WCS Foundation focuses on students

Every year members of the community, area businesses and alumni donate money to the Wayne Community Schools Foundation and every year, that money goes toward important purchases that the school's general fund doesn't or wouldn't cover.

"The district is funded by tax dollars — some federal funds and very little state funding comes to us. We operate our general fund that way. Anything the Foundation provides, we don't have to pull from the general fund," school superintendent Mark Lenihan said.

Important purchases like the new choral robes that cost thousands of dollars which are set to arrive this month. While the current robes aren't completely unusable, they all have seen better days and haven't been updated since they were purchased upwards of 50 years ago.

There are only so many stains that will come out and so many tears that can be fixed before you have to scrap it and start over. Which was the case in the band uniforms just a few years back. This time around the school and the Foundation are roughly splitting the cost of the new robes.

It's purchases like that which make the foundation, WEB and the booster clubs a necessary part of operating for the schools.

"The school's general fund is kind of restricted as far as what we can tax for and spend," said Lenihan. "We don't really have any room to grow the general fund dollars."

Without raising the tax levy, the school's hands are pretty much tied. No one wants a higher tax burden, but the budget can only stretch so far, so the school district relies heavily on the supplemental funding provided by the Foundation.

"It allows us to do things outside of our general fund that normally wouldn't be able to be done," Lenihan said

Since Lindsay McLaughlin started with the Foundation in 2012, it's been a relief for many who donate to know that someone is on staff to direct donations, rather than just a volunteer board.

McLaughlin is the only staffed person for the Foundation and she also works at the school, which gives her a unique insight. She's right there to see the wants and needs of the various classrooms, teachers and programs at Wayne.

"We have several different line items and focuses like fine arts, technology, athletics, scholarships and an unrestricted or special requests focus," McLaughlin said. "We work directly with Mr. Lenihan to gauge what needs, goals and wants of the school district has."

McLaughlin also stressed that the Foundation's mission was to aid in funding things that directly impact the students.

"Technology or scholarships, the kids are getting the impact on that," Lenihan said. "They're not providing funds to help us fix a leaky roof. It's not going to things the general fund would cover."

The Foundation allows donors to select the area they wish to direct funds to, be that money for a new piano in the choir room or new lockers for the locker room.
For example, the school is doing a renovation to some classrooms to enable a better set up for the addition of an ag program, which is something the budget is covering.

Someone decided they wanted to help with that cause and donated a large sum of money to go toward new equipment for the program.

Typically, larger projects that get broken into phases have a higher response in donations received. This year's project is the Kern Track Facility to the south of the Jr. and Sr. High School. A new scoreboard and lighting at the facility are needed.

The process generally involves a request coming before the board by a teacher or faculty member.

That request is discussed by the 17-member board, which includes a school board member as well as school representatives, and eventually voted on.

The Foundation runs several programs each year to encourage people to donate such as business-matching grants and scholarships and alumni donation requests.

A classroom grant offered each year is done via application, though the selection committee voting does not know the faculty member who applied.
Four grants total, two per building, are awarded each year. The grant money is applied to technology or other resource to be used in the classroom.

"We try to be proactive on specific needs," McLaughlin said.

To ensure there are no discrepancies monetarily, the Foundation carries out a three part system. McLaughlin, the Foundation treasurer Jodi Pulfer and the Foundation's accountant Tom Hansen all see the donation for security's sake.

As donations come in, it enables the school to keep the general fund as low as possible, which means less taxes but more opportunity.

"Either the money goes up or the quality goes down, and we want to have quality programs," Lenihan said. "If we don't have our Foundation or the boosters to help us, it affects our students and the things we can do for them."

Lenihan and McLaughlin stressed how grateful they, and their respective institutions, were to receive the funds that they do.

"We appreciate all the support that everyone gives — all of our patrons, through tax dollars and all the additional donations we receive," said Lenihan. "People can be assured that those dollars go directly to the students."

The Wayne Herald

Mailing Address:
114 Main Street
Wayne, NE 68787
Phone: 402-375-2600

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