South Routt launches education endowment

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— The South Routt School District last week officially launched its first private endowment fund, and district officials now are ready to tackle an ambitious $1 million fundraising goal.

School district officials reached an agreement with the Yampa Valley Community Foundation on Dec. 21 to start a $10,000 fund, called the South Routt Education Endowment. Soroco hopes to grow the endowment to $1 million by the end of 2012.

Members of the task force that raised the $10,000 necessary to start the endowment now will work to grow their fund that aims to financially support their school district for decades. They will meet Tuesday in Oak Creek to discuss fundraising strategies.

“This is a pretty good hurdle we’ve just passed,” Superintendent Scott Mader said Wednesday about the agreement with the Community Foundation. “Credibility is a huge part of this fund, and I think our relationship with the Community Foundation gives us that credibility.”

Mader said the $1 million fundraising goal is ambitious but achievable.

“As we went through the list of individuals and corporations we wanted to contact (for fundraising), the $1 million goal didn’t appear to be as daunting as one might think,” Mader said. “People realize education is not being funded at the level it needs to be.”

If and when the endowment fund reaches the $1 million needed for it to release funds to the school district, a five- to 11-member grant commission that will include a minority of school district staff and a majority of community members will form to recommend how the money should be distributed to the district. Mader said the commission was proposed to include only South Routt residents, but the task force decided earlier this month it should be open to anyone.

Community Foundation Executive Director Mark Andersen said the South Routt Education Endowment is the first education endowment his nonprofit organization has managed.

“We’re very excited to have this because we think this is a step in the right direction for people to take charge of educating the kids in their own community,” Andersen said.

Andersen predicted private endowment funds and foundations to support public education will become more common in the wake of state budget cuts.

A new option

Meanwhile, South Routt isn’t the only community in Northwest Colorado looking to use private revenues to boost their school district’s budget, which has been slashed by an average of $250,000 for the past three years.

Craig resident Chris Jones said Wednesday that he and eight other community members next month will meet to finalize their plan to form an independent board that would work to raise private funds for educational opportunities in Moffat County.

South Routt School District officials are aiming to grow their endowment to $25 million in the next five years.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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