Almanac

Schools - October 27, 2010

Day to celebrate, donate to schools

by Renee Batti

Parents and students will be seeing lots of red on Nov. 3, but it won't be anger driving the phenomenon. Red balloons, red signs, red T-shirts, and lots of kids dressed to match will be part of the celebratory spirit of Foundation Day, sponsored by the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation.

On that day, the foundation will be pumping up the volume on its appeal to the community to make donations to the nonprofit organization, which offers a growing amount of financial support to the four schools in the Menlo Park City School District: Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll and Hillview Middle.

There will be volunteers and students at all four campuses passing out foundation literature and accepting donations during drop-off and pickup times on that day, according to foundation volunteer Valerie Ambwani.

The foundation donated a record $2.35 million to the schools in the last school year, and this year, foundation leaders say their goal is $2.5 million. That's because with growing enrollment, declining revenue, and state funding cuts, the district has far fewer resources to support programs beyond the basics, they say.

About 8 percent of the district's budget comes from the foundation, according to Alison Leupold, who with Scott Lohmann co-chairs the organization.

One purpose of Foundation Day is to remind parents who have been meaning to write a check to do so and turn it in that day, she added.

In the past, the foundation has sponsored similar annual events, but without as much fanfare. Ms. Leupold noted that with the completion or near-completion of construction projects on three campuses — and the groundbreaking of the project to rebuild Hillview — the school community has much to celebrate.

The foundation's contributions to the schools have been responsible for retention of teachers and credentialed librarians at all four schools; enrichment programs such as music, art, and hands-on science; the Hillview Academy program, which allows the middle school to maintain smaller learning environments for students in the face of burgeoning enrollment; and teacher innovation, supported through programs such as the Jeanie Ritchie Grants.

Go to MPAEF.org for more information about the foundation.

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