PUBLIC PROFILE: Susan Bacon, Executive Director of Ashland Schools Foundation
Rogue Valley Messenger: What kind of programs do the Ashland Public Schools have that normally wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for ASF?
Susan Bacon: Through our Education Support grants, the Ashland Schools Foundation grants the school district over $150,000 annually for additional teachers and other educators to support a variety of programs and needs throughout the schools. We also fully fund the Student Tutoring Center at Ashland High – where high performing students are hired to tutor other students who need assistance – either with bringing up their grades, or grasping the difficult concepts of AP (Advanced Placement) classes. We also fully fund a Science Lab Aides program at AHS enabling the Science Department to hire SOU Science majors to work as lab aides in the high school science classes. Our Impact Grant program provides a way for teachers at all sites to apply for funds to implement special projects or fill specific needs in their classrooms. Our funds were used to keep at least part-time librarians in each of the schools. Our new elementary After School Enrichment Program started last year in the three elementary schools and was funded by ASF with grants and donations.
RVM: There’s an emergency fundraiser going on to raise $50,000 by June 20 for the After School Enrichment Program (ASEP) to continue next school year in the Ashland elementary schools. Why is it so beneficial and important to keep these programs going?
SB: This new program is the first cohesive ASEP in the Ashland Elementary Schools. Nearly all past enrichment programming disappeared several years ago due to lack of school funding. Studies show that children who participate ASEPs have increased attendance in school, higher test results, and a better relationship with their school. One of our major goals was to ensure accessibility for all students, and this year 40% of the 500 registrations were low-income students who had their tuition waived. Our recent annual fund drive is doing well enough to afford our long-standing grant programs, but we have not raised enough to keep this new program going. Therefore, we decided we would run this dedicated campaign to ensure the new After School Program would be able to continue into the second year – after all, it’s just getting settled in the schools and we expect the funding to stabilize as the program gets established.
RVM: What is your favorite program that ASF supports?
SB: I admit I have an emotional involvement with the after-school program. My own children participated in a similar program at Walker Elementary, back when it was supported with Federal Title 1 funds and they so looked forward to the new catalog of classes so they could decide what to take that term. Other than that, I’ve always loved the AHS Student Tutor Center. This program was started organically, by an AHS Math teacher who recognized that, with the larger classes sizes that budget cuts were causing, students were not getting the time to ask questions in class and get the help they needed.
RVM: Annually, how much money does ASF raise that goes towards Ashland schools in some way?
SB: We raise about $200,000 for our grant programs in the schools. Those are what we call “unrestricted” funds for our grant programs. We also occasionally help the school district with their fundraising needs, either in grant writing or capital campaigns. The state of Oregon does not supply public school districts with funds for buildings and capital projects. ASF has helped the district raise over $1.5 million over the past 3 years to get a new, expanded turf field facility for soccer and football, plus a new track.
RVM: What is your favorite thing to do with your family in the Rogue Valley?
SB: My children are adults now, so we love going out on a beautiful day to one of the many restaurants, wineries or brew pubs with family and friends. When my children were young we loved going to the Children’s Festival in Jacksonville.