Foundation aims to raise $1 million for Ann Arbor schools

RELATED STORY: Educational Foundation awards classroom grants

From AAPSNews Service

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation has launched a campaign to raise $1 million for the public schools, in what the group’s chief executive calls a “bold and ambitious” effort compared with past years.

AAPSEF Executive Director Wendy Correll said the “One Million Reasons” campaign was announced on April 1 and will be rolled out to members of the community, parents and school staff in the coming weeks.

Changes and uncertainty in K-12 school funding, as well as feedback from the community about programs they would like to see enhanced in the public schools, prompted the more ambitious campaign, she said.

“Because the economic climate for schools has changed so much … we are making a push now,” Correll said. “We will be able to maintain a number of very effective programs that might be in danger of going away. It (the campaign) relies upon the entire Ann Arbor community to reach this goal.”

The $1 million campaign goal equates to approximately $60 per student. The foundation will seek donations from community groups as well as individuals, hoping to raise the full amount – or get pledges to that end – by July 31 and to have the campaign fully funded by Dec. 31.

“There is no white knight riding in to save the Ann Arbor Public Schools,” Correll added. “We have to do this ourselves.”

AAPSEF board members and staff will meet with PTO groups, school principals and attend school events such as ice cream socials to get the word out. They also are seeking five “hosts” at each school who will have small get-togethers to which foundation representatives can come and explain the campaign one-on-one. Each family and school district employee will also receive a mailing about the effort requesting a donation.

New to this campaign will be the ability for donors to make payments – either one-time or scheduled over time – via a credit or debit card. Information is available on the AAPSEF Web page. Visit and click on the “One Million Reasons” campaign link. Payroll deduction remains an option for Ann Arbor Public School employees.

Correll said foundation representatives attended recent Ann Arbor Public Schools community budget workshops to get feedback and that the foundation also conducted its own survey asking what sorts of enhancements the community wanted in the schools. Ann Arbor school officials are looking to cut $20 million from the district’s budget for the 2010-11 school year including some staff cuts; more budget uncertainty is expected in the coming years, they have said.

Following the defeat last fall of a countywide operating millage, Correll said residents of the Ann Arbor district were spurred to donate nearly $30,000 to the foundation to help. She said others were prepared to donate but wanted more specific information about how their money would be used.

To that end, she said, the foundation board has created several focus areas in the current campaign to allow donors a choice. Other specifics are still being identified in the budget process. “We are working with the Superintendent (Todd Roberts) as he works through the budget process,” she added.

Donation options include:
Where Most Needed: Allows the AAPSEF Board of Directors to determine how dollars will be spent. This area will allow new, innovative programs as well as the traditional teacher grants of up to $1,000 given out each school year.
Arts and Humanities – May include support for the World Language initiative with the University of Michigan for third- and fourth-graders, high school humanities funding and support to the fifth-grade instrumental music program. Correll said the fifth-grade program has created opportunities for all students and is a feeder for award-winning music programs at Ann Arbor high schools.
Math and Science – Possible assistance for the district’s Environmental Science Program, which touches each student in the district. Correll said with today’s emphasis on new job creation in the “green technology” areas, “it makes sense to maintain or expand this program.” The foundation also will look at math assistance, especially in light of the increase in high school math requirements. Correll cited studies showing that students not reaching proficiency in algebra is a major cause of high school dropout rates.
Early Childhood Education – Support for all-day kindergarten – which would bring additional per-pupil funding to the district – is being considered as well as enrichment activities and reading readiness programs for children in preschool through grade two.
College and Career Readiness – Options include continuing support for the PLAN and Explore tests for eighth- and 10th-graders, which prepare students for college entrance testing as well as offering career exploration. Also, staff support in the areas of counseling and advising for college and career readiness is being considered.

Correll stressed that the AAPSEF has measurements in place to assess the effectiveness of each program that receives money.

Visit or call the foundation office at 734-994-1969.

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