Opinion

Answer the call of school fund-raising

The skeptic’s view is that just throwing money at a problem won’t make that problem go away.

Bruce Beall is no skeptic where public schools are concerned, but he would agree.

“You wouldn’t want to ‘throw’ money at something,” the new executive director of the Bainbridge Schools Foundation says. “But money spent well does help kids in their education.”

Ergo, this week’s phonathon by the Bainbridge Schools Foundation, through which volunteers hope to contact every family with a student in local public classrooms and ask for a modest private contribution. Through a three-day round of calls that began last evening and runs through Thursday, the foundation hopes to raise $100 per family – money that won’t be “thrown” at anything, but will be targeted to specific and often innovative programs for Bainbridge students.

Consider the range of projects funded through grants from last year’s drive, when some $370,000 was raised:

• Marie Marrs’ Elwha Dam removal project at Eagle Harbor High School/Odyssey, a three-year research and documentary effort that has been covered in these pages.

• Discovering the Past through Archaeology for Ruth Schmidt’s students at Sakai Intermediate School.

• Classic literature materials for Carrie Holloway’s students at Blakely Elementary School. These and other programs (the complete list of more than two dozen 2006-07 BSF grants is online at www.bainbridgeschoolsfoundation.com) wouldn’t be available to students without supplemental funding.

The foundation’s efforts have also directly lowered class sizes in island classrooms, funding teaching positions that the district couldn’t otherwise afford. Beall believes that beyond programs for students, the grants motivate teachers toward excellence of their own, encouraging continuing education and creative approaches and materials in lessons.

The foundation was formed two years ago with the merger of the venerable Bainbridge Education Support Team (of “Hoopfest for BEST” fame) and the newer Bainbridge Public School Trust.

Beall is the group’s second executive director, taking over from Heidi Dexter, who guided the new organization through the merger. By way of credentials, 15-year island resident Beall previously ran Seattle’s George Pocock Rowing Foundation, a non-profit group that promoted oarsmanship, and currently has two youngsters at Bainbridge High School.

Beyond the phone calls, 2,700 letters are being mailed out to parents of the 4,600 students enrolled in island schools this year to promote the fund drive. Even if you can’t contribute, Beall hopes you’ll stay on the line long enough to discuss the eccentricities of public educ

ation funding and how the Bainbridge Island School District stacks up. You may be surprised; thanks to outdated and arbitrary levy caps imposed by the Legislature, Beall says Bainbridge Island now ranks 276th out of 296 districts statewide in terms of per-pupil funding.

“We’d love to have every family donate $100,” Beall said. “It goes right back to schools, so it’s basically investing in their kids.”

When the Bainbridge Schools Foundation rings up this week, please answer. Here’s another notion: if they don’t call you, you can call them at 855-0530.

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