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MEF Letter -- March 28, 2018
Posted On:
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
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Important Update from MEF

Want the short version?

Problem: Fewer than 1 in 5 school families donate to MEF —> insufficient donations for school needs —> 20% funding reduction for 2018-19 means some teaching positions will be lost.

Solution: Make a generous monthly recurring or one-time donation at www.meftoday.org.

Our 3 public schools request $300,000+ in school allocations from MEF each year. To fund that, we need $120,000 in event income plus at least $15,000/month from recurring donors. Currently, monthly donors contribute $6,000. Be one of the new monthly donors to bridge the gap of $9,000 more that’s needed every month to support our students and schools!

Want to know more? Read on….

March 27, 2018

Dear MEF Supporter,

I am writing to you today to share an update on the important mission and work of the Mountain Education Foundation (MEF) to provide essential financial resources for unfunded teaching positions, educational programs and resources in our three mountain public schools.

Between school year end 2013 and school year end 2016, MEF experienced a decline in overall fundraising dollars. Many factors contributed to this decline, but the largest contributing factor was that all Founders’ Fund pledges and grants (from commitments to equip the high school) expired in school year 2013. Additionally, two other significant grants expired the following year. MEF also experienced a decline in community support at events from 2013 to 2015.

In early 2015, the MEF board approved several changes to its annual fundraising plan that is helping to reverse this trend, with increases in community support at events and fundraising income in 2016-2017. The MEF Board, staff, volunteers, and school principals are working hard to continue that positive growth trend this year.

Nevertheless, MEF’s annual donations are still well below levels experienced during the intense community engagement around building the high school. During the subsequent years of lower income, MEF has continued to support SMMHS, Nolan and Thrasher with allocations at the expected levels, without significant changes to accommodate the decreased funding situation. For the 2017-2018 school year, MEF’s allocations to the schools (approved in spring 2017) were budgeted at $300,737. This amount was the net result of increasing funding for staff positions not covered by HCDE and decreasing discretionary funds for schools. Unfortunately, community support has not kept pace with the budget and MEF is running at a deficit of approximately $75,000 for this school year.  Said another way, MEF has committed to funding teacher salaries for this school year, but the community support has not been sufficient to cover those positions.

During the past year, the community debate over an independent school district has materially impacted MEF. Although MEF adopted – and maintains – a neutral position on this issue, it is clear that a large degree of uncertainty existed for what would happen to our local schools and as a result, some new and existing donors held off in making pledges and contributions to MEF in the last 12 months. Whatever side of the debate you may be on, we believe we all share a common vision for excellent schools on the mountain and we hope you can agree on MEF’s important ongoing role in this effort.

Greater community support and a broader donor base are necessary for MEF to continue supporting the community’s aim of educational excellence beyond what is possible through public funding. Currently, fewer than 1 in 5 school families donate to MEF, despite the fact that all school families receive the direct benefits of donations to MEF. Indirectly, all residents of Signal Mountain, whether they have children in the schools or not, benefit from the high property values and quality of life in a desirable community that is largely driven by the excellence of the three public schools. Our Signal Mountain community needs to recognize this value and unite to “Fund the Mountain Schools.”

At the present time, in order to sustain MEF’s long-term mission to fund the existing gaps in public education here on Signal, continued funding at prior levels is not possible. After careful deliberation, the MEF Board has reluctantly identified the need for a 20% reduction in committed funding allocations to the three schools for the 2018-2019 school year. It should be noted that the MEF Board is not allocating existing funds, but instead setting a budgeted estimate of how much will be raised from the community in the next year and then establishing a spending plan based on the anticipated income. This result is not one that the Board relishes, but it is a recognition of declining community support. This lower baseline of giving results in a total budgeted allocation to schools of $240,590. As always, school principals, in consultation with their staff and PTA leadership, will make their own decisions about how to use the funding they receive based on individual school priorities. Should giving during the 2018-2019 school year exceed expectations, it is possible that allocations could be increased, however we must first overcome the aforementioned 2017-2018 deficit. The Board feels that it is better to plan based on the current level of giving than to run the risk of having to eliminate positions due to continued declines in community support.

If you are currently supporting MEF through a financial donation or volunteer time, I want to say thank you! On behalf of the 180+ dedicated educators, administrators and nearly 2,500 students in our public, community schools, please know that your support is making a difference. If you have not made a pledge or donation to MEF in the past year, or if you are in a position to give more, I encourage you to think about the many reasons that a strong school system exists on our mountain today and why we all must be in partnership with our community schools to ensure their success tomorrow. In the future, we hope to resume and exceed prior years’ funding, as our schools’ needs only continue to grow.

Please consider setting up a recurring monthly donation to MEF to support our students, or a generous annual gift. You can do both at www.meftoday.org. In addition to donating, you can also support our schools and students by participating in the 4thannual Dash & Bash, a community race and block party that is one of MEF’s key annual fundraisers. The event is April 20, with information and tickets available at the MEF web site.

Thank you and please reach out to me or our Executive Director Hilarie Robison through our web site to learn more about the important work we do and how you can become a part of this critical mission to ensure educational excellence on Signal Mountain.

Sincerely,

Sarah Bernard

2017-2018 Board Chair

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