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Schools Trust launches new fund drive

What if every private dollar given to support local public schools was doubled?

That’s the goal of the Bainbridge Public Schools Trust’s $100,000 matching grant campaign, to be launched this month.

If the community can raise $100,000 by June 30, a stalwart group of trust donors will pony up the match, with $200,000 turned over to the schools, primarily to hire teachers and reduce class sizes.

“Just imagine what Bainbridge kids could accomplish if they had per-pupil funding comparable to Mercer Island, Bellevue, even Seattle,” said Heidi Dexter, the trust’s executive director. “When you look at the budget numbers for Bainbridge Island schools, you can see how underfunded they are.”

The goal of the $100,000 matching grant campaign is to fund several teaching positions to lower class sizes; purchase new high school textbooks and new K-12 materials and equipment for a new health and fitness curriculum; and to reimburse first- and second-year teachers for classroom supplies and college coursework. It also aims to fund more counselors at the high school.

“When you really get into our budget, you see how tight it is, and any time you have extra dollars, you want it to go into the classroom, to lower class sizes,” said school board director Dave Pollock. “That’s where it has the highest impact. And when teachers come to us, that is their concern.”

Due to recent state and federal funding cutbacks, and what schools Superintendent Ken Crawford describes as “anomalies in funding that have put us at the short end of the stick,” Bainbridge Island schools have among the lowest per-pupil funding in the state – ranking 267th out of 296 school systems. Washington state is one of the most poorly funded school systems in the nation, ranked 43rd in per-pupil spending.

Without the support of the three-year-old trust, the district would be experiencing staff cuts, Crawford said.

One of the trust’s key priorities, Dexter said, is retaining good teachers. One way to do that, she said, is to make sure that beginning teachers, who are paid about $28,000 annually, are compensated for classroom materials that many pay for out of their own pockets.

“When you consider how expensive housing is here, this contribution is all the more important,” Dexter said. “First-year teachers often spend $1,000 to $2,000 per year on materials. They also are required to do additional coursework in their first and second years.”

The trust also provides entry-level teachers with lunches, knowing that with high local housing costs some can scarcely afford it.

The president of the Trust’s board of directors, Jeff Vincent, said the matching gifts campaign aims to broaden the base of support for the island’s public schools.

“We on this island are proud of our schools, and we have got to support them,” Vincent said. “The needs of our schools are going up, not down. As concerned citizens and parents we have got to help close the gap.”

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2-for-1 special

The Bainbridge Public Schools Trust is kicking off a matching grant campaign, with the goal of raising $100,000 by June 30. For information call 855-0530 or see www.bainbridgeschoolstrust.org.

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