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Schools who have overcome closure!

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1 Schools who have overcome closure! on Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:38 am

Renee and I have been reading a lot of success stories on schools that have overcome closing. We have sent out many emails to principals, vice principals, SOS teams, news reporters, trying to obtain more information about what these communities did to change the minds of their board members. What their proposals were, savings plans, budgeting, fund raisers, ect. So far we have not heard anything back, but we will continue to try get some correspondence.

The first school I came across was that of Rail Road Flat Elementary in Rail Road Flat, CA. It's a small community school of just 87 children serving grades k-6. They have been able to win this fight on two different occasions, once in February '10 and again in October '10. There school motto is "The little school that CAN... and DID!" Very inspiring!

https://www.uniondemocrat.com/20101020101551/News/Local-News/Rail-Road-Flat-School-saved-from-closure

http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20101020%2FA_NEWS%2F10200311

The next is a Catholic school in New Jersey by the name of Incarnation- St. James School. They were faced with raising $300,000. In a matter of one month with successful events and fund raisers, they were able to raise $127,000!!! They also had an "SOS" team, and because of the team showing dedication to their school and pledging to continue their fund-raising, it caused the school board leaders to consider keeping it open. Along with a new budget proposal, ect. Amazing story!

http://www.trentonmonitor.com/main.asp?SectionID=4&subsectionID=22&articleID=921

This is an interesting story as well. The school named William H. Taft STEM Elementary School was scheduled for closure as well. A STEM school, which stands for (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), meaning that's what they specialize in. It is also south Uptown’s only elementary school, which serves Mount Auburn, Corryville and Clifton-University-Fairview Heights. They were able to (again) rally together and present their issues with this school closing, and get the BOE to put on hold the final decision of the school closing pending further study. (This is what we need as well!) On Jan 24, the school board voted against closing this school due to all the backlash.

http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-22579-protest-keeps-school-open.html

Here are some more links to stories that we are still continuing to look into and research.

http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/dpp/news/Four-DeKalb-Schools-Saved-from-Closure-033110

http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/education/schools-saved-from-closing-20100326-lgf

http://www.fox16.com/mostpopular/story/Elementary-School-Saved-from-Closing/fildyWzbd0Kf-sSWuisNGg.cspx

We have also come across a very sad story in the UK. This community and "SOS" team were extremely dedicated, and when Renee and I read this story, it gave us even more ambition and fight to save OUR school! This is what we DON'T want happening to our school.

http://www.northword.ca/connections/Past_Issue/fall_02/wells.html

We will post more info as we come across it. But, from what I can tell by reading all these (besides the fund raising) is that we are doing everything we can at this point to save our school. So Great job people! I was thinking we too, could present a plan of fund-raising and such to raise money for the school, fund-raising teams, ect. Not just the PTO, but anyone that would like to help. I hope that if we can all show what dedication we all have to this cause, they might at least hold off on the vote for another school year to let us try to get things together!

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2 Update on schools who overcame closure! on Wed Apr 06, 2011 10:52 am

Renee and I had e-mailed many people in regards to their schools success, but none had responded as of yet. I was JUST about to stop checking my e-mail for the thousandth time today, and decided to check once more. And, low and behold SOMEONE RESPONDED! Frank Golazesk, from the Incarnation- St. James Catholic school, emailed us both back this evening! I am just going to copy and paste the e-mail because its pretty long. He gave me step by step what he, his school and community did to overcome this! Some great information, most (if not all) of which we are already doing. I just wanted to share with you all that others, besides those in our community, that do care too!

Hi Candice and Renee,

Sorry to hear about your situation. It certainly is a challenging time for you. I'll tell you what we've learned from our experience. Please feel free to contact me with further questions; I'm here to help.

Step 1 was to get the okay for a grass roots type effort in place to keep the school open. That happened before my involvement -- in fact it's what got me involved. Sounds like you have that.

Step 2 was to figure out what the success criteria would be. In our case it was to raise $300K in a month and to formulate a plan to get the enrollment up to 160 by September. It was important that all parties agreed on the criteria.

In the end we didn't hit either objectives exactly but we did demonstrate exceptionally high results ($130K raised / pledged in 30 days) and a plan for enrollment. We were given a 30 day extension but we didn't want it because we had to get out of the period of indecision; parents needed to know. What we were able to do was to demonstrate to the Trenton Diocese the ongoing viability of the school because if we raised the $300K it wouldn't matter if we couldn't 1) repeat it and also 2) build up enrollment. What was key was not talking in the future tense but primarily in terms of what we demonstrated we had accomplished. An important point we kind of assumed was that as long as the school can run in the black we can hold off the closure decision.

Next you need parents and interested parties to be deeply invested in the work. Everyone needs to share in the sense of urgency. In the past it was clear we were headed off the cliff but nothing major happened until that galvanizing moment when the announcement to close happened.

We set up a core group and got the school and local community engaged. We held three meetings for the parents. Because there was a lot of emotion to deal with we keep the press out of the first meeting. Later on the press was helpful in providing publicity. The community support was great. We were a news story and business wanted to chip in: food for our pasta night, items and services for the auction.

We invited all parents to participate in two brain storming sessions that were held the next night. One for fund raising; one for enrollment. There's a process to doing brain storming well: make no judgments on ideas just write everything down that people come up with. Later on you can decide what to attack first and what to reject.

That gave us fodder to get started. We exploited FaceBook and other new media channels (Twitter, school blog) to get the word out to alumni and solicit donations. We constantly posted status and advertised upcoming activities and meetings.

- Fundraising: donations from friends of the school, parishioners, and alumni were the bulk of what we raised. We put together a pasta night with silent and chinese auctions and also a 5K run that netted $15K. Later on we did other events and raffle type things we never tried before that brought in dollars: Big ticket 50/50 raffle with only 250 tickets and $100 each (~$6,000, could have raised more but we gave ourselves a 5 week runway when we really needed 5 months), designer hand bag bingo night (~$9,000), casino night (not as successful as we hoped. Again we should have allowed more lead time.)

- Enrollment: The marketing committee worked with an alumni who had a PR firm and put out mailings to targeted families in specific zip codes that were "value of Catholic Education" based, particularly in times of instability in the public system as the Governor works through the funding issues. We beefed up our usual open houses by bringing in games, a baseball mascot, and door prizes. We market our school to nearby parishes that have no school. We examined opportunities to twin with other schools, e.g. other small or specialty schools that could benefit from sharing our space.

We tapped into resources at the Diocese for advice and mentoring. This upcoming year we're

1) Starting a formal capital fund drive. I expect we can raise the lion's share of our $300K goal through it. We're not a rich school but many of our alumni have done quite well. Often they give to colleges and high schools but not to elementary schools.... because we didn't ask them before.

2) Holding a carnival. We're partnering with Amusements of America for rides and Paladin Associates for the gaming booths. They'll make it as turn key for us as we like. We're renting space to local restaurants to sell food. As a first year we're taking it slowly but over time we can take on more of the work (especially with the food, e.g. making it ourselves) and consequently make more profit.

So much of this is hard to convey over e-mail. If you want to talk further, please let me know.

Good luck!

Frank (edited)

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