The Spencer Community School Foundation partners with the school to enrich and enhance the education of Spencer school students. Every year the Foundation sends out a direct mail piece to the community asking them to contribute to the Foundation projects, and sometimes, more specifically, a special project. This year, Google Expeditions, a virtual reality teaching tool that enables teachers to take their students on virtual trips all over the world, will be the highlighted project. To help kickoff the annual giving program and give a boost to the purchase of the virtual program, Northwest Bank has pledged $5,000 which will allow the Foundation to purchase one classroom set of Google Expeditions. With a goal of initially purchasing three Google Expeditions classroom sets, the Foundation is encouraging others to join in and help make this goal a reality for the benefit of students at Spencer Schools. In addition to the special project, the Foundation also uses monies raised through the Annual Giving Program to fund scholarships, Gift to Education Mini Grants, workshops, speakers and other enriching experiences.
The Spencer Community School Foundation has been in existence for many years, and Dave Woodcock has served as the treasurer on the 15-member board since the Foundation Articles of Incorporation were registered with the State of Iowa on January 8, 1988. “The Foundation works diligently to enhance and enrich students’ learning experiences and enables teachers to provide unique opportunities to their students. The Foundation has a long history of supporting students and teachers through projects such as the Dvergsten Gift to Education grants for teachers and students, the Kruse Music fund, STEM, high school agricultural greenhouse, and Metal Tech. Other highlights include the purchase of significant classroom supplies including Chromebooks, Smart Boards, and STEM supplies and equipment.”
Another longstanding board member with a passion for Spencer Schools is Dick Montgomery. Montgomery followed Chuck Pletke on the board in the early 1990’s and has served continuously since then. “The Foundation with its donors provide opportunities that kids wouldn’t have a chance to do. These have included many Lakeside Lab experiences for students at all grade levels, NASA Space Design Competition in Houston for high school students, academic camps and multiple field trips that would not have been possible without Foundation support. Due to tight budgets, the school has not had the extra funds to provide enhancement and enrichment experiences for students in this rapidly changing world. Fortunately, with the assistance from our donors and partnerships within our community, the Foundation has been able to bring authors, actors, performers, and motivational speakers into the schools to provide the extra opportunities that so richly enhance their learning,” said Montgomery.
Seeking to assemble a diverse board, representing a cross section of community members who share a passion for education, the board has combined the longstanding tenure of Montgomery and Woodcock, with newer members like the current president, Brea Schmidt. When asked why Schmidt said yes to the board, she stated, “A big part of why Nate and I chose to move back to Spencer to raise our family and establish our businesses was because of the strong school district that Spencer has. We both believe that Spencer Schools equipped us in so many ways: strong academics, unique learning opportunities, leadership opportunities, a variety of extracurricular activities, etc. I know that a strong school district has to be supported by the community and the Foundation serves as the bridge between the community and the school district. The Foundation exists so that we can enhance and enrich the educational opportunities for each and every student in Spencer. By creating a partnership with businesses, alumni, and individuals we are able to supply additional funds for projects not provided for in the school budget. The future of our community lies in our youth and I can't think of a better way to invest my time.” Schmidt said that while serving on the board, she has enjoyed hearing about all of the neat opportunities students are experiencing at Spencer Schools.
Though the Foundation is a separate entity from the school, it has become a pillar of funding for the district, and Schmidt hopes to help continue that support well into the future. “A foundation is only as strong as its membership. I hope we can continue to grow. We have tremendous support from our local businesses and always have. I would like to see us connect with more alumni and create a stronger connection there. The teachers will continue to dream and with tighter school budgets our presence will become even more important. Technology is constantly evolving and becoming so much a part of these kids’ education. I hope the Foundation can continue to help provide the school district with the resources they need.”
Helping to coordinate the mission of the board are two part-time staff, Tammy Higgins and Mary Frank. Both Frank and Higgins enjoy their position and love promoting kids and assisting teachers in their quest to educate, and they are preparing to launch their annual giving program. “In addition to the annual giving program, Higgins and Frank coordinate two other events that have become traditions. Tiger Pa’s, the beloved team of “Pa’s” of high school students who dance during basketball games while passing the hat through the stands, serves as another way to reach out and touch individuals. Lastly, each spring the Foundation hosts the Scholarship Award Ceremony. Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded over $842,000 to more than 900 SHS students in scholarships.
“The things these kids are learning now just blows my mind. We have a district full of amazing teachers that are working so hard to give our kids a great educational foundation. I believe you will see kids from Spencer go on to do great things-we already are seeing that! It's fun to ask the teachers to dream and tell us what would enhance or enrich their curriculum-things they never thought they could do. The Foundation is here for that. We provide the funding for the "dream" ideas,” Schmidt added.
In addition to Schmidt, Woodcock, and Montgomery, other board members include Chris Baker, Steve Bomgaars, Susan Harman, Shelly Helmink, Anne Johnson, Nancy Naeve, Bill Orrison, Mark Schmid, Wes Simpson, Bob Whittenburg, and Superintendent Terry Hemann.
To learn more about the Spencer Community School Foundation, and to make a donation, please visit www.spencerschoolfoundation.com/give.