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September 17, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, September 17, 2004

School fund-raising effort falling short School fund-raising effort falling short (September 17, 2004)

Foundation finding it tougher to get funds from local businesses

By Julie O'Shea

With fewer donations coming from local businesses, the Mountain View Educational Foundation's fund-raising cache is down 50 percent from where it was last year at this time, school officials said.

Much of the roughly $600,000 raised last year came from the business community, foundation president Amy Beare said. But since Mountain View-Whisman School District's recent passage of Measure J -- a $1.6-million parcel tax that is now in jeopardy -- fund-raising donations have slowed considerably.

Last year's fund-raising campaign, Beare added, was viewed by many as a "temporary call for help." What businesses fail to realize is that "there is still a huge shortfall," she said.

Speaking for the business community, Chamber of Commerce President Carol Olson admitted, "We do need to raise awareness of the challenges our schools are facing."

The education foundation has roughly $200,000 in its coffers right now, similar to what it had at the same time last year. However, more than half of the current funds were rolled over from last year's campaign.

The foundation's fund-raising goal this year is $300,000, to be used for music and art classes, science kits and after-school sports for grades six through eight.

Olson hopes to increase fund-raising donations through a new chamber program called "VIP School Visits." The program invites leaders from the business community to spend part of their day sitting in on classroom discussions.

"We need to have face-to-face (interaction)," Olson said. "You really get the inside, behind-the-scenes (look) at the schools." The next chamber "VIP School Visit" will be held at Landels Elementary and Mountain View High Schools on Oct. 7.

"Nobody expects the world to change overnight," Olson said. By seeing firsthand where the money is going and where it is needed, donations will hopefully start to pour in, she added.

The district's funding crisis and its continued need for more money is "kind of a complex thing to explain," Beare said. "You can't fit our appeal on a bumper sticker."

While the district's financial situation isn't nearly as serious as it was last year, money from the Measure J tax won't cover everything, Beare said. Normally, the foundation raises about $150,000 a year for Mountain View-Whisman. However, since the failure of Measure E, the district's original $2.5-million parcel tax, last year, the foundation's fund-raising efforts have been kicked into overdrive.

The foundation will hold a phone-a-thon next month and several other fund-raising events this year to help build up its reserves. It also sent a letter home to parents earlier this year asking for donations.

Those who wish to make a donation can send checks made out to the Mountain View Educational Foundation to 750-A San Pierre Way, Mountain View, CA 94043.

E-mail Julie O'Shea at [email protected]

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