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Schools Foundation set to make things happen

After years in the shadows, the Enumclaw Schools Foundation is stepping out.

Started in 2002 and operated under the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce’s Enumclaw Community Enhancement Foundation, the Enumclaw Schools Foundation lost momentum. Now, under the leadership of Nancy Merrill and a fresh board of directors, it has its own nonprofit status, bylaws and structure.

Initially, the foundation was made up of school officials. Today Sunrise Elementary School Principal Chris Beals is the lone school representative. The other members include former Superintendent Jim Barchek, former school board members Mike Stensen and Dale Holland and community members Johna Thomson, Dianna Perry and Kathy Corella. Superintendent Mike Nelson serves as a ex-officio member.

It was the full-day kindergarten movement that brought it back to life.

“The money raised through that event drove the foundation into full existence,” Merrill said.

The more than $100,000 raised for full-day kindergarten in the past two years was beyond the scope of the ECEF.

But full-day kindergarten is a small focus of the group, which plans to partner with the school district, but run separately.

School foundations are not new. Issaquah founded its foundation in 1987 and has raised more than $3 million toward programs that encourage academics, support struggling students and promote professional learning. In the past year, the Issaquah Schools Foundation built a library at a middle school, funded a chemistry adoption, furthered a mentoring program, provided free after-school tutoring and clothing and food for students in need.

White River Education Foundation, formed in 2007, paid for every junior to take the PSAT during school hours.

The Enumclaw group is using foundations in Issaquah, Mercer Island and Bellevue as its example. The mission is to enhance educational opportunities for students in the school district.

It’s not set up, Merrill said, solely to replace funding, but to enhance classrooms with innovative ideas.

That’s the first step the Foundation is making, offering teachers small classroom grants. Applications have been distributed to each school building and teachers have until Sunday to turn in applications.

The Enumclaw Schools Foundation is hosting an awareness raising, not a fundraising, event Oct. 14 at Sip City in Enumclaw. Anyone interested in attending can RSVP at enumclaweduationfoundation@gmail.com.

The Enumclaw Schools Foundation is also planning two signature events.

The first will be a spring, Mardi Gras-themed fundraising business and community breakfast. The second is a family-oriented, community-building Welcome Schools Back fundraiser at the end of the summer.

The group is also hoping to grow its United Way campaign outside the school district.

A website, www.enumclawschoolsfoundation.org, is being built to provide more information.

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