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Ripon schools may get help from foundation

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POSTED September 3, 2009 2:50 a.m.
RIPON — The future of Ripon education may soon get a boost from a planned multi-million dollar non-profit foundation.

The weekly “Breakfast with the Superintendent” session Wednesday morning at the Barnwood Restaurant outlined the formation of a group of citizens who plan to garner monetary support to plug some of the holes in funding caused by cuts in state and federal governments.
 “This foundation is a way to take care of our own – not at the whims of government,” Ripon Unified Superintendent Louise Nan said.

Mike Robustilli, a winemaker for the McManis Winery in Ripon, presented his draft of the mission statement for the proposed non-profit foundation.  It is preliminary to securing a 501 (C3) non-profit status from the State of California.
“We friends of the Ripon Unified School District, in order to maintain and improve upon the educational excellence of existing and future institutions within the district’s boundaries, do hereby create the Ripon Education Enhancement Foundation.

“The purpose of the foundation shall be to create a charitable endowment.  Extracurricular activities and expanded curriculum, being valued as paramount to providing superior education, shall receive financial assistance via grants from the foundation.”
    
In the “vision” of what is to come in developing a permanent   multi-million dollar endowment, dividends and the interest from the proposed endowment, plus any specifically marked gifts, are expected to provide perpetual support for the extracurricular activities and the expanded curriculum for the benefit of Ripon students.

In his draft, Robustilli noted that parents, families, administrators and school board members as well as members of the community have realized that state and federal funding of public schools is incommensurate to providing anything beyond the most austere of educational programs.

With the belief that quality education is a local responsibility, and that funding for enhanced educational programs is integral, the Ripon Education Enhancement Foundation (REEF) is being established, he noted.

The immediate secondary goals for REEF will be to create a qualified foundation board that will direct the investment of the endowment and allocate spending.  The movement also plans to urge a strong support from alumni community.

Police Chief Richard Bull received a special invitation to attend Wednesday’s breakfast due to his department’s creative abilities in securing grants.  Bull said he has seen several grants that would partner education with police services, noting he would be happy to help the new foundation secure funding.

“We have spent a lot of time preparing grants over the years, developing contacts.  There are still grants out there and if we can help, we will,” he said.  Bull, himself, is a grant writer along with several other members of his department.

He added that available grants often tie in safety with student enhancement:  “If we know what you people are looking for, we can do creative (grant) writing.”

Nan said a recent grant the district attempted to secure involved an after school program at the high school level, much like the current grade school program now in operation through Give Every Child a Chance.

 “It was pretty disappointing we didn’t get it,” she said.

Bull said he has seen a number of grants where the administrators were actually looking for partnerships where the grant will see a tie-in between a non-profit and a school district.  The police chief said the city council is interested in what is in the best interest of kids: “We will do what we can do.”

He went on to say his department’s Police Activities League is still active, even though the economy was forced to shut down its after-school program.  He noted a recent dance hosted by the activities league drew some 150 kids of varying ages.

Nan noted that a lot of the state funding and entitlements have gone away with federal funds still trickling in,  but often not down to the school district level.

The educational non-profit group planners have been observing education foundations that are operational in Oakdale and Livermore, and focusing on fund raising activities through their current “think tank” made up of interested Ripon citizens.  A $10 parcel tax was also suggested to support the foundation, but it was feared it would not be popular with the community at large.

The Oakdale Educational Foundation (OEF) is “jazzing things up” in their operation by offering options to open residents’ hearts and wallets, but who can’t afford their prior spending and donation practices.

OEF is hosting a jazz/pop vocalist Slim Man and his band “Bona Fide” at the Oakdale Golf and Country Club  Saturday, September 12 with two different ticket price options.

“Everyone can help,” said OEF President Connie Friel, adding that options offer a chance for more people to help support the Oakdale schools.

In the past two years that educational fund raiser had been asking $150 per ticket with the performance of a musician with a heavy buffet.  In contrast, this year the full evening donation will still be $150 along with the option of a $50 ticket for a partial evening including the music of the vocalist and the band.

“What OEF is doing, what they’ve always done is to supplement district programs.   They’ve been extremely helpful with academic programs, art/music programs and technology,” said school superintendent Fred Rich.

“With a shrinking governor’s budget, what used to be supplemental on OEF’s part is now core on their part.  An example of that is that principals in the last two years have had to cut their instructional materials budget due to the state cuts and OEF has filled in $50,000 to $60,000 every year to the district, which will before more core,” Rich said.

The OEF president added that grant request from teachers this year totaled more than $175,000 with the educational foundation being able to meet a third of those requests.
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