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Donors thanked for education giving

Jared Whitley Of the Record staff
Park City Education Foundation President Mark Fischer speaks to donors Wednesday at Deer Valley. Grayson West/Park Record
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Three things make the Park City Education Foundation’s goal of becoming a "top 10" school district possible: it’s a small district, community support, and money.

Foundation President Mark Fischer shared this insight with the foundation’s biggest donors at a luncheon Wednesday afternoon designed to thank them for their support.

Park City is a "community with some resources," Fischer said, which helps compensate for Utah’s low per-pupil spending and money devoted to teacher development.

This was Park City Education Foundation Week, where group shared its goals with the community and raised money in a variety of ways. In the 2004-05 school year, the foundation raised more than $600,000, money dedicated to resources in the Park City School District that make it "top 10."

"We can’t do it without y’all’s help," Fischer told the donors.

To quantify what makes a "top 10" district, since no other agency really measures that, the foundation has spent three years developing a "Report Card" of 10 benchmarks for measuring a district’s success. The benchmarks range from elementary reading to student extra-curricular involvement.

This year, the foundation awarded Park City School District a B+.

"To get where we want to go, we still need some help," Fischer said.

The foundation thanked prominent donors at its luncheon. All were given a novelty, over-sized check with "It’s all about the children" written in the memo line. Donors include: East-West Partners, Prudential Utah Real Estate, Phillips Edison, Ross Family Foundation ($5,000 each), Nutraceutical Corporation ($7,500), Park Meadows Country Club ($10,000), Deer Valley Resort ($10,000), and Prime Steak House ($15,000).

In October, the education foundation raised $75,000 with its "parent appeal." Board members of the foundation have donated $30,000 all together. Also thanked were those who had given in-kind donations: Park City Mountain Resort and the Underdog Foundation.

The really big donor this year was the Newpark Corporation, whose co-presidents Jim Doilney and Marc Wangsgard gave $100,000 to fund Latino outreach efforts. "We wanted to do something very meaningful in terms of the amount we were going to donate," Wangsgard said in an earlier interview. They realized "there were language barrier problems here in the community we might be able to help out." Washington Post and Newsweek education reporter Jay Mathews spoke to the donors, praising the foundation’s Report Card, especially since it measures more than just standardized test scores, which he called just a function of parents’ income. "It’s remarkable for any area to have a school district like this," Mathews said, regardless of Park City’s affluence. Some might make fun of Park City’s Report Card, Mathews said. They might say, "What do you know? You’re in Utah! You go skiing all the time!" Mathews extolled standardization in education. One problem with grades is they are subjective and teachers can come under pressure to "whittle down" their standards, he said.

"Even over time, if you stick to your guns," Mathews said. "It’s very hard to do that." The Advanced Placement testing program is an excellent standard, Mathews said, because it’s based on a national test, completely removed from the classroom teacher. This changes the dynamic of teachers vs. students, to teachers and students vs. the test, he continued.

Mathews had spoken to educators on Tuesday at The Canyons. The Park Record ran a page story about his visit in the Wednesday paper. Mathews called seeing his picture on the front page was the "highlight of my career."

"Reporters aren’t supposed to appear in the paper," Mathews joked.


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