Oregon City Schools Superintendent Lonny Rivera wants to boost the private fundraising potential in the district to help support educational programs.
“We can’t do everything through taxpayer dollars,” said Rivera at a school board meeting on Tuesday. “What I really want to do is try and find a way that we can make the experience second to none for our kids. And one of the ways that we are going to do that is to tap into the private resources in our community – people who have come from these halls, who have a tie to and love for our district. I think we have not tapped into that resource like we should.”
The district, he said, “is on the verge of some really exciting things.”
When he became superintendent last fall, he met with Mike Armstrong, co-founder of the Oregon Schools Foundation, a non-profit group that serves as a catalyst to bring local businesses and the community together to increase educational opportunities for Oregon students. Through an established endowment fund from donations, the Foundation provides grants as well as community resources to support programs to enhance the educational experiences in the district.
“It is my belief that if we want to go above and beyond, we need to have a very active Foundation,” said Rivera. “We have a wonderful group of people that have been assembled and are very energetic trying to bring us to the next level in Oregon city schools. In my six months here, I think it’s time to go to the next level. What I mean by that is how do we find out from our community and other stakeholders what it is that we need to do, where they would like us to go. I have an idea where I want to take our kids, but I want to make sure that all our resources line up.”
Aly Sterling, a consulting firm, will put together a strategic plan “to find out what it is we can do to make this place great,” said Rivera.
Sara Best, of Aly Sterling, presented the board with a proposal for strategic planning.
“We believe that all school districts, institutions, and non-profits need three things: a solid board and strong leadership; a strategic vision - some clarity about where you’re going; and a fundraising program or machine to help fuel those strategic priorities,” said Best.
“We’ll start with tapping into your stakeholders, and gathering some data about what you’re doing well, where you want to go, how you want to improve, how the district can enhance its services to the students and to the community. It’s important. What we’re seeing across the country is strong public school districts are developing strong foundations or are supported by strong foundations because the underfunding will continue for school communities. What you’re able to accomplish will not be funded as it has in the past. There’s a beautiful trend that is emerging where private donors, private dollars and community funds are being gathered and channeled and funneled into those strategic priorities. So step one will be to really reach out, talk to the community and find out what you need,” said Best.
“Once we gather that data, we’ll spend some time in a very robust retreat experience and we’ll identify what the most important strategic priorities are. Following that dialogue, looking into data, spinning it with your own thoughts and ideas, we will then craft those strategic initiatives, and spell out how they’ll happen and what is needed to make them happen – what kind of funding is needed. The power behind that – the Oregon Schools Foundation – will be effective. They worked hard over the last several months, not only building a strong board, but understanding and learning how to create a fundraising program. That’s the path. It’s exactly the way we would want you to move. It’s powerful and it would yield results which should then support what you need to achieve – your strategic priorities,” said Best.
Rivera said developing the strategic plan will cost the district $10,000.
“That’s something the Foundation has come forward to assist with the majority of the costs. By working together, we’re able to accomplish something very unique. I think this just shows also that we have some skin in the game and for a relatively low cost to our district, we’re able to have someone actually assist us – getting information out to the parents, community members, out to business owners - out to everybody. I want to establish this because I really believe we have to look outside what we currently are doing now. I know there’s a lot of people with giving hearts that are looking for legacy and want to make something last. I look forward to working with our teachers, our administration, our coaches - to say, `Ok, as a group collectively, this is where we need to go’, and we will do that.”
“There’s a lot of great things going on in our city every day,” said School Board President P.J. Kapfhammer. But there’s no collaboration. We need to get someone to drive that ship on a full time basis. The end result is we want to collaborate with all the entities and work together.”
“This is just the beginning,” said Rivera. “Once this gains energy and momentum, you’re going to see a lot of things and amenities for our kids that we normally otherwise would not be able to afford. That’s my long term vision.”