Billboard and mobile texting help raise awareness of state education fund shortfall
by: Submitted PHOTO The Lake Oswego School District Found billboard, which went up in March, was located near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 217 and could be seen as drivers left Lake Oswego and headed into Tigard. It has since changed locations.


Staff Reporter

Stepping up the campaign with savvy marketing like mobile texting and billboards, the Lake Oswego School District Foundation is halfway through its annual campaign and more than halfway to its goal with a total of $1.3 million in pledges so far.

'We're feeling like it's right on track,' said foundation Director Mary Puskas.

The foundation has a $2.3 million annual goal, which is the same amount that the foundation raised last year. To reach the goal, the foundation needs the equivalent of about $750 per student enrolled in Lake Oswego schools.

The $2.3 million goal is just one part of a whole strategy to fill a $5.5 million funding gap for the school district.

About a month ago, the foundation volunteers wrapped up the first phase of the annual phone-a-thon, which called about 50 percent of parents of students in grades K-12.

Puskas said the foundation will pick up the phones again the third week of April to try to reach parents that weren't available the first time, as well as extending the calls to the community at large.

Two unique ways the foundation is reaching out this year are via a mobile texting fundraising option and an I-5 billboard appeal.

Mobile phone users can text TEACHERS to 501501 to donate $10 to the foundation, with the charge appearing on their mobile phone bill.

The foundation tried out the mobile texting for the first time at the civil war basketball game - Lakeridge High School versus Lake Oswego High School - by having fans from the two schools face off in a giving contest. Lakeridge won the challenge and $500 was donated that night.

The foundation will continue to encourage the mobile donation at school events this year.

'It's a very simple message for people to make a nice quick donation,' said Puskas.

The billboard was made possible thanks to an anonymous donation from a Lake Oswego parent, who is an executive with Lamar Advertising.

The billboard requests that viewers donate to Lake Oswego schools and depict a mortarboard and the campaign's slogan, 'Excellence has a price,' a theme meant to remind Lake Oswego residents that because of reduced state funding, additional support from parents, community members, and businesses is necessary to keep the schools from cutting teachers and programs.

Puskas said that the billboard can really apply to any school district in Oregon, as the shortfall in funding is statewide.

'The theme this year draws attention to the fact that schools in Oregon are underfunded by the state and we all need to work together to keep schools excellent,' said foundation President Kevin Robertson. 'Of course we hope the billboard will raise our own donations, but we hope it will help neighboring districts increase their own foundation donations as well.'

Robertson pointed out that he, Puskas, and other foundation leaders regularly meet and share information with leaders of neighboring school foundations, such as the Foundation for Tigard-Tualatin Schools and the West Linn-Wilsonville Education Foundation.

'Our goal is for all students in all districts to receive the best education possible,' added Robertson. 'Our foundation invests only in teachers because we believe that smaller classes and increased elective and AP classes are the best way to achieve that.'

The message was installed on Wednesday, March 14, and will be displayed on several different billboards on the I-5/217 junction for several weeks.

'We direct more than 95 percent of our gross donations directly to teacher salaries,' said Puskas. 'We are extremely grateful for this gift to help us get our message out.'

The foundation is also reaching out this year with a mailer in the middle of the LO section published by the Lake Oswego Review and sent to every household in Lake Oswego, a local chamber of commerce networking event and a restaurant month sponsored by the city. Schools will also continue to hold individual smaller events.

The foundation is coordinating the marketing effort this year with help from a number of local businesses. Lead sponsors The Bank of Oswego and Saint Honoré Boulangerie funded the foundation's marketing campaign, which was boosted by substantial in-kind matches from the Lake Oswego Review and reduced rates from advertising and marketing firm Fish Marketing.

For more information on the foundation's campaign, go to or to view a video.

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