CEF unveils new strategic plan, gives more to schools
For a dozen years, the Claremont Educational Foundation has helped fund art, music and technology in our local schools. This year is no different.
Last month, CEF representatives showed up at a school board meeting with an oversized check, representative of the nonprofit’s annual donation to the district. The $199,600 gift brings the nonprofit’s lifetime contribution to Claremont schools to $2 million.
The award will be put to good use by CUSD, and is certainly a laudable achievement. But the nonprofit wants to do more. With that in mind, CEF has created its first strategic plan, an ambitious document providing the organization with a roadmap to follow in the coming years.
The plan will be unveiled at the CEF Fall Reception, set for Friday, November 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Garner House at Memorial Park.
The community is invited to the free and family-friendly event, which will include live music and refreshments, including beverages provided by Dale Bros Brewery.
A delegation from each school site will be on hand, giving a tabletop presentation about a program or project made possible by the contributions of CEF.
In some cases, the displays will showcase the fruits of a program the nonprofit piloted last year: mini-grants awarded to educators with ideas yielding high-impact learning opportunities for students.
Four such grants were awarded in 2014, for a total of $5,391. Efforts funded by CEF Innovation Grants include the creation of a community garden at Sycamore Elementary School and historical research on the part of CHS world history and English students, which they presented during the school’s yearly History Day.
Bob Fass is eagerly anticipating the schools’ presentations at the reception. “We want the community to understand what we’re doing tangibly,” he said.
He is serving as CHS president, along with Richard Chute and Nicole Oullette. Mr. Fass is director of leadership giving for the Webb Schools. Mr. Chute is director of development for the Planetary Society. Ms. Ouellette is fund development manager at VNA Hospice & Palliative Care.
“A key component of the shared presidency is moving forward with more energy. A lot of exciting things need to happen,” Mr. Chute said.
The trio hopes their collective fundraising expertise will result in a greater level of grant-making, one of the hallmarks of the Claremont Educational Foundation’s strategic plan.
Innovation and partnership grants
The nonprofit is off to a great start. The recipients of this year’s Innovation Grants will be announced at the Fall Reception. CEF has expanded the program considerably, funding eight projects this time at a cost of some $9,000.
The organization will also use the reception as an opportunity to introduce the beneficiaries of a brand-new program, Community Partnership Grants.
CEF will award five grants, totaling $10,000, to local nonprofits undertaking projects to enhance learning in the district.
As an example of a nonprofit directly supporting CUSD, Mr. Fass cited CLASP (Claremont After-School Programs). The volunteer nonprofit provides after-school tutoring, mentorship and supervision to local schoolchildren who are at risk of falling through the academic cracks.
“That’s an example of an organization that is doing good and paralleling what we’re trying to achieve,” Mr. Fass said.
Adapting to change
A lot has happened since CEF was launched. California schools have jettisoned No Child Left Behind legislation and adopted the new Common Core curriculum and its associated assessment. And while scrambling for funds is the new normal, the district has somewhat recovered from the crippling recession of 2008-2009, which was felt even earlier in the realm of public education.
“CEF came out of a crisis moment where ‘save our schools’ was the cry of the day,” Mr. Fass said. “Then we moved to more of a maintenance model, where we have contributed $200,000 per year to the district pretty steadily. We know we’re not at ‘save our schools’ anymore. It begs the question,’What do we want to be?’”
CEF has done a lot to answer that question, beginning by slightly tweaking the organization’s mission statement, which now reads “to protect and enrich the quality of public education in Claremont through community involvement.”
“The only thing that’s been added is that we’re acknowledging that community involvement is what drives our work—embracing the totality of how our community comes together for our kids,” Mr. Fass said.
In June of 2014, the executive board of CEF held a retreat to begin working on the new strategic plan. Kay Sprinkel Grace, a consultant hired by the district to help with the visioning process, guided their sessions.
Ms. Sprinkel Grace, who works closely with the California Consortium of Educational Foundations, began by pointing the board to the work of some larger foundations—ranging from the Marin County and Palo Alto districts in the Bay Area to closer neighbors like the Manhattan Beach and Glendora districts.
After seeing what was possible, the executive board agreed that CEF can and should do more.
“When we went through the planning process, instead of thinking about how much more money we wanted to raise, we thought about how much more do we want to give away,” Mr. Chute said.
Strategy for the future
In the next three years, the organization hopes to go from providing just over $200,000 per year in funding for schools to $350,000 for schools and community partners. That represents about a 75 percent increase.
“Our goal is to give $330,000 for our core programs in art, music and technology as well as the Teacher Innovation Grants, and $20,000 for Community Partnership Grants,” Mr. Chute said. “In practical terms, this means increasing our total net revenues by $50,000 each year for the next three years. That increase is expected to come from a combination of additional donations to CEF as well as increased earned income from SLICE [CEF’s summer enrichment program] and other activities.”
CEF, which is almost completely volunteer-driven, has set itself some high aims. Any new achievements will only add to the organization’s sterling record of supporting public education in the City of Trees.
Earlier this year, Superintendent Jim Elsasser expressed his appreciation for all that the Claremont Educational Foundation has done for Claremont schools, in a message posted on the organization’s website.
“Author and musician Mitch Albom said, ‘The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.’ This quote captures the essence of the Claremont Educational Foundation,” Mr. Elsasser shared. “The devotion they have shown the students and staff of CUSD is evident to all. And your support of CEF makes this possible.”