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Vashon school district fundraising effort passes halfway mark

School board member Kathy Jones accepts money from Islander Tag Gornall while school Superintendent Michael Soltman talks about the district’s financial crisis with another Islander.  - Leslie Brown/staff photo
School board member Kathy Jones accepts money from Islander Tag Gornall while school Superintendent Michael Soltman talks about the district’s financial crisis with another Islander.
— image credit: Leslie Brown/staff photo

The Vashon Island School District has raised $305,000, more than halfway to its ambitious goal of $500,000 by June 30, administrators report.

As of Saturday, the district had raised $235,000, including $100,000 from four anonymous donors who are offering up their support as a match to community donations, said Michael Soltman, the district’s superintendent. Then Tuesday morning, a $70,000 anonymous gift came in, Soltman said — the largest to date.

“The community has responded in powerful ways,” Soltman said.

Indeed, Soltman believes the district may very well make its $500,000 goal. What’s more, said Soltman, who joined the district a year ago, the fundraising process has been invigorating and illuminating.

“I’m having conversations with people about what they really care about, ... conversations I probably never would have had without this financial crisis,” he said.

As part of the effort, Soltman and school board members set up a booth in front of U.S. Bank, where they discussed the district’s financial crisis with passersby.

The district has already issued lay-off notices to several teachers, janitors and para-educators — moves it had to make in May to comply with various labor agreements. Now, the school board is exploring how it will restore some of those cuts, Soltman said.

At the board meeting last week, Soltman offered up a one-page document outlining three tiers of priorities for funding restoration.

Top priorities include science, math and debate at the high school; academic electives at the middle school and art programs and student counseling at the elementary school. Partial restoration to cuts in co-curricular activities, such as after-school sports, are also on the top-priority list.

Soltman said efforts are also already under way to begin a foundation for Vashon’s schools; such an entity could be established within six months, he said.

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