Meet the Match met the match

The district announced at a school board meeting on November 24 that they had completed the “Meet the Match” campaign, raising over $500,000 to match an anonymous donation made last spring. Since the beginning of the school year, they had raised over half of the donations.

Ted Knight, chief advancement officer, credits the success of the campaign to the community, especially the SEED foundation. The foundation directed the proceeds of their annual fall campaign towards the Meet the Match campaign.

“This made all the difference in the world because it helped get the message out to people, it helped excite people, which made it a true team effort,” Knight said.

District officials are now able to begin using the money to support STEM and Expeditionary Learning initiatives district-wide.

Patrick Miller, business manager, has been managing the campaign fund since its beginning.

“There are two timeframes in a project like this … one at the beginning and one at the end because you’re getting so close to meeting your goal. I think that’s kind of how our fundraising went, … although I will say this was a very short period of time and there wasn’t really a lull in the giving that I could see,” Miller said.

Miller echoed Knight in his praise of the community’s support of their public schools.

“The passion that the community of Shorewood has for its public school is very unique, and it’s something very special … It’s so refreshing to work in a community that understands the value of a really, really high quality public education,” Miller said.

Bryan Davis, superintendent, said the next step is exploring ways of distributing the money throughout the district.

“Essentially now comes the programming and resources that can come with [the help of the donation]. We have a breakdown of the allocations between Expeditionary Learning, Project Lead the Way and other programs, and now we are meeting with the directors of those programs to make sure that our actual costs are meeting our projected costs,” Davis said.

Davis will take this information to the school board in January to ensure transparency between where the money is coming from and where it is going. After this, the money will be invested in professional development for teachers this year as well as preparing for Project Lead the Way programs to begin next school year.

Davis also hopes to support extracurricular programs like FIRST Programs, DEEP Physics and Team Awesome.

Another focus of the donation was STEM and STEM-related education. Administrators have chosen Project Lead the Way as a way to bring STEM learning into the classroom at both the high school and the intermediate school. The donation will support teacher training, equipment and technology.

Knight said he hopes to create Maker Spaces around the high school campus.

“It’s going to be some great stuff. We are looking at two main spaces … While maintaining the things that are already in these two spaces, we also hope to create room for the new equipment we are going to put in there,” Knight said.

According to Knight, the effect of the donations will become noticeable over the next couple of years.

“There are a whole host of things that we have to take this funding and invest in and roll out in the coming couple months and the coming couple of years,” Knight said.

The grant was designed such that it would cover the equipment, training and startup costs of programs.

“I do think these programs are financially sustainable … The costs really will go down after three years,” Knight said.

This cost pattern is also conducive to working with the district’s process of creating a new vision and deciding what programs will support it.

“I think the Meet the Match grant will buy us a little bit of time to give us as a community to think about where we want to head with our schools and it gives us some time to think about what the next step is,” Knight said.

Even though Knight’s main task within the campaign was fundraising, he plans to continue his work through developing more partnerships with companies in STEM-related fields.

“They have been really responsive and really interested in working with us, interacting with us and giving us ideas that will help bring interesting things to the classroom,” Knight said.

An example of an outside organization participating in Expeditionary Learning was when Johnson Controls came in to help 4th graders build, test and perfect cars they built themselves in a fiveweek energy and motion unit.

“This is an example of something that isn’t a typical classroom experience; students get up because they have to present to real engineers from a company about their products,” Knight said.

Even though the campaign has surpassed its goal, the donations have not stopped.

“I continue to get checks in the mail … It’s all going to go to a good place,” Knight said.

Ultimately, Knight said he believes the campaign’s funds will be put to good use, and represent something more than just the programs they support.

“Whatever comes out of the visioning process is very, very important because the way I see it is that our advancement efforts bolster that vision … because we already proved we could raise a million dollars,” Knight said. “In my mind this, was the true gift of the matching grant: showing us what we could do.”

by Monica Dix

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