The District 103 Educational Foundation, an idea that has been kicking around for almost a decade, is a reality.
In March, Superintendent Michael Warner announced that the foundation had a board of directors working to establish it as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which will have the ability to accept tax-free donations that can be used for educational programs and improvements at the district’s six schools.
District 103 serves families in five communities, including Lyons, Stickney, Forest View, McCook and the southeast quarter of Brookfield.
“I think we need to provide teachers with as many resources as we can to promote exceptional learning in our district,” said Kate Walker, a Lincoln School parent who has taken on a leadership role with the foundation. “This was a vision of the district long before I got involved, but I’m excited it’s finally coming to fruition.”
Walker, who has a background in nonprofits organizations and works for the Congregation of St. Joseph in LaGrange Park, is the only active school parent on the board. Two of the six board members are former faculty members -Betsy Aldred, who taught speech at Lincoln School in Brookfield, and Mark Novak, a former teacher at Home School in Stickney.
Two others, Greg Frana and Mark Rogers, are former school board members. The final member of the board is Stickney resident Mary Forston, whose children attended District 103 schools and who was a parent leader during the district’s referendum campaigns early in the new century.
With the state and federal governments shifting more of the burden for funding education to local districts, said Forston, educational foundations are one way to ease the pinch.
“If you want to have extras, like fine arts or extracurriculars and after-school activities, the funding has to come from somewhere,” Forston said.
Rogers, a former president of the school board, said he’d like the foundation to help fund things like a health/nutrition program, theater and programs involving financial literacy.
“I see a huge need for [financial literacy programming],” said Rogers, who works in the banking industry. “It’s amazing what people don’t know.”
Once its nonprofit status is set, the foundation will be able to raise funds, which will go toward a variety of education-related programs and improvements, according to members of the foundation’s board.
“The next step is to begin working closely with PTAs and the business community to build a fund that’s available to teachers, staff and schools to promote improvements and special projects,” Walker said.
Money, for example, could be used to fund supplies for special lessons, money that now sometimes comes out of teachers’ pockets, said Forston.
“Any little bit we can do to help these kids is great,” she said.
While the idea of a foundation has been in the air since 2003, it got its final push this year through a group of Lincoln School parents. During the 2010-11 school year, Lincoln parents formed a group called Parents Pride.
The group coalesced out of a series of meetings parents and school officials had with one another to improve communication and discuss common interests regarding education. Parents Pride actively recruits volunteers for the school and set up a kindergarten mentoring program for families new to the district.
In 2011-12, Walker approached Warner about getting the foundation rolling.
“She expressed interest in it and kept it moving forward,” said Warner, who expressed an interest in being part of the foundation after he retires in June.
“I hope to be part of it,” Warner said. “I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to District 103.”
The serious fundraising will begin next fall, said Walker, after the nonprofit status is nailed down.