Foundation gives $3.35 million to Menlo Park district schools

As student enrollment continues to soar in the Menlo Park City School District -- next year, by a projected 100 students -- and state and other revenue continues to fall, the district is reveling in the fact that it can keep pace and add teachers to meet enrollment growth for the next school year, thanks to a major boost in funding from the nonprofit foundation that supports it.

At the June 4 meeting where the school board passed a $32.7 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation presented the district with a $3.35 million check -- a $750,000 increase over last year's gift.

Children from all four of the district's schools delivered an oversized "check" to the board. The gift will make up an estimated 10 percent of the district's revenue next year.

The lion's share of that money will fund salaries of 30 staff members (27 full-time-equivalent jobs), including nine classroom teachers, according to Theanne Thomson, co-president with Alison Leupold of the foundation.

The foundation's gift also supports specialists in the district's art, music, science, and library programs, and provides partial support for counseling services, Ms. Thomson said.

Other programs supported by the gift include the Jeanie Ritchie grants that fund innovative classroom projects, and professional development for staff.

The foundation set an ambitious goal of raising $4 million this school year, and was able to bolster contributions from parents with a number of matching grants. "We set a growth goal this year, and said, let's just do the best we can," Ms. Thomson said. "We're so proud of this result."

The milestone foundation leaders are most proud of, she said, was the increase in parent participation -- one of its major goals.

Last year, about 53 percent of district families were foundation members, and the group wanted to raise that figure to 70 percent. Ms. Thomson said the goal was surpassed, with about 74 percent of families joining. For meeting the goal, the foundation will receive a $50,000 incentive that was offered by a district family.

In addition to having a strong foundation board, a key to the organization's success this year is that it collaborated with the PTOs of the individual schools, creating a new dynamic of cooperation and fundraising energy, Ms. Thomson said.

The annual spring auction also exceeded the foundation's goal and prior years' take, raising $367,000, she said.

With state funding cuts and enrollment growth, including kindergarten sign-ups that far exceeded projections for the next school year, parent and community donations to the schools "is the new reality of funding for public education," Ms. Thomson said. The foundation's donation allows the district "to continue keeping pace."


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Posted by Stepchild
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Selby Lane School is in Atherton. It could use a shot in the arm as well. Many children are from underserved neighborhoods. They could use community volunteers as well.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm

It's sad to see how this will play out - we continue to starve our state and federal agencies, so local communities have to fill the gap. All very well for communities that have the wealth to do so, not the same story for the rest of the country. A free market just doesn't quite do the trick here.

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Posted by Central Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Fortunately, there is are enlightened members in the foundation to also support neighboring school districts (Ravenswood).

In the end, it comes down to the choice we can make (short of raising taxes to pay add teachers and firefighters to the public sector)...

The democrat in me wants to help fund less fortunate areas. Out of goodness, and in some respects, as a reasonable investment to improve their lifetime opportunity (cheaper to pay for school now than social services or incarceration later). Plus, well-educated everyone is good for the economy and our overall quality of life.

The republican in me loves the idea that my kids deserve the benefit of my investment in the foundation for THEIR school...and I sure get to enjoy the extra bump in property value.

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Posted by Public Education Supporter
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 12, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Way to go! I know how much the district needs that support. Great to see participation increase too. Keep up the great work!!

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Posted by Katherine
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

Just 'being alive' does not give anyone the 'right' to live in Menlo Park or the State of California ---if there is no more room and if it will destroy the community. ABAG is forcing Bay Area cities and towns to take on more and more residents which will severely impact the ability of schools to provide for the consequent children. It is time for the impacted communities to dig in their collective heelsand, looking toward the future, make a stand that we have no more space and cannot provide for the future population without ruining the quality of life for those already here. It's time to tell ABAG 'where to go'. Just say 'no way'.

Like this comment
Posted by Some Guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 15, 2012 at 1:28 pm


Considering Atherton's property values, I think they can figure out their own problems.

Like this comment
Posted by Matt R.
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

This is a slippery slope. If they keep funding structural imbalance via the foundation, donations to the foundation must keep pace or when the day of recconning comes, it will be a harsh one ideed. In the Portola Valley School District, we just cut $2 million out of a $12M budget and it's not pretty at all.

Most of all, this district needs to make sure that the monies are well spent, and that they aren't just subsidizing some degree of poor managment. In the PVSD, poor management was masked by donation income, and I'm not sure that the cuts that are here are the ones that we should be making. There is a lot of impact on the classrooms, and not enough to the supporting infrastructure.

Good luck to the schools that get this money! Every bit helps, especially if it is spent well.

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