Schools foundation completes campaign, garnering enough funds to restore programs, teachers

Vashon Island School District has re-hired all the teachers who received pink slips in May and plans to restore all the programs that were slated to be cut thanks to a fundraising campaign that garnered $425,000 for the cash-strapped district.

The new Vashon Schools Foundation's ambitious fundraising campaign, which officially ended on Thursday, fell short of its goal of $550,000. Even so, according to Superintendent Michael Soltman, the funds raised to date — and the additional pledges he believes will still come in — are enough to restore all the cuts he outlined a few months ago, when the district announced a significant shortfall for its upcoming budget.

"With a little further to go here, we've got it done," he said.

Erin Sheridan, who chairs the new foundation, said she was thrilled by the show of support.

"I just think it's a great community. We really pulled together," she said.

The fact that the campaign topped $400,000, she added, is significant. "I think that's an extremely robust figure — to get more than $400,000 out of this small community," she said.

The support means that the staff who were slated to be laid off or see a partial reduction in their hours have all seen their positions fully restored, including Susan Haworth, a counselor at Vashon High School, and Joleen McCauley, a teacher at Chautauqua Elementary School. It also means classes that were slated to be cut as well as popular programs such as the high school's percussion ensemble will continue, Soltman said.

The superintendent said the campaign was successful in part because of the way the business community stepped forward. He also said he believes a large percentage of the parents who have children in the district contributed to the effort. A similar campaign last year garnered the support of about 20 percent of the parents. He believes a much larger percentage contributed this year, although district officials are still analyzing the results.

"I think people really care," Soltman said. "I think there were people who really cared about specific things that were on the list and were motivated to see them restored."

Both Soltman and Sheridan said the foundation and district will have to find a way to make the effort sustainable over time. Such fundraising campaigns will become the norm, they said, as they expect the state will continue to underfund public education.

"We're here to stay," Sheridan said. "So we're looking for way to make this less burdensome to ourselves and the community."

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