Foundation serves as proving ground |

Foundation serves as proving ground

Jason Strykowski, of the Record staff

The Park City Education Foundation (PCEF) can look back at a successful year by counting the programs they lost.

At least four programs went from PCEF funding to district funding over the course of this academic year. For Abby McNulty, Executive Director of PCEF, these transitions mark successful campaigns for the PCEF and also indicate that their efforts are yielding rewards for both students and faculty.

The programs transferred from the PCEF to the district this year are: International Baccalaureate, Full-Day Kindergarten, Community Scholarships and the Elementary Arts Program. Most of these programs finish their runs with PCEF after about three to five years of funding and administration.

The PCEF did kick start one new program this year. They introduced a stipend initiative designed to keep superintendents living in the area. Both the school board and the PCEF were concerned that a new superintendent, prodded by the high cost of Park City real estate, could possibly move out of the area and consequently sacrifice their involvement in the community. To deflate that potential problem, the PCEF assembled a housing stipend and enlisted the help of local Realtors to find the new hire a place to live. Ray Timothy, just finishing his first year as superintendent lives in the district.

The next school year should bring a host of new programs for the PCEF as they will be transferring control of the four named above. At the moment, PCEF administrators are deep in the process of researching possibilities. Most new programs should last from three to five years and will come from strategic planning sessions often held with the district and school board present, or in mind.

To identify possibilities, the PCEF relies on careful investigation of other districts around the country. Other high-performance and high-achieving areas provide rubrics and models that PCEF can implement in Park City. In some cases, the challenges presented to local schools have already been faced elsewhere. For instance, the district can look to other schools around the country for examples of positive ELL programs.

Other programs, both successful and failed, come from teacher grants awarded by the PCEF. An experimental unit themselves in their ability to try programs before passing them along to the district, the PCEF gives this money teachers as a means of encouraging them to test new methods of instruction and new curriculum in the classrooms.

Next year’s slate will also be informed by a survey PCEF took during the school year. This questionnaire, the first of its kind taken by PCEF, asked local teachers, business owners and parents to define their needs for the district as well as the PCEF. Across the board, the biggest issues were class size, the growing achievement gap and the lack of specialists in foreign language, art, math and science.

"We (also) learned that people are hungry for more information on how PCEF is investing in the schools, we’re looking to provide more feedback," said McNulty. Even though the PCEF plans to continue to count every penny they spend on education, McNulty does not see cause for concern in the current economic state of affairs in the area. "Our message has always been if everybody contributed just a dollar each day," she said, they would have all the funding they would likely need.

PCEF plans to announce their new slate of programs by August of this year. In the meantime, the Foundation will continue to conduct research on possible programs even with a slight personnel change as McNulty is due to give birth within the next few weeks. No additional hires will be made and McNulty’s coworkers will fill the gaps until she returns to work.

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