Carlsbad Magazine Feature: A Firm Foundation—How One Non-Profit Makes a Difference for Students

By Heather Bensen

9/1/2010

It is a well-known fact that education budgets statewide have been dealt a serious blow in recent years. This means cuts in staffing, vital equipment, programs and more. In the Carlsbad Unified School District, we are lucky to have wonderful school. And are children are still experiencing many of the perks that other districts have had to cut.How is it that we have found the means to sustain these programs? Through what Superintendent John Roach calls a “critical partner”: The Carlsbad Educational Foundation.

The foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that was founded in 1983, with the initial goal of funding for the library for Carlsbad High School. Twenty-seven years and about $5 million later, the foundation continues its mission to support all students throughout the school district by “developing, conducting and financing innovative and quality programs and projects.”

Historically, schools would apply for grants from the foundations for their prospective needs and they would be submitted to a review panel.Then, almost three years ago, Valin Brown relocated from Colorado to become the CEO of the foundation. In the fall of 2008, Brown hosted discussions and worked with stakeholders—including the foundation board and executive staff, members of the school board, principals, music and science teachers and the corporate community—and the foundation’s intentions were dramatically changed.

“We created a new vision to make an impact on all kids district-wide through funding programs in music, science and innovation,” says Brown. “We wanted to create an opportunity for every child to have the same opportunities, regardless of which school they attended.” Last year the organization completed its first year working under the strategic plan.

For the nine elementary schools in Carlsbad, the foundation implemented a program in which every student in kindergarten through fifth grade would have weekly access to musical instruction for 30 to 45 minutes. At more than $200,000, this program was the foundation’s largest investment of the 2009-2010 school year. “You can see how that goes from a micro school-by-school focus to a macro district-wide level, so we are impacting 5,000 kids systematically and raising the bar for each of them,” Brown says.

The middle and high school received funding for science through programs such as the Science Olympiad and FIRST LEGO leagues robotics club. Other important contributions include new computers for all five high school science labs, annual science lab repairs and enhancements, collaborative funding with the Chamber of Commerce to support BizTown participation for every fifth grader, and new musical instruments for elementary school students.

The FIRST LEGO League robotics club is a great example of how the foundation has reached out to the corporate community for support. The Life Technologies Foundation was interested in supporting local public education; after partnering with the foundation, the company provided money for the clubs throughout the district.

The foundation raises money through two annual events: Celebrate Carlsbad day at LEGOLAND®, with discount tickets for the theme park available at each school; and the Carlsbad Golf Classic at the Crossings, which is slated for Oct. 7. Each school can enter a foursome for a day of fun, but heated, golf competition.

With only two major fund-raising events each year, the foundation also relies on a direct mail campaign requesting donations, local and national grants and the Kid’s Care program. The latter is an after-school state-licensed child care program with a much lower fee than a traditional for-profit program. More than 600 children participate in the program, which costs approximately $320 per month per child. The program generates about $350,000 each year in profits, which go directly back into the foundations budget.

“This is a distinguishing factor [of the foundation],” Brown says of the revenue-generating business ventures such as Kid’s Care and the Summer Enrichment Program, which offers a variety of classes for children. “We use a duel strategy that uses donations as well as business funding, which is unique in educational foundations.”

With the new vision successfully implemented, what does the future hold for the Carlsbad Educational Foundation? One of the goals is to revamp marketing and communications efforts. This means acomplete website overhaul for the fall, which will include online payment options for Kid’s Care. Social Media will also come on board and the Carlsbad High TV crew will make a promotional video to tell the foundation’s story and why it is a necessary presence in our community.

 

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