SEF can be a force for education funding

Published 11:25 pm Thursday, March 18, 2010

To the editor:

The Suffolk Education Foundation is here to support the local community. Founded in 1993, the SEF is an independent, community-based nonprofit organization that has invested more than $373,000 by providing scholarship awards, instructional grants and tuition assistance to teachers and students.

Together, those dollars have worked to fulfill the Foundation’s mission to partner with Suffolk Public Schools and enhance the experiences of its staff and its students.

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As a community-based foundation, the SEF administers scholarship funds on behalf of trusts for several contributing families that are committed to support public education.

Recognizing that SPS schools have been raising funds through performances, product sales and other fund-raising activities, the SEF subscribes to a ‘best practice’ model to advocate for sufficient resources and school improvement. The SEF uses its resources and fund-raising abilities to be an active partner in the educational process, while also serving as a valuable tool in the school district’s communication efforts as an “awareness campaign”.

In keeping with its Mission, the SEF is appealing to the public as it explores new ways to generate revenue to support programs and other ancillary educational activities. Raising public awareness of its ability to solicit the financial support of school personnel, students, and parents; businesses and trust funds; civic groups and churches; as well as retired citizens and other residents through memorial gifts and estates is critical to helping sustain programs.

Further, the SEF can build bridges between schools and the public, especially community sectors that have been previously overlooked, by bringing in a whole different set of patrons with whom the schools get to work — all in the spirit of partnership, ownership and support for education.

Educating patrons, as well as fundraising from them helps realize relationships and collaborative efforts that are unmatched as a valuable community asset. We are ready and eager to help.

Our goals are to build broad-based community support, particularly through strong business partnerships to raise supplemental funding for Suffolk Public Schools and its various programs.

To accomplish those goals and help the city’s school system mitigate current and future fiscal shortfalls, SEF offers the community the opportunity to be a part of the fiscal solution by establishing broader partnerships with businesses and other supportive organizations.

More than just a funding intermediary, the SEF is uniquely positioned to help establish community support that will yield major contributions, sponsorships and partnerships that can help offset some of the specific program cuts. SEF can also work in partnership with the local PTAs and serve as an umbrella group for the school system, providing support for the individual schools’ fundraising efforts.

These joint efforts could build upon existing fundraising efforts, such as holding a major fundraiser to support the district as a whole, and set a capital campaign goal.

Finally, SEF can engage the business community to “invest” in the educational system that subsequently produces a viable workforce, where the return on the investment is measured by the availability of quality trained workers.

In an economic climate such as the one we face, it is important that we find new ways to generate revenue through partnerships and alliances. We at the SEF stand ready to help. Businesses and individuals interested in contributing to the Suffolk Education Foundation can send a tax-deductible donation to P.O. Box 394, Suffolk VA 23439-0394.