Southwest Cheese to donate to education foundation

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Southwest Cheese will donate $100,000 a year for 25 years to the Clovis Municipal Schools Education Foundation.

The Education Foundation provides grants for teachers in the classroom to support innovative teaching.

Chase Gentry, executive director of the Clovis Industrial Development Corporation, said the arrangement was added to contracts that were rewritten when the plant expanded.

The contracts were finalized in December.

Gentry said the donation is a payment in lieu of taxes.

Gentry said when the CIDC recruited the plant in 2005, a donation to the schools was included in contracts to compensate for the impact on the school district.

The donation was made the Education Foundation as a way to keep the money local said Superintendent Rhonda Seidenwurm. She said if the donation had been made to the district, 75 percent of it would have been routed through Sante Fe because of the state funding formula.

“We’re going to be able to see that money go a lot farther with the Education Foundation,” Gentry said.

Seidenwurm, secretary for the foundation, said the organization’s board will meet within the next month to discuss how the donation will be used.

“I really hope we put half away each year and after 25 years, we’ll have a $1 million endowment that would support the foundation forever,” she said. “I really hope that’s what we do, but I’m only one member.”

Becky Rowley, vice president of administration for the foundation, said she agrees with Seidenwurm’s suggestion.

“That would be a smart idea. Everybody knows this is a difficult fundraising time right now with the economy,” Rowley said. “This would take a lot of pressure off us in terms of having to do that.”

Seidenwurm said the district is grateful for the donation.

“I believe the Education Foundation and getting it a permanent legacy will be the most long lasting thing since I’ve been here,” Seidenwurm said. “(The donation) is a gift to the future.”