The foundation, established by a resolution proposed by Vice Chairwoman Janet Read and approved by the Board of Education at its June 28 meeting, is in the process of applying for nonprofit 501(c)3 status so businesses and organizations are able to make tax-deductible donations to benefit CCSD schools, teachers and students.
Barbara Jacoby, the district’s spokeswoman, served as an ex-officio designee for Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo, who was not present, at the meeting conducted at Historic Canton High School and School Board Auditorium. Jacoby and Board of Education Attorney Tom Roach guided board members through the proposed bylaws, officer positions and goal-setting for the coming year.
Board members in attendance were Doug Barnes, a CCSD parent; Anne Coffman, a CCSD retired educator; Rod Drake, regional manager of Georgia Power; Debi Radcliff, former Board of Education member and community volunteer; Billy Peppers, director of economic development for the city of Woodstock; Billy Hayes, CEO of Northside Hospital-Cherokee; Billy Hasty, lawyer with Hasty Pope LLC; Kevin Williams, restaurant operator for Canton’s Chick-fil-A; and Brian Evola, district manager for the Pine Bluff and Chadwick Road landfills for Waste Management.
Absent were Peggy Moore, a community volunteer and Amanda Arnold, vice president of marketing and business development at Credit Union of Georgia.
Other present ex-officio members included Mike Chapman, school board chairman; Adam Belanger, president of the Cherokee County Council of PTA; Candler Howell, assistant superintendent of financial management as well as Kenneth Owen, supervisor of internal audits, grants accounting and budgets. Ex-officio member Read was absent.
Jacoby said reduced tax digest values and state austerity cuts have made it more difficult for the district to continue innovation within the classroom.
“This foundation is a way that we can tap into resources that we currently cannot at the school district,” Jacoby said to the board members. “A nonprofit foundation allows us to apply for grants that we currently can’t apply for.”
Jacoby said Owen has a history of applying for large grants for the district, but there are other pools of money available to nonprofits that are not available for school districts.
“It also would give us a vehicle to encourage donations from our local corporations, from local organizations, from individuals … this would be a new nonprofit in the community that they may choose to support when they decide how they are going to support the charitable entities in the community,” Jacoby said.
Outlined in the first draft of the bylaws, which Jacoby said were quite similar to bylaws established for foundations for Hickory Flat Elementary School and Etowah High School, states no fewer than 12 board members and five ex-officio non-voting members will preside on the board. The board members will serve three-year terms, according to the draft.
Jacoby requested the members review the bylaws prior to next month’s meeting so at the following meeting, the board can finalize the bylaws and determine committee leaders, frequency of meetings, term limits, the election process, the election of officers and outline the foundation’s goals.
She also asked board members to review provided screenshots of websites of similar foundations in nearby counties, including Cobb Schools Foundation and Fulton Education Foundation.
“We need your ideas,” Jacoby said. “If we had a webpage, what would you want it to say? If you were to edit this perspective, what changes would you make?”
As for the focus of the foundation, Belanger, who said he spent three days last week in a couple of the district’s Cherokee Academies labs, said he was impressed with a robotics course students completed and felt the foundation should focus its efforts toward raising funds for technology.
“These labs are totally inspiring to these kids,” Belanger said. “I really think that everybody in this foundation should spend an hour, 45 minutes in one of these labs just to see how the technology is totally inspiring them to think outside of the box.”
Jacoby said a portion of Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues go toward technology, but many times the funds are only able to cover basic technology needs.
“The kind of technology we have to focus on first is that infrastructure,” Jacoby said, explaining that Ed-SPLOST funds go toward technology needs like fiber optic cables and basic computer lab essentials.
Chapman echoed Jacoby’s statement that limited funds restrict innovation within the district, but said he would like to see the foundation as a source for schools and teachers to come to with their wants and needs and have an application process for the funds.
“They identify a specific need to improve their operation or to innovate what they’re doing … and then they come to us to say ‘here’s our idea,’” Chapman said. “When somebody has an idea, now they have a place to go after the idea and that’s absolutely what it’s all about.”