By Bob McCullough :: Photography courtesy of the Boerne Education Foundation
Involved, passionate parents want to see their children excel in education, so they come together and do all they can to support students, classroom teachers and staff.
In a nutshell, that describes the reason for the Boerne Education Foundation (BEF), which a group of parents launched in 1997 to provide teaching tools that were above and beyond what the Boerne Independent School District (BISD) budget could afford.
“BEF is the district’s greatest source of funding outside of its basic operating budget,” says foundation president Angie Lemmons. “It provides our schools with everything from much-needed classroom tools like microscopes and calculators to ‘out-of-the-box’ items like the Star Lab — a type of mobile planetarium, and the robotics program.”
Lemmons notes that BEF touches every one of the 7,800 students and 550 teachers at nine schools in the Boerne district. Through several funding programs, BEF provided a total of $246,000 to Boerne schools this year, bringing the foundation’s inception-to-date distributions to over $2.1 million.
“In the fall of each year, we distribute per-capita funding to each school based on their enrollment,” she explains. “We also supply each teacher with a $50 supply gift card to help outfit his or her classroom with materials for the new year. In January of each year, we award Teacher Impact Grants (TIGs), which were traditionally for ‘above and beyond’ items. Increasingly, as the district has been forced to make budget cuts due to school financing, grants also have been awarded for standard teaching tools like computers and library resources.”
To accomplish its mission, BEF sponsors an Annual Giving Campaign in the fall that solicits donations from organizations and individuals and also hosts the Rock On Gala, a popular spring fundraiser offering an evening of food, music and fun.
“Rock On 2016 will be held Saturday, April 16, at the Cana Ballroom,” Lemmons says. “The Cana Ballroom sits on one of the highest hills in Boerne and offers a spectacular view of the Hill Country. It was the venue for last spring’s event and is back by popular demand. The Rock On Gala will feature delicious appetizer stations and dinner by the award-winning caterer Don Strange of Texas, silent and live auctions, plus music and dancing.”
Dedicated men and women comprising the BEF Board of Directors donate their time year-round to make the Rock On Gala and other BEF initiatives successful. Nine of the board members are Cordillera Ranch residents: Beth Darnell, Michael Fox, Patrick Klar, Susan Naiser, Richele Poston, Rodney Rice, Greg Rickert, Connie Sherwood and Lemmons.
Other board members are Richard Cheshier, Pat Covert, Bryan Degner, Jeremy Diller, Dominic Dominguez, Anna Floyd, Kelly Grose, Tara Hawkins, Wanetta Hill, Dana Jackson, Sandy Johnston, Denise Praesel, Amy Story and Kevin Thompson. Ex Officio members are David Stelmazewski, BISD superintendent; Maritza Gonzales-Cooper, school board trustee; and Leslie Pickus, BEF director.
“Ours is a working board,” Lemmons notes. “We don’t just give advice; we put on the events, meet with donors and decide which requests will be funded. We also have one employee, Leslie Pickus, who serves as the director of the foundation and provides essential support for all of our efforts, from administration and donor recognition to event planning.”
Lemmons points with pride to several standout examples of how BEF has made an impact in the Boerne schools.
“One is the robotics program that was requested by two teachers at Boerne Middle School North,” Lemmons says. “BEF funded the class set of Lego EV3 Robotics kits for the new program that is being offered this school year. It is really exciting to put this type of technology into the hands of students who may be the engineers of our future.”
Another example is the purchase of iPads for the Life Skills Department that help students with cognitive delays and related challenges strive to become as independent as possible. Life Skills teachers have loaded the iPads with specially designed apps that teach simple skills that can lead to better functionality and even employment in their adult years.
“In addition, there’s our contribution to the ITSA program, which stands for Information Technology and Security Academy,” she says. “Upon completion of this two-year program, students have both advanced placement credit for college, plus computer technology certification that allows them to be work-force ready if that is their career path.”
Lemmons got involved with BEF because of her desire to enhance educational opportunities for her three children. “I’ve always enjoyed helping at my children’s schools,” she recalls. “I’ve done everything from 1st grade room mom to high school PTO president. But my years on the board of BEF stand out as the most fulfilling because this organization helps so many kids. It’s also been great to work with all the really exceptional people on the board — from other moms like me to great teachers to businessmen who run major corporations. The diversity of our board is what keeps us moving forward to constantly improve what we can do for our schools.
“We endeavor to enhance education not only for kids at every grade level, but even more importantly, for kids at every learning ability — whether they are college-bound, work-force bound or just need to be able to take care of themselves independently. It makes me happy to know that every child in BISD is benefitting from what BEF provides and it is leaving our students better-prepared for whatever they will do next.”
Nine BEF Directors reside in Cordillera Ranch: (from left to right) Michael Fox, Angie Lemmons, Connie Sherwood, Rodney Rice, Richele Poston, Beth Darnell and Patrick Klar, not shown – Susan Naiser and Greg Rickert