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Articles: Business Partnerships

In the Napa Valley Vintner’s Adopt-a-School program, Vineyard 29’s owner, Chuck McMinn, takes part in West Park Elementary School’s Jog-a-thon last October. Vineyard 29 sponsors each student in their runs.

Superintendent Barbara Nemko of the Napa County Office of Education in California approached the Napa Valley Vintners Association about a decade ago to see if its members would participate in an adopt-a-school program. The vintners, a logical partner as the region’s key employers, were receptive.

Winery owners and school principals arranged for employees to tutor elementary school students, organized field trips to wineries, and hosted wine-and-cheese receptions for teachers. “We left it up to them,” Nemko says. “That worked out pretty well over the years.”

It was a daunting project, seemingly impossible to fund with traditional municipal bonds, says Yonkers (N.Y.) Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio.

In 2010, a building condition study showed that his district needed $480 million for capital improvements to existing school buildings, while new schools needed to be built given an expected enrollment increase of 3,000 by 2020, for a total of $1.2 billion.

Growing numbers of school districts are entering into public-private partnerships (P3s) to accomplish energy efficiency improvements that will result in cost savings and improved environmental stewardship.

For instance, last year, the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) in California launched its Efficiency Financing Program to fund energy efficiency and water retrofits on local schools. Fifty-four school campuses, two local governments and a nonprofit hospital are currently participating in the program, which is backed by contractually guaranteed cost savings.

A student at the Beech Hill School in the Otis (Maine) School Department learns chemistry in a hands-on science lab over Skype.

Four students in Maine had the unique chance to study organisms on their shoreline this past year to help contribute research to a new chemical bond discovery that Vanderbilt University researchers made three years ago.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis observes students and educators participating in the Open Campus PA program.

This past school year has been a little less hectic for busy juniors and seniors at Hempfield High School, thanks to a new, unique online course-sharing initiative.

The Hempfield School District is in a suburban-rural community outside Lancaster, Pa., and is one of three local districts that have implemented Open Campus PA, a program that unites its high school with the nearby Penn Manor and Manheim Township districts’ high schools. The goal is to share teachers and selected online courses, allowing participating students to take online classes on their own time.

AT&T Aspire www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=2631

Cisco Education csr.cisco.com/pages/education

Dell Youth Learning content.dell.com/us/en/corp/d/ corp-comm/powering-possible-learning.aspx

Intel K-12 Blueprint www.k12blueprint.com

Project Red www.projectred.org

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

Austin, Texas

This foundation aims to improve the lives of children living in urban poverty nationwide by funding programs that focus on performance-driven education, college preparation and completion, quality school options and academic and after-school programs. The foundation has committed more than $650 million to global initiatives.

www.msdf.org

The Walton Family Foundation

Bentonville, Ark.

It’s not news that public school districts have maintained productive relationships with the business community over the years. In Ohio, Cincinnati Bell recently helped a failing high school in the Cincinnati Public Schools transform itself into an information technology academy by providing student internships, a fleet of volunteer mentors, and college scholarships, not to mention five computer labs.

Superintendent Jim Brown

Critics of failing systems often ask the same chicken-or-egg question: Do educators and environment cause kids to fail, or do failing students weigh down the teachers and districts around them?

For the last few years, a trend has been emerging in K12 education funding with a clear message: Partnerships equal power. Partnerships should include the school district, of course, and community groups, parent organizations, nonprofit supporters and for-profit businesses.

The New Tech Network, which began in 1996 as a nonprofit school improvement organization, made a splash at the Educon conference in Philadelphia earlier this year, explaining how it reformed 86 schools in 16 states. And the difference with the model is that communities, not schools, fund them. Through fundraisers, donations and other contributions, the community “invests” in the change that happens.

Move over Groupon and Living Social; Schoola is the newest deal-of-the-day Web site, and its mission is to help schools raise money.

Schoola, launched by Savvy Source in February, helps school supporters, such as Parent Teacher Associations, work with businesses in their community to create a deal. Schoola hosts and facilitates the fundraiser online, handles the purchases and sends the proceeds to merchants and schools. To reach a larger audience, schools can partner with other schools to reach a larger audience and increase visibility.

Problem

Students in Niles Township High School District 219 in Skokie, Ill., were getting tired of paying more money for healthy foods at lunch and craved nutritious meals with a variety of flavors and choices at a fair price. Students were actually paying more for salad and carrot sticks than unhealthy foods such as pizza or fries. In early 2010, they asked the school board to make changes in the food. Because of the growing rates of diabetes and obesity in school-aged children around the nation, board members had to act.

Gene R. Carter is a veteran educator with experience as a private and public school teacher, public school administrator, university professor and author. In 1992, he became executive director and CEO of ASCD, an educational leadership organization with members in more than 145 countries. As ASCD’s leader, Carter has participated in educational seminars all over the world. In 1988, he was selected the first National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators.

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