Education foundation gets city consideration

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The seeds for an education foundation were planted Thursday during a presentation given at the Clovis High School Lecture Hall by Foundation Development Consultant Pete Karabatsos.

An education foundation, Karabatsos said, could support a range of activities in area schools. With money donated from community members, teachers could bring new programs and technology to their classrooms and scholarships could be given to students, he said.

“(Clovis) is a perfect community for an education foundation,” said Karabatsos, who has more than 36 years of experience as a consultant for education foundations.
He said his work has led to the creation of 80 foundations in Texas.

“We believe if something is worth doing, it is worth doing right, so we wanted to bring in someone with lots of experience,” Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm said.

About 60 people attended Thursday’s presentation. Many were invited to the presentation because of their leadership qualities, Seidenwurm said.

Karabatsos said one special education teacher in a school district was awarded a foundation grant to launch an outdoor education program. One of her students, who had never spoken a word in public schools, participated in outdoor lessons which included horseback riding, he said.

“When they tried to take that little girl off the horse, … she said ‘no.’ The teacher broke down in tears,” he said.

Karabatsos estimates 4,000 to 5,000 education foundations exist across 16,000 school districts in the United States.

“It’s still a relatively new movement in the U.S.,” he said.

“Generally speaking, education foundations are making a tremendous impact in education today,” he said. “The hard part … is getting organized so the community knows who you are and what you are trying to do.”

Successful education foundations, he said, should be autonomous bodies that are capable of making decisions about who is granted money. They should be subject to school board policies and should consist of influential community members, one school board member, and the school superintendent, he said.

“I think,” said Clovis Board of Education President Mark Lansford, “once this community puts its mind to something, it can see just about anything succeed.”