Guest column: School Board seeks input on donor recognition
The Aspen School District Board of Education relies on our community to help guide its decision-making around district policies. We would like to gather information from the community regarding your views on donor recognition. The following is both a letter of explanation and a short, four-question survey, which will help us understand community values related to this topic. We appreciate your time, value your opinion and look forward to your responses.
Recently, the Aspen Education Foundation requested that the board re-evaluate its policy concerning recognitions and sponsorships. (Policy OE-14, http://www.aspenk12.net, see “Board of Education Policies.”) Before evaluating the request, it is important to understand the relationship between the foundation and the Aspen School District. The foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support our public schools by raising funds from the community. It has been an active, effective and important contributor to the success of the Aspen School District. During its tenure, the foundation has donated between $200,000 and $700,000 each year to the district. It currently provides full or partial support for eight staff members and 12 programs throughout the district. Programs such as college counseling, aviation and robotics would not exist in their current form without the foundation’s assistance. The organization has been an invaluable asset to the District, and the support it has given has provided many educational opportunities our children otherwise would not have experienced.
Each year, volunteers work tirelessly to raise the funds necessary to continue its program support. Recently, the board began to consider the possibility of securing its current level of funding for the district in perpetuity by raising an endowment. For example, a $15 million endowment could provide $750,000 annually. In considering the feasibility of an endowment, the foundation realized it needed to understand whether it might offer donors some type of recognition, and if so, what type. The foundation does not have any intention of attempting to provide the full financial needs of the school district.
The board of education has been thoughtful in analyzing the District’s long-term financial needs. The state’s contribution to our annual operating budget continues to dwindle. The Board sees no solution at the state level. We have committed to cultivating local sources to bridge that gap. Our community generously passed the mill levy override fall ballot question, providing the district with $990,000 annually. The town of Snowmass Village is considering an annual contribution of approximately $500,000, and the Aspen Public Education Fund will be requesting that Aspen renew the sales tax in November 2016. Currently, this tax provides $1.7 million annually. All these pieces, including the foundation, are part of the complex puzzle that is public school funding.
The board understands any type of visible donor recognition on its school campus brings with it a variety of issues. The board further recognizes that changes, if any, in its donor recognition policy, in which naming opportunities could become available, that a valid process would be in place to consider those opportunities.
Before further consideration, the board would like to understand the community’s sentiment concerning this issue. To that end the board has developed the following short survey inquiring about the desirability and/or degree of donor recognition acceptable to the community.
1. Should the Aspen School District allow for visible donor recognition of significant financial gifts?
2. Donor recognition takes on many forms. Select the ways that would be acceptable to you for the Aspen School District to recognize its larger donors. (Circle all that apply)
A donor recognition wall.
Naming major upgrades or additions to Aspen School District existing buildings.
Naming Aspen School District new buildings.
Naming campus extra curricula venues.
Naming Aspen School District programs, such as outdoor education/ex-ed or Aviation.
None. The School District should not recognize significant donors.
3. From what sources should the Aspen School District be allowed to recognize donations? (Circle all that apply)
Living individuals and families
In recognition of deceased individuals
None. Continue with current policy of no recognition for significant donations.
4. Do you have anything else you would like to add regarding donor recognition?
You can access the survey through the link on our district website at http://www.aspenk12.net or send responses by mail to Angela Rittenhouse, Aspen School District, 235 High School Road, Aspen, CO 81611. Thank you for taking a few minutes to complete the survey. We appreciate your input.
Susan Marolt is president of the Aspen School District Board of Education.
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