A group of Tacoma civic leaders is working to give Tacoma students a boost with a new fundraising foundation.
“Our objective is not to supplant what the school district is doing,” said former Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Jim Shoemake. “We want to use grant-making to bring the entire community together behind these kids.”
Shoemake, who retired as superintendent in 2006, is the volunteer president of the board of the Foundation for Tacoma Schools. It will operate independently from the school district but supplement its efforts, Shoemake said. The foundation wants to fund programs and educational innovation that can be sustained over time.
Other leaders involved in forming the new entity include former Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma, former Tacoma School Board member Willie Stewart and former Tacoma City Manager Jim Walton. Shoemake said the foundation also includes involvement from unions, the local faith community, educators and current elected officials such as Mayor Marilyn Strickland.
Shoemake said efforts to create the foundation began about two years ago and that since then, organizers have been working to develop a strong vision and lay plans for success.
“If you look around our city, there are different groups working for the betterment of children,” he said. He said one goal of the foundation is to encourage links and cooperation between the many groups involved in supporting Tacoma youths. It wants to eliminate disparities among students, ensure that students are at or above grade level and boost graduation rates in Tacoma. The latest data available from the state (2009-10 school year) lists Tacoma’s annual high school dropout rate at 9.3 percent. The estimated annual on-time graduation rate for that same year was 59.2 percent.
The foundation has been functioning as an all-volunteer effort. But Shoemake said several donors have helped the group fund a beginning operating budget and that one goal of his is to have a CEO and “modest operating staff” in place by January.
The foundation’s initial goal is to raise between $5 million and $10 million, although Shoemake said some have advised that for a school district the size of Tacoma, the goal should be higher.
But he said the next step for the foundation will be for it to apply for major national and statewide grants.
“We firmly believe we can do it,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about it. I feel good about the potential.”
The foundation is housed in offices at Broadway Center in downtown Tacoma, and Shoemake said volunteers from the Pierce County Central Labor Council helped refurbish the space.
The foundation invited agencies and individuals throughout the city to meetings to talk about the needs of Tacoma kids. An estimated 100 people – parents, teachers, students and community leaders – showed up.
High on their list, Shoemake said, is the need to intervene with struggling children and families early in a child’s life.
When the foundation is ready to begin offering grants, it will use the community priority list to determine where foundation dollars flow. Shoemake also said the foundation wants to track what happens with the grants and is developing ways to measure success.
He said a new data system in use by Tacoma Public Schools is proving to be a big advantage for the foundation because the data can help determine where money is most needed.
“The school district under leadership of the new superintendent wants to be open and transparent in terms of student data,” he said. “The school district is right behind us.”
Interim Superintendent Carla Santorno mentioned the foundation in a message to Tacoma families published in the school district’s new parent/student resource handbook.
“You also will begin to hear news about the upcoming launch of a new foundation,” Santorno wrote. “There will be opportunities for you to get involved in the effort, and I hope you will.”email@example.com
WANT TO DONATE?
The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation is managing accounts for the Foundation for Tacoma Schools in its initial stages. If you’d like to help support the foundation, send a check to:
Foundation for Tacoma Schools/GTCF
901 Broadway, Suite 400
Tacoma, WA 98402
The foundation will host two open houses at its Broadway Center office: a morning event Thursday and an evening event Aug. 2. If you’d like to attend, RSVP by calling 253-272-1600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.