a district-wide community outreach for the benefit of not one school, but all schools together,' Stier said.

'There are so many great causes within a school but to consider what benefits each other is a great community unifier.'

Some local Realtors and homeowners said that contributing to local education is just part of living in the city, a place where strong schools are something to brag about and contributions don't go unnoticed.

'I think every parent wants the best education for their child, which makes the demand for real estate in Lake Oswego so great,' said MacIntosh. 'When people move here, they stay, even after their children have graduated, because there are a lot of other things that make this community special - whether the members are old or young.'

Each year the community support of the foundation grows, MacIntosh and Korach said.

'The general goal is to sustain and improve the vitality of our schools. The teachers are the life blood of our schools,' said Korach. 'I think (the rider boards on real estate signs) show a tremendous show of support from our community.'

'The foundation does a tremendous job because the Lake Oswego community has been so supportive and so willing to provide our students with the best quality that they can. The community really cares about education. But, it's a two way street. You can praise the efforts of the foundation, but we (should) also thank the community for their support.'

For more information about the Lake Oswego School District Foundation visit the Web site at http://www.losd

foundation.org/.