Public schools are in a marathon race to reduce class size, increase instructional time, decrease classroom disruptions and raise graduation rates with perennially short state budgets. In 2008, when the economy stumbled and state budgets contracted, The Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools (FTTS) focused its considerable grassroots force to galvanize local education supporters to step up and preserve teaching positions in Tigard-Tualatin School District. Ever since, FTTS has stayed the course to motivate donors to fund grants that bring more teachers into each school building.
Pamela Leavitt, current President of the FTTS Board of Directors, acknowledges that while TTSD is one of the best districts in the state, there is room for improvement. “Many families move to this district specifically for the schools,” she said. “The Foundation is helping make it even better and we’re encouraged to see student performance and graduation rates improve.”
FTTS awards annual equitable-distribution and competitive grants that close learning gaps identified by each school. One of the primary differentiators from school-based parent support organizations is that FTTS can fund licensed teachers in addition to classified instructional aides. Grant amounts are determined by how much is raised each year. In 2019-2020, FTTS provided schools with $193,000 in grants, raising its total district-wide contribution to over $2.2 million.
“What a school cohort needs one year may not be what they need for the next, and giving principals the flexibility to address core subject instruction as well as emerging issues is a potent tool,” said Laura Wieking, FTTS board vice president. “For example, FTTS was an early funder for social-emotional skill-building to reduce classroom disruptions, which is now a broadly recognized priority in education.”
The Foundation raises funds in a roughly equal split between community events and an annual fund drive held each February. On February 18 and 19, volunteers will be calling residents to encourage donations and to help answer questions about the impact that FTTS has on schools. In recognition that donors want to give in different ways, FTTS encourages donations by mail, text, phone, employer matching, or online at the-ftts.org.
The FTTS Board of Directors is comprised of parents, business owners and residents who have identified education as a priority. As volunteers, they provide strategic guidance and district-wide perspective to Executive Director Margie Greene as she undertakes the ongoing development work that keeps the Foundation an important voice in the local education conversation.
Krista Rodriguez is the FTTS board treasurer, parent of a sophomore at Tualatin High, and owner of Hillside Imports. She said, “I believe that a well-educated population is crucial for our community. As a small business owner, I want my future employee pool to have every advantage. A quality education gets our students ready for their future success.”
FTTS grants fund instruction during and after the school day. For many schools, offering after school instructional programs keeps students engaged and on track, especially if they don’t have a supportive or safe environment outside of school. Rodriguez has observed that students who takes advantage of FTTS-funded after school homework help at both high schools are better prepared for their classes, are more confident, and are able to use time more efficiently because they’ve received small group and one on one help from dedicated instructors.
“Increasing the ability for our educators to say ‘YES!’ to new ideas and opportunities is critical to building a strong community,” shared FTTS board secretary Victoria King.
The Student Success Act (SSA), a big victory for education proponents, will soon bring an additional $10 million to the district and will help to close important gaps. While that is not nearly enough to make the Foundation irrelevant, FTTS board members are aware that they need to keep educating the community about the continuing impact and relevance of FTTS grants.
Leavitt said that FTTS will continue to align its funding priorities based on what TTSD students need to achieve their educational goals. “This is why we ask our community to ‘aspire higher’ for our kids. When we rally behind education, these kids can reach for bigger goals.”
The Foundation invites community members to learn more about its work and to donate during February by visiting the-ftts.org.