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New foundation aims to raise money to help promote academics

A dollar here, a dollar there; it all goes to help the schools. But a new group in the process of being formed would try to make more efficient use of the school system's fundraising efforts.

The Thomson-McDuffie Foundation for Educational Excellence already has half of the 12-member board ready to go. Superintendent of McDuffie County Schools Mark Petersen is excited about the possibilities that the group can bring to the fundraising table.

"I know our community has been very supportive of our efforts to raise funds in a variety of venues," Dr. Petersen said. "I think the time has come when we need to stop the continual haranguing of our community. ...We've been nickel-and-dime-ing them to death, and this is a way, I think, that we can kind of wean some of that off."

He said the problem with the current fundraising system is that it requires parents, grandparents and business people to constantly buy products like chocolate, wrapping paper and candles to fund activities outside of the normal school budget.

The new group would be a separate non-profit entity responsible for finding the funds to continue those activities. The approach to raising those funds would, however, be entirely different from the current system.

"I think there will be a lot of corporations and companies that will say 'I'll be glad to give $1,000, and hopefully they won't come and nickel-and-dime me,'" Dr. Petersen said. "We're also going to try a tactic to send some letters to our alumni. ...Surely they would like to give to a foundation that benefits boys and girls."

Dr. Petersen said the foundation won't eliminate all fundraising. The booster clubs will continue to operate, and ads will still be sold for football programs.

But with the new Renaissance system in place that rewards students for a variety of achievements, more donations are needed. Dr. Petersen said the foundation will help fund those rewards. He also said it was a way to "think outside of the box."

"I think our community will absolutely love it. I know our teachers will. Our parents will love it," he said. " ...I guess my goal is in several years to be able to say 'We don't do that nickel-and-dime fundraising anymore.'"

The foundation should be up and running with a full board by January. The board will consist of community members, business people and one educator each from the elementary, middle and high school levels. Dr. Petersen hopes to include an attorney and an accountant on the board as well.

The group will be soliciting ideas and thoughts on the fundraising process from the public. Donations to individual schools can currently be made, but funds specifically for the foundation can begin after its official formation.

Thomson and McDuffie County recently created a similar organization called Camellia Partners for Heritage and Economic Development. The group solicits private donations to assist publicly funded projects.



Web posted on Thursday, December 8, 2005











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