Vashon High School (VHS) journalists report “The kids are not alright” in reference to the mental health impacts of the pandemic on Vashon students. And the Vashon Schools Foundation (VSF) is listening.
Our goal for 2021 is to get to the other side of the pandemic and not take any hits in funding for the kids because it’s super important right now. Members of the Foundation board have been supplementing Vashon Island School District programs since 2010 when the economic crisis was at its peak and the district faced teacher layoffs among other potential education calamities.
Since then, VSF has been raising funds every year where the district submits a wish list of programs that need funding support and, after careful review, the Foundation works to raise the necessary dollars. Today, VSF is invested in funding programs that help students grow and become adults in the world that we live in. So, for instance, the racial equity program is a top funding priority as are other social-emotional programs such as Sources of Strength, Journeymen and Sisterhood.
The Foundation is focused on well-being supports that help students grow as whole people, not just academics. For that reason, VSF partners with others in the community such as Vashon Nature Center’s citizen science project, and VCA’s Artists in Schools program.
Why do we need the Vashon Schools Foundation when we have PIE (Partners in Education) raising money and the State providing funds according to student enrollment? The fact is the state doesn’t properly fund public education, so VSF works to cover the shortfall. Over the years, that shortfall has shifted.
In the past, we’ve funded new curricula, new library books, new graphing calculators, etc., and those may be necessary again in the future. The point of the Foundation is to assure that programs vital to the district at the time are funded. While VSF works with District administrators and the school board to support district-wide programs, PIE works directly with teachers to provide small classroom grants annually.
This year, we’ve chosen to fund all the district’s requests. We’re including a generous anonymous donation that funds the racial equity program. We’re helping Vashon Youth & Family Services (VYFS) with its program of counseling support for Spanish-speaking and non-Spanish-speaking families. We’re bringing back a Chautauqua Spanish Intern program that embeds Spanish-speaking educators from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries in the CES classrooms.
And, as we have done for years, the Foundation is working to support VISD’s highly respected Student Link program. In addition, we’ve brought Vashon’s former Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) under our umbrella to simplify fund-raising. Now called FACE (Family and Community Engagement), that group focuses on hosting beloved school/community events and activities.
To support all this, the Vashon Schools Foundation’s fund-raising goal for 2021 is $220,000. Despite the pandemic, we came within a hair’s breadth of reaching our 2020 goal of $212,000, thanks to the many generous families, individuals and businesses on the Island. This year’s slightly higher goal is aimed at rolling some monies into next year in support of sustainable funding for the District.
In order to minimize our asks to the community, VSF holds just two annual fund-raising campaigns. The first is GiveBig Day, on May 5 this year. We aim to raise $60,000 that day. In the past, our second campaign has been in the fall, for Back-to-School. Since there was no Back-to-School day last year, we conducted a year-end appeal. This year, however, we’re all hoping there will be a Back-To-School day in the Fall.
On Vashon, students experience a rigorous, friendly, and unique place-based education. I am proud of that unique reputation, and I attribute it to a community that places a great deal of value on education. Because of the island’s generosity, Vashon students enjoy some unique learning experiences that enrich our district.
This raises a question for the future of education in Washington State. How do we achieve true educational equity? Since education can prevent so many societal problems, it would make sense for the State’s legislature to fully fund rich educational programs like Vashon’s statewide.
In the meantime, members and volunteers with the Vashon Schools Foundation are committed to supporting Vashon-style education right here. For me it’s personal. I chose to be on the Foundation board because I want my kids to know how important their education is to me and how important the education of the community they live in is.
Education is a cornerstone of democracy. If every school district in the State and the country had the kind of support VSF and Vashon residents provide it might just maintain our democracy. But that’s a story for another time.
Amy is Vashon Schools Foundation Board President. To donate, visit vashonschoolsfoundation.org/donate, or give on the GiveBig site.