HAMPDEN, Maine — SAD 22, which consists of Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport, has hired a coordinator to help shepherd its new education foundation forward.
Melanie Spencer, a Hampden resident and mother of three SAD 22 students who also has a background in grant writing, has been on the job for a few weeks.
“My main task initially is to create a database of alumni, not just for fiscal purposes, but as a way for people to connect,” she said this week. “We have a lot of Hampden Academy alumni in the area and most of the data we have now is not organized.”
Last summer, SAD 22 administrators and members of the district’s board of directors received federal approval to create a 501c nonprofit education foundation to handle private, tax-deductible donations and gifts that could benefit local education. Colleges and universities have been building strong philanthropic foundations for years, but the idea is still relatively new in the kindergarten through grade 12 arena.
Superintendent Rick Lyons said the goal of the foundation is not to supplant any general taxpayer funding to support school operations, but to augment what he called innovative educational opportunities. The Maine Department of Education used to have an innovation grant program several years ago, Lyons said, but eliminated that program long ago because of funding problems. As money grows scarce everywhere, the superintendent said it’s important to harness opportunities to create partnerships with community members who are passionate about education and want to offer support.
Since last August, the founding members of the SAD 22 education foundation’s board have worked to create a three-year strategic plan that outlines strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats the foundation could face.
“One of the big things now is making it more visible to the public,” Lyons said. “The idea is still pretty new at this point.”
The superintendent said he and others have looked to Cape Elizabeth as a successful model for building an education foundation that supplements traditional funding sources. Bangor, Orono and SAD 3 also have foundations, but the concept is still relatively new in Maine.
Lyons said SAD 22 is different, though, because most other districts that have foundations do not employ a separate staff member to coordinate the efforts. He said the money to pay Spencer’s salary is leftover from a grant the district received, and one of the new coordinator’s tasks will be to look for additional grants to fund her position for the future.
“There is really a trend growing of foundations that can support education in a different way,” she said. “Funding for education is no longer a one-dimensional stream.”