$80,000 raised for class-size reduction | TahoeDailyTribune.com

$80,000 raised for class-size reduction

William Ferchland

It was the fastest collection of $80,000 the Lake Tahoe Education Foundation has experienced.

Following the monumental fund-raising by Support South Tahoe Athletic Teams, which raised $200,000 last school year for athletic programs at the high and middle schools, the nonprofit foundation took on the effort to raise $80,000 to fund class-size reduction at the second grade for the 2005-06 school year.

The pledge came in April. Last week a check was handed to the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Education by Brooke Laine, the foundation’s president.

“The difference was we really had a strong focus and the community rallied behind that focus,” Laine said.

Budget cuts eliminated class-size reduction, a mostly state-funded program that caps the number of students at 20 per classroom, last school year from kindergarten to the third grade.

Outcries and overcrowding ensued. The district was able to find enough money to fund the full program for the first grade and half the program for kindergarten.

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The foundation used three ways to raise money. Membership drives at $50 per family brought in 250 new members, who, on average, donated $150 more than the $50 base price, Laine said.

Another area was breakfast buffets at Passaretti’s Italian Restaurant every second Sunday of the month starting in May.

The restaurant would split proceeds from the buffets with the foundation. The three before August averaged $1,000 each for the foundation, Laine said.

The next fund-raiser is scheduled for Sept. 11.

Noticing the efforts had to be shifted to another gear, the “Our Community Our Schools” food fest gathered $17,000 for the cause in July.

“It put us over the top,” Laine said. “It definitely was the crowning event.”

Wendy David, president of the district’s board and an education foundation liaison, had no doubt the money would arrive. But if it didn’t, the district’s finance department had a contingency plan that would fund the program.

“I totally trusted that if they made the commitment that they would honor that commitment,” David said.

Also impressed was Mark Garratt, chairman of Support South Tahoe Athletic Teams.

“It’s just more testimony to our community that we believe in certain things, and athletics and (class-size reduction) are two of those things that have been identified,” he said.

As a token of appreciation, David presented Laine with the district’s inaugural Kid’s First Award, a slab of engraved glass, at last week’s board meeting.

The award will be used to “recognize other outstanding contributions by people or organizations that support our schools,” stated Angie Freeman, assistant to Superintendent James Tarwater, in an e-mail.