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Officials seek to raise $200,000 for Vashon schools in two months

Facing a gaping budget shortfall, Vashon school officials plan to embark on an aggressive fundraising campaign this month, hoping to raise $200,000 to reduce the cuts they’ll have to make to next year’s budget.

In the next few years, officials hope to create a nonprofit foundation that will sustainably support the school system financially.

But first, Superintendent Michael Soltman and others will approach potential donors face to face to ask them to give what they can to the schools by June 30.

“We’ll be approaching Islanders who have a commitment to our schools and to our community and give them an opportunity to become the founding members of our foundation,” he said.

Soltman said ideally he’d like people to pledge a certain amount this year and the next two years, to help get the Vashon Island School District through the next few tough budgeting years.

“This would become the beginning of a longer-term commitment to a schools foundation,” he

said. “We anticipate that we’d be using all (the money) for the first few years, but the larger plan is to

build endowments down the road.”

Having an interest-bearing account the school district could draw off of would help it bridge the gap between the public funds it receives and the amount it costs to provide a high-quality education, he said. Other school districts, such as Seattle’s and San Juan’s, have already established such foundations.

All the cuts the school district is considering are “bad,” said school board chair Laura Wishik. “People throughout the district are going to feel some of the pain. ... But I think (fundraising) can make a huge difference in the process. I’m hopeful.”

Soltman said the community will have to financially support local schools “until the (state) Legislature steps up to fully fund education.”

“Our instructional programs are going to be compromised unless the community makes a commitment to sustain the quality of the schools we want to have,” he said. “Right now, this is about taking care of a financial crisis.”

The community on Vashon values a strong education, with small classes, arts offerings at the elementary school and rich elective options at the middle and high school, so Islanders should consider giving to the fundraising effort, he said — electives could get cut if enough money is not raised in the community.

“The problem’s not going to go away, so I think (Islanders) need to understand that we need to shore up our schools, unfortunately,” said Shannon Flora, the mother of a middle-schooler. Flora is helping craft a fundraising plan for the school district.

“The reality is we need to think of the school district as one of the charities that people give to year after year after year, as they would to the Red Cross or to the symphony.”

Donate to the schools

Officials are seeking donations to the Vashon school district. Call Superintendent Michael Soltman at 463-2121, ext. 7, to make a tax-deductible contribution.

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