The Katy ISD Education Foundation has presented a new, updated memorandum of understanding to the school district board of trustees, paving the way for the foundation to begin fundraising for the district.
Foundation President Chris Crockett presented the new memorandum to trustees during this week’s school board work study session.
The new document addresses most of the concerns raised by trustees when the first version was presented last November.
At that time, the proposed agreement, which is designed to establish the linkage between the district and the foundation, ran into a buzzsaw of opposition as trustees peppered then-Executive Director Marcy Canady and then-Foundation President Gavrel with questions. A number of trustees objected to the extremely close relationship the agreement created between the supposedly independent foundation and the district.
This time the board’s response was far different, with trustees showing a much higher comfort level with the proposed document.
In the months since the initial agreement was presented, Canady stepped down from the executive director post to become principal of McRoberts Elementary School. Gavrel resigned as foundation president.
Crockett, a former Katy ISD board member, was elected president last month. The executive director position was eliminated.
In her opening remarks, Crockett cited a demonstration by the Cinco Ranch Robotics Team at last month’s school board meeting and example of the kind of program the foundation could fund.
“One of the great things a foundation can do is bridge that gap and allow innovation to be financed,” Crockett said. “We’re at a time where we face unprecedented challenges in terms of state funding, we’re lucky if they give us the money to actually do what you all had told us to do, much less anything innovative in the way of a pilot project. A foundation can provide the funds for funding innovation.”
Crockett also said such foundations were not new, having first been developed as far back as the 1970s.
“There are a lot of foundations in this area, but we have not had one until recently,” she said.
Crockett also said there were more than 4,800 such foundations around the United States serving school systems ranging from urban to rural, and from large to small. She noted the one thing all the foundations had in common was that they existed to “serve as a bridge between the (school) district’s strategic plan and the community’s desires.”
She also said the foundation was “more than a fundraising body.” Such organizations can also “achieve positive public relations” and could be used to “engage the community in ongoing improvement” and seek additional grant funding that is not currently available to school districts,” she explained.
Crockett also pointed out that the creation of a foundation was “a long-standing goal of the board of trustees” and had been one of the first directives given to Superintendent Alton Frailey when he was hired by the district.
The foundation filed its certificate of formation in May of 2011. Shortly thereafter, it received a 501(c)3 nonprofit designation from the IRS.
Crockett told the board the new memorandum of understanding had been developed based on the board’s concerns from last November. She said “drastic” changes had been made.
The changes included greater autonomy of the foundation without as strong a “link” to the school district, the removal of the district-funded executive director position and moving the superintendent and board liaison to non-voting, advisory status on the foundation’s board. Additionally, the school administration has the option of appointing a liaison to the foundation to serve as a “contact point.”
Trustee Bill Proctor agreed the changes made the foundation much more palatable for the board.
“I like the change. I think the advisory nature in any capacity with any organization is very good,” Proctor said.
Crockett said having the superintendent and a board member as an advisory member of the foundation board simply kept the two entities from “going in two different directions.”
Proctor asked if the foundation had received any concerns from existing district or campus booster organizations.
“I have had a little bit of that, but not a lot,” Proctor said.
Crockett said the foundation would not be competing for the same dollars as existing groups. She stressed the foundation would be focused on “different goals, different dollars and different messages,” and would play “a different role in the community.”
“The dollars are very different,” she said.
She also said many private corporate grants can only go to 501(c)3 groups, and existing organizations like booster clubs and Friends of Katy ISD do not have that tax-exempt status.
Trustee Henry Dibrell said he was pleased to see the changes and the strengthening of the foundation’s position as a totally autonomous entity from the school district.
“I believe you have moved (the foundation) to a place of autonomy, and I congratulate you on that. I think we should just move ahead on this,” Dibrell said.
The foundation’s proposed first-year budget calls for $133,000 of “in-kind” contributions from the district, with an equal or greater amount being raised by the foundation. The goal, trustees were told, was to annually decrease the school district’s contribution while increasing foundation-raised money to a point where the foundation would be able to fund school projects.
Frailey stressed the school district’s contribution would be in-kind services only, and “not a check we’re writing to the foundation.”
The foundation’s planned initial activities include a “founder’s campaign,” fundraising activities such as a golf or fishing tournament and seeking grant funding.
Crockett stressed the foundation does not plan to use its money to pay for “building buildings and providing hardware.”
“We would not want to spend money on something that the school district is already spending money on,” she said.
The foundation is also continuing to seek additional board members. Currently, there are 21 board members, but the foundation’s by-laws allow for as many as 35.
In “building the board,” Crockett said the foundation was looking for additional directors that “reflect the diversity of our school district.”
Trustees were asked to submit names of possible foundation board members to School Board President Rebecca Fox. Fox, in turn, will forward those names to the foundation.
“We would be happy to consider anybody who is nominated,” Crockett said.
The presentation to the school board was informational only and no formal action was taken.