In summer 2002, a group of parents and community members, concerned about state cuts in funding for our school district, began meeting to consider forming an organization to raise money to support Methow Valley’s public school students. Jana Mohr Lone had moved to the valley the previous year from Vashon Island and had been impressed with an organization there, Partners in Education, which raised funds through an annual fall campaign and then funded public school programs and materials through grant proposals submitted by teachers and other community members.
By early 2003, a founding board of directors was formed, and bylaws and other legal materials created for Public School Funding Alliance (PSFA). In March 2003, PSFA was certified as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The new organization was based on the belief that the community plays a vital role in ensuring high-quality education for children, even in a small, rural school district.
Liberty Bell High School students have been involved in PSFA from the beginning. Students Patrick Orme and Kimberly Williams created the PSFA logo in 2003. PSFA’s bylaws require a minimum of two high school student board members; PSFA’s founding board had six students, and there have always been at least three students on the board since.
PSFA Founding Board 2003-2004
The first PSFA brochure, describing the organization’s mission and goals, was sent to all Methow box-holders in August 2003, and that fall board members and community volunteers called almost every name in the Methow Valley phone book to enlist support for the new organization. The goal was to raise $10,000, and in that first year the community donated just under $30,000.
Teachers and others submitted funding applications in the fall of that first year, and 25 were funded, including literacy materials for the primary school, books for high school classrooms, math and science programs for elementary students, Suzuki violin classes and music equipment for the school band program, field trips, the high school tutoring program, artist-in-residence programs, Classroom in Bloom schoolyard garden, and the high school oil painting program.
Since then, community members have donated $45,000 to $75,000 each year to PSFA, totaling over a half million dollars during PSFA’s first nine years. This support has led to the creation of a high school college advisor position, elementary school after-school program, a counselor position at the elementary school, Advanced Placement classes at the high school, elementary school violin and Spanish classes, Science Fair, Young Authors Conference, and many other programs, as well as the purchase of thousands of new books for students of all grade levels. Community contributions to PSFA literally double the money available for enrichment in our district.
For its first eight years, PSFA was an all-volunteer organization. In 2011, the board voted to hire its first executive director, Ann McCreary. Dozens of volunteers support PSFA each year in a variety of capacities, including serving on the board or on the Fundraising and Outreach Committees and assisting with administrative and financial tasks. Volunteers also help organize Trivia Night, PSFA’s annual April event in which teams of community members compete to answer questions about a wide range of topics, culminating in a playoff against the high school’s Knowledge Bowl team.
PSFA was created to enrich education for all Methow Valley public school students. As budget cuts at state and federal levels have continued to erode education funding, contributions from our community to enhance public education have become even more crucial. In the years ahead, we are confident that community support will ensure that students in Methow Valley public schools are well equipped to meet the challenges they will face in their adult lives.