Newly established USD 232 Education Foundation setting goals to support teachers, students

Some of the board members of the newly established USD 232 Education Foundation attended the school district’s convocation in August. From left: Kevin Makalous, Alvie Cater, Norm Messner, Tina Dinkel, Roxanne Wise, Jamie Weese. Not pictured: Susan Mohn, Holly Schreiber, Casey Rooman Smith. Photo courtesy of USD 232 Education Foundation

This fall marks the first school year for the USD 232 Education Foundation, a nonprofit, charitable organization created to assist and support the school district.

Casey Rooman Smith, district staff member who serves as the executive director of the USD 232 Education Foundation, said that up until August — when the foundation adopted its bylaws — the school district didn’t have a dedicated nonprofit organization as a fundraising mechanism for USD 232 schools. Such foundations have become important channels to provide financial support for efforts in neighboring districts like Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley for decades.

“Volunteers in our community, community members, wanted to do more to enrich the education provided by our district, so we set forth a mission to form this organization,” Rooman Smith said. “It’s been a lot of work but very, very rewarding.”

Conversations to establish the foundation began last fall and continued with a kickoff breakfast in April 2019 to garner community interest in the foundation, engage with people interested in participating on the foundation board, and gather initial donations for the organization.

Superintendent Frank Harwood spoke at the USD 232 Education Foundation’s kickoff breakfast in April. Photo courtesy of USD 232 Education Foundation

The foundation in June established a nine-member board, including its three initial founding members. Each board member is assigned a few schools to serve as a representative. The board members are:

  • Jamie Weese, President
  • Tina Dinkel, Vice-President (founding member)
  • Roxanne Wise, Treasurer
  • Susan Mohn, Community Member
  • Norm Messner, Community Member
  • Kevin Makalous, USD 232 Board Member (founding member)
  • Alvie Cater, USD 232 District Member (founding member)

The foundation’s inauguiral mission and vision statements are as follows:

  • Mission: To enhance educational excellence and inspire students and teachers by connecting community resources through collaboration, recognition, and innovative partnerships.
  • Vision: To cultivate student success by fostering strategic alliances, engaging business and community leaders, and empowering students to realize their individual potential.

The foundation is awaiting approval for its 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit, and the board is establishing sub-committees to tackle areas such as fundraising and marketing. Plans for fundraising events are also in the works, possibly including a golf tournament next year.

Rooman Smith said the foundation is in the process of establishing official goals based on opportunities and areas of improvements suggested by members of the USD 232 community, including teachers, administrators and parents. Nothing is set in stone yet, but it may look into establishing grant opportunities for teachers, for instance.

“People are very excited about this opportunity for our district,” she said. “This is a working board full of volunteers. It’s so amazing to listen to what they’re passionate about and what they’ve been hearing in the community and how we can help. We’re learning from each other and figuring out how we can best support our district and the students in it.”

The foundation this month launched its first end-of-year giving campaign. The foundation’s online Giving Day event is set for Dec. 12, partially to commemorate the district’s 12 schools.