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Executive director sought to lead U-46 foundation

By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46 is planning to hire a full-time executive director for the district’s education foundation.
  Members of the foundation’s board presented a strategic plan update and made the request for the full-time employee at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, Sept. 23.
  The compensation for the executive director is 100 percent paid for by U-46 in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 with the cost shifting gradually to 100 percent paid for by the foundation by 2025-2026. U-46 will also fund additional supports for accounting and clerical work as well as data management and accounting systems eventually leading to a 50-50 split with the foundation through 2028-2029.
  Bud Wilson, president of the foundation board, said the foundation has been operating with one part-time staff member and the executive director is “a position that we are anxious to fill.”
  Max McGee, president of the foundation’s consultancy group, said the he knows “during these tight times, financial times, sometimes the last thing board of education’s want to hear is about adding more staff,” but “all your schools will soar” with this “investment.”
  The current board has shown no concern over adding more staff despite consistent enrollment declines. The same evening, the board unanimously approved of this year’s budget which included an additional 84 full-time employees despite a projected loss of 950 students.
  U-46 has added 576 new staff members since 2016 while enrollment has declined by over 2,000 students, since Fiscal Year 2012 enrollment has dropped 5.6 percent (2,293 fewer students) but spending has increased 29.8 percent ($128.1 million) which is over $80 million faster than the rate of inflation according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator and current projections expect a 9 percent decline in enrollment but a 14 percent increase in spending by 2022-2023.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said that the “administration intends to move forward” with the hiring of the executive director with no board vote planned. No board members offered any hesitation on hiring another full-time employee.
  The only discussion came from board member Veronica Noland who asked that the employee be measured to make sure they are meeting their goals. Sanders said the district will have discussions with the foundation to determine metrics.
  The foundation raises funds to allocate to things such as scholarships to U-46 students and teacher grants, and it has raised $760,000 between 2006 and 2019 according to the presentation. A goal for the executive director is to raise between $500,000 and $700,000 annually by 2029 and quadrupling the size of the foundation within the next five years.
  The foundation hopes to create an alumni association according to Wilson who said: “Alumni are where the bucks are.”
  One of the goals of the foundation, according to the presentation, is to “build consensus and support from stakeholders by conducting community engagement sessions and an online survey.”
  Recent surveys and focus groups, which had over 1,100 participants, showed that 85 percent of respondents were “satisfied with schools,” this while U-46’s academic results have consistently remained flat or declining and lag behind the state according to the Illinois State Board of Education’s annual report card. Over half of respondents have donated to schools and consider the foundation’s programs important.
  However, some areas of concern from the survey, according to McGee, are that 76 percent of parents did not know about the foundation and there was little knowledge of how the foundation decides to spend funds.
  McGee said participants were supportive of the foundation spending funds on arts as well as social, emotional and behavioral health programs.
  The foundation’s board does include two U-46 board members, Sue Kerr and Melissa Owens.
  Noland said that foundation board members are expected to either donate or raise funds for the foundation but clarified that school board members on the foundation board “are not required to be raising funds or to be donating funds.” McGee said that was correct and “we view the board members as liaisons.”




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