Linda Roser will be stepping away from her “dream job” later this year. Since 2008, Roser has been the executive director of the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation, the organization that supports the Shawnee Mission School District through grants and scholarships.
Roser remembers reading a news story about the start of the foundation in 1989, thinking it would be the perfect job. “I am where I was intended to be,” she says. But coming up to retirement age, she also says it is time for her “to hand off” to someone who can lead SMEF for years to come.
“We have a transformational leader in this district,” she says of Superintendent Jim Hinson. That means the district needs someone to “run with” for the longer term as a partner, she says. But at the end of her tenure, she also feels good about what the foundation has accomplished and how it is positioned for the future.
SMEF, she says, has worked hard to fully align with the district and be a partner. It also has a “rock solid” infrastructure. A significant change during her time at the foundation has been a move to undertake programmatic funding in addition to the grants and scholarships for which SMEF had been known.
Three initiatives drive the program funding: arts, early education, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Colleges have been successful for decades in how they fund programs as well as scholarships and it is a model SMEF wants to follow, Roser says. The vision is to help the district try new things, build new programs and innovate. The vision also is to fund programs that make a difference in the success of students.
“The foundation will never take the place of taxes,” Roser says, “but we can do something.” Since that start in 1989, SMEF has given out $4.2 million and has more than $2 million in assets. Next month, the annual SMEF breakfast which includes the state of the district speech, will be the last under Roser’s tenure. The event now is an annual sellout, drawing nearly 1,500 people.
Rose herself attended Shawnee Mission schools, starting at Tomahawk Elementary. After an earlier career and raising children, she returned to get her masters of public administration in nonprofit management from UMKC. That eventually led her back to Shawnee Mission. Roser expects to leave at the end of the year and a search has been started for her successor.
“I love helping people connect their passion with kids,” she says.