Auburn Public Schools Foundation forms to help district help the kids

Public funds take the Auburn School District only so far these days.

And when the dollars for science, technology, math, music and Extended Learning programs gasp, wheeze and sputter out, a new fundraising engine called the Auburn Public Schools Foundation roars to life.

"What we're talking about are the above-and-beyond things," board president Peter Beckwith explained recently of the foundation's mission. "We're talking about giving kids the opportunities that normally they wouldn't get, whether that's allowing more kids to participate in the Robotics Program ... or being able to provide the district with funds to fix or buy new instruments, or sending kids to sing at Carnegie Hall who normally wouldn't be able to have that opportunity.

"If a student has the talent level that he or she could sing at Carnegie Hall," Beckwith added, "we would like to think that money wouldn't prevent them from achieving their highest goal."

Three years ago, recognizing that public funds alone were no longer providing the district with enough bucks to do all the good stuff that needed to be done, district supporters formed a study group to determine, first of all, whether a foundation would be helpful. The key point — nobody wanted any such entity to detract or take money away from all the other groups that were already out in the community doing good work for the district.

With the district's blessing, supporters formed the foundation. Trustees are as follows: Anne Baunach, Rikki Birge, Lisa Connors, State Sen. Joe Fain (R-Auburn), Kelly Fiksdal, Dr. Jim Fugate, Paul Harvey, Kip Herren, Dr. Kelly McDonald, Judi Roland and Darryl Thompson. The executive committee is composed of Beckwith, Kim Isom, Shelly Clair and Laura Theimer. The executive director is Mark Hancock.

At their first open house Dec. 11 at Auburn's Performing Arts Center, trustees shared their progress with alumni, families and district residents, explained how people could support school programs to fatten up learning opportunities for students, even talked a bit about construction of the new Auburn High School.

And to make things clear, the foundation provided STEM/robotics displays and school musicians.

"We're not supplementing the district funding, it's 'in addition,' to allow the district to do more," Beckwith said. "The funds the district gets generally have some strings attached so it can only do x, y and z. This gives it the flexibility to expand upon programs specific to Auburn school students."

Beckwith, the assistant attorney for the City of Federal Way, and his wife, Natalie, are the parents of three children, Wendy, 9, Nina, 6 and Titus, 4.

The family was new to the area and got involved when the search was on for trustees.

"I submitted my name, but little did I know that not long after that I'd be a trustee and shortly thereafter I'd be the president," Beckwith chuckled.

The board meets once a month in the ASD's board room.

"Ultimately, the monies that we raise are turned over to the district, and the district figures out how best to use those," Beckwith said. "The parameters we've set are that is has to be raising money for science, technology, math, music and Extended Learning. The district is going to have a big role in determining exactly what that looks like."

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