Families invited to participate in 'Count Me In' fundraiser

Every teacher counts. And every family in the district can help add teachers to schools.

PuppoThat’s the message the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation shared as it launched its spring fundraising campaign with a gathering of parent leaders in the school district’s board room April 16. The foundation’s president, Jay Puppo, hosted the meeting, which featured a broad overview of the school district’s financial status presented by Superintendent Bill Rhoades.

“The reason we’re here this morning,” said Wood Middle School Principal Barbara Soisson, “is we know more needs to be done, and we want to increase the momentum.”

Though the parents in the room were all school supporters, involved in parent-teacher organizations and frequent volunteers in classrooms and at school events, many of them were not aware of the foundation’s role in the district as the sole entity able to provide funds for the express purpose of retaining teacher positions.

Over the past three years, the foundation has donated roughly $450,000 to the school district for teacher salaries. This year, Puppo said, the foundation hopes to increase participation in its spring fundraising campaign, and the theme — Count Me In — reflects that ambition.

“We believe we can add a teacher to each school,” Puppo told the assembled audience. “We believe we can make a significant difference. But the 18 people on this (foundation) board can’t do it. We need you.”

Although the foundation has pledged to raise $1 million by July 31, 2016, board members decided not to attach a financial goal to this year’s ‘Count’ campaign. Instead, the aim is simply to increase participation.

Historically, about 16 percent of families in the district have donated to the foundation each year. Puppo wants to see that figure jump.

“We want people to know who we are and what we’re doing,” he said.

For at least two of the parents in the room, Travis Tadema and Scott Tepavich, that goal was realized. Tadema has two children at Lowrie Primary School in Wilsonville.

“I hadn’t realized the foundation was solely focused on increasing teachers,” he said. “I appreciate their work.”

Tepavich, a parent of two students at West Linn’s Bolton Primary School, also learned more about the foundation during the meeting.

“I knew they existed,” he said. “But not a lot of their involvement and how much they really contribute to our district. This was extremely educational.”

Both Tadema and Tepavich said the arcane details of school funding, including West Linn-Wilsonville’s local option levy, have been difficult to follow. When it comes to the levy, however, revenue from that source dropped significantly in recent years as property values declined.

“The thing that changed my impression (of the foundation) was learning about the local option drop,” Tadema said. “That’s a major loss in the district. That for me triggered, ‘Oh, this is why the foundation is important.’”

Information about school funding — and especially how it can affect class size — is something more parents should be aware of, Tepavich said.

“I don’t think any parent ever thinks class size are where they should be,” he said. “They’ve been acceptable; it could always be better.”

Sharing that information is an important goal, Puppo said.

“We haven’t done a great job of telling the story,” he said, noting that during the economic downturn around 85 teachers in the district lost their jobs. Last year, however, over two dozen positions were regained.

“The ship’s not sinking,” Puppo added. “We have phenomenal world-class schools. We have the best graduation rate of any school district in the state of Oregon. Our teachers do phenomenal work. But if you’re in the schools, you can see pockets of need. In every one of our 15 schools, you can see where an extra teacher would have a significant difference. We want to be that extra punch of support.”


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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