Tahoma Schools Foundation seeks to expand support

Tahoma Schools Foundation seeks to expand support
Posted on 10/31/2018

Before last June’s Brandi Carlile concert to benefit the Tahoma Schools Foundation, many local residents may not have heard of the foundation. And even though the group’s name recognition has increased, some parents and community members may still be wondering exactly what the nonprofit does.

One of the top priorities of the group is to fund Kindergarten Camp, which is held just before school begins each fall. The idea behind the camp is to increase kindergarten readiness. Kindergarten Camp brings in children from across the district to learn from Tahoma kindergarten teachers before school begins each fall. This year’s camp was the third one that the foundation has helped fund; they donated $15,000.

“Kindergarten Camp is an extra boost for those students who need it either academically or socially. This extra four days allows these children to gain confidence, experience expectations, and set them on the right path on the first day of kindergarten and beyond,” said Krissy Riggs, who teaches kindergarten at Rock Creek and during Kindergarten Camp. “For those students who might have otherwise begun kindergarten unsure, a bit behind and nervous, instead this extra small-class time, scaffolded to support their needs, gives them a lift that lasts throughout kindergarten. Without this extra time, students who are struggling take much more time to catch up, and feel less confident as learners.”

The foundation was founded more than a quarter century ago, but was reorganized about four years ago with a review of the mission and vision, new board members and added objectives such as increasing kindergarten readiness. The Maple Valley Chamber of Commerce helped create the foundation in order to meet some unfunded needs of the school district. In 2009, the group was formally separated from the chamber and became its own independent group.

Foundation board members emphasize that there is a difference between programs the PTA/PTO groups already provide for the schools and what the TSF works to accomplish. The two groups have partnered on some events, such as the popular Harlem Wizards basketball game they have hosted the past few years. The annual game brings in a touring team of comedic basketball players to challenge a team of teachers and staff members from across the district dubbed the “Tahoma Teaching Jedi.”

“When the buzzer rang, and the night came to an end, I told myself ‘I can’t wait to be a part of Tahoma team Jedi again!’” said Haley Moser, a physical education teacher from Tahoma Elementary who played on the team last spring. “What a fun, entertaining and memorable event; not only a great fundraiser but a way for the whole community to congregate under one roof.”

The foundation partners with the PTA/PTO groups for souvenir sales, concessions and last year’s pre-game carnival. In return, the groups receive a share of the profits. This year’s game is scheduled for May 3 at the high school.

In addition to the Wizards game and Brandi Carlile concert, a major source of revenue for the foundation is monthly donations from district teachers and staff members, who contribute via automatic paycheck deductions.

“We’d like to inspire community members to do the same,” said Dan Nielsen, president of the foundation. “The teachers are kind of funding it themselves. If we could get 100 other people who aren’t teachers to give $10 per month, that would be great!”

The foundation’s target to sustain programs is $200,000 per year, but the board will reevaluate as additional requests are submitted.

“We’re eager to fund more programs,” Nielsen added.

In the late spring, Bear Metal Robotics came to the foundation with an ask because they had the opportunity to receive $10,000 if they could raise $10,000 toward a new mill. The foundation made up the difference so that the team could get the matching money.

In recent years the foundation has also helped bring the film “Screenagers” to the district, helped purchase school supplies for students in need, supported the We the People team and paid for AP Scholar tests for students in need. Foundation board members are interested in helping to support programs that benefit students, either academically or socially.

The foundation is seeking volunteers to serve on its business outreach committee, communications committee and events committee. Aside from insurance and other small costs such as their website, 100 percent of donations go directly to benefit Tahoma students. Surrounding districts such as Issaquah, Enumclaw and Renton have active, well-established foundations, which the board of TSF are looking to for advice, best practices and ideas, Nielsen said.

For more information about the foundation or to make a donation, visit the foundation's Facebook page or the schools foundation website.

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