By Karen Billing
Don’t use the word “donation” with the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation (DMSEF) President Drew Isaacman.
“One of my big things is that I don’t look at any parent’s or company’s dollars as a donation, I hate that word,” Isaacman said. “Ours is a contribution. We’re contributing to the benefit of all of our students, community and school district.”
DMSEF’s annual campaign is entering the home stretch toward its April 30 deadline to fund the district’s Extended Studies Curriculum (ESC), which includes the subjects of science, PE, art, music and technology.
So far they have raised $535,000 from 740 families, which represents a 23 percent participation rate.
“We have to raise double that to get to where we were last year and triple to get to where we were four years ago,” Isaacman said. “Hopefully the community will rally and hear our message.”
Isaacman said it should be noted that most schools still have events such as jogathons coming up, which usually bring in about $30,000 each.
“Large chunks start to come in toward spring but our need is significant. It’s a significant gap,” Isaacman said.
Last year, the foundation raised $1.28 million in its annual campaign, funding 13 full- time equivalent (FTE) credentialed ESC teachers across the district. With the district’s contribution, the ESC program has 33 teachers.
The fundraising goal remains $2 million as ESC has gone down on a per child basis in the last three to four years. By head count figures, the district’s 33 ESC teachers this year is down from 35 teachers two years ago and that number, with increased contributions, could be 40.
“Certain schools, because of their size, don’t feel ESC has gone down even though it has,” said Isaacman.
He said there’s some confusion on that because people associate ESC with teachers’ names, not the program. Some schools actually need more than five FTEs because of the number of sections teachers have to teach.
An example of a trimmed ESC program is at Ashley Falls School where instead of losing a subject, they chose to have half a year of music and half a year of art.
“The goal is still $2 million,” Isaacman said. “We’re not trying to reach the minimum level of education, we’re trying to reach the maximum level of education.”
To avoid DMSEF “playing favorites,” the foundation is completely taken out of the allocation equation. The foundation has no say in how the money is distributed to each of the schools — it simply gives funds to the district and the superintendent meets with all eight principals to allocate the ESC funds.
All of the principals get a voice and decide what they want to do with the funds — some may opt for more of one program and less of another.
The foundation has not been deaf to the bickering and arguments over site specific vs. district-wide fundraising.
“The (district-wide) allocation has been a big bone of contention but it’s just where we are,” Isaacman said.
He said he hears from parents that if they were assured their money would go straight to their own school, they’d give lots of money. Isaacman said that while the foundation can’t guarantee that someone’s contribution will go to their home school, it can be guaranteed that their children will benefit from their contribution.
As a foundation, they do not publish how much money is raised per school, but Isaacman says the contributions are in line with the relative enrollment of each school. Since going to the district-wide model, the foundation has never raised more money than it has in the last three years.
“The funding goes toward all eight schools having state-of-the-art ESC classes,” Isaacman said. “We shouldn’t be focusing on where the money comes from, we should be focusing on fundraising for our kids.”
Isaacman said he was thrilled to get a letter of thanks recently from a parent who said she contributes $70 per month equaling $840 a year. She wrote she was so grateful for ESC and that $70 per month for a private school-type of experience was not that much money to give.
Isaacman said he understands that this is a public school district and people who already pay taxes into the district may not want to contribute any more money. A participation rate of 100 percent may not be realistic, but he is proud of what they are able to achieve.
“I’m proud that over two-thirds of the families in the district are actively contributing to the foundation,” Isaacman said. “It shows that we are a very caring and giving community.”
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