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Paynesville Press - June 19, 2002

"Keep the Quality" established as a foundation

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

The "Keep the Quality" Campaign, an effort that has already made a large impact on Paynesville's schools, has evolved into the "Keep the Quality" Education Foundation.

The "Keep the Quality" Campaign started in February during a public meeting to discuss budget cuts. At that meeting, Dr. Bob Gardner and Paul Bugbee each addressed the idea of raising money to help the school reduce the need for budget cuts.

Almost overnight, the "Keep the Quality" Campaign was born. With the help of concerned residents, donated supplies, and Bugbee's fund-raising experience, the group was able to raise almost $70,000 for the Paynesville Area Schools in less than a month. The money paid for student council advisors in the middle and high schools, the middle and high school speech teams, school plays, computer coordinators at the middle and high schools, cheerleading, danceline, and nearly 90 percent of the salary and benefits of a math teacher for the middle and high schools for the 2002-03 school year.

Raising money immediately to reinstate items cut from the budget was the campaign's first goal. The second goal was to pass a levy referendum. A $315 per pupil unit failed in November 2001. In April, a $415 per pupil unit passed 1,142-873, with 450 more "yes" votes than in the November levy.

Gardner feels that the levy passed because the public went into the election with more information about where their money was going than they had in November.

After the levy, the campaign moved toward the long-term goal of establishing a foundation to continue to help the school financially. On Wednesday, June 5, the group met and officially formed the "Keep the Quality" Education Foundation.

Gardner, the foundation's president, describes it as a vehicle for people who want to give for education. Its purpose will be to continue to provide money to the Paynesville Area Schools.

The foundation has 11 board members Public board members are: Denise Beckstrand, Kella Bugbee, Gardner, Michael Jacobson, Julie Jimenez, Gloria Ringstad, and Terry Skoglund. School staff are Diane Dutcher and Todd Burlingame. School board members are Gretchen O'Fallon and Mark Dingmann.

Kella Bugbee was elected vice president, and Todd Burlingame, treasurer/secretary.

According to Gardner, within the next six weeks the foundation will receive 501-C3 non-profit status. As such, donations made to the foundation will be tax deductible. Previously, donations had to be made to the school to be tax deductible.

To raise funds the foundation will likely hold one fundraising event per year, have an annual giving campaign, and solicite donations from alumni as well as area residents. The foundation will also seek grants and try to be included on the list of charities for the Paynesville Area Charity Fund Drive this year.

The foundation is also looking at publishing a newsletter to promote the school system

Money raised will be used for school-based activities. Dr. Gardner, who describes himself as a product of 24 years of education, would like to see some of the money go to extracirricular activities. He is unhappy that budget cuts tend to affect those programs first. "Kids will remember experiences outside of the classroom, like the marching band, long after they've forgotten their geometry class," he said.

Gardner believes that schools are working in an adversarial climate because the government hasn't been willing to fund them, and he points out that unless government changes, there will continue to be a need for groups such as the "Keep the Quality" Education Foundation. which is believed to to be the first foundation to benefit a public school.

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