School foundation scrambles to meet deadline | January 25, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Schools - January 25, 2012

School foundation scrambles to meet deadline

• Grants totaling $300,000 depend on meeting goals by Feb. 15.

by Renee Batti

The nonprofit foundation that supports Menlo Park City School District schools has always set ambitious goals. But this year, the word "ambitious" seems a bit inadequate, given the foundation's goal to boost its donation to the district to $4 million this year.

That goal, if met, will exceed by $1.4 million the donation made last year by the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation. But what may be even more of a challenge is meeting the Feb. 15 deadline to achieve goals set by donors offering two grants that total $300,000 — one a matching grant.

Several families in the foundation have offered up to $250,000 to match donations from families joining the foundation, and from increased donations by families that are already members. If those donations reach $250,000, the foundation will be a half-million dollars closer to its overall goal.

Another family is dangling $50,000 on a hook as incentive for more families to join the foundation. Currently, 53 percent of district families are foundation members, according to co-president Alison Leupold. If the foundation is successful in raising that figure to 70 percent — about 300 more families — it will receive the $50,000.

"We're so thankful to these families for their contributions," Ms. Leupold said. As the district and its families struggle to plug the holes left by state funding cutbacks, "It's nice to feel like we're not alone in this," she said.

Ms. Leupold and co-president Theanne Thomson admit the challenge of meeting the fundraising and membership goals by Feb. 15 is great, but they are moving full speed ahead.

The foundation's role in keeping the district's programs strong and class size low has been growing steadily with the state's funding cutbacks and growing enrollment. State cuts will total $1.4 million this year — a deep burden on a budget already strained by years of funding cutbacks.

Where does the foundation's annual contribution go? "We now fund 21 teachers and other educators, plus enrichment programs — all the music, all the arts," Ms. Thomson said. The money also funds the library and science programs, innovation grants for classroom projects, and other programs.

The foundation got a boost last fall from an anonymous donor who is not part of the district community, but who contributed $50,000 through the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, to be divided equally among the foundation and each of the district's four schools.

The gift was given as a direct result of recent collaborative efforts made by the foundation and the four schools' PTOs to fund school programs, according to Valerie Ambwani of the foundation.

Go to, call the foundation office at 325-0100, or email to learn more or to donate to the foundation.