Valhalla Schools Foundation
A "Local Education Foundation" (LEF) for Valhalla was recently registered with the New York State Attorney General. Named the Valhalla Schools Foundation (VSF), it is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit corporation that exists for charitable and educational purposes under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Foundation was established with the support of Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Brenda Myers, as well as the Board of Education and the three school principals. Although LEFs have existed around the country for years, it is something new for Valhalla, so we wanted to offer some answers to typical questions about it.
What is an LEF? It is a privately operated, not-for-profit organization whose aim is to assist the community's public schools. It is legally independent of the Board of Education and the schools administration, but the most successful LEFs work side-by-side with those two groups.
What does an LEF do? Its purpose is to raise and administer funds for the benefit of the public schools' students. Its means of fund-raising are broad: it can sponsor a wide variety of fund-raising events (raffles, auctions, dinners, sports events, house tours, sales of goods or services, etc.); it can solicit donations from corporations; it can apply for grants from large charitable foundations; it can invest part of its income in interest-bearing accounts or other profitable long-term instruments. Its means of administering funds is just as broad: it can give grants to individual teachers for innovative projects; it can underwrite the out-of-pocket school costs that parents usually have to fund (such as for school trips or special materials for a class); it can cover the cost of teachers' continuing education; it can contribute to needed new equipment for a school (for example, new easels for the elementary school's art program or new reference books for the middle school's library or new beakers and measures for the high school's science program). Notice that all of these are things an LEF can do -- it doesn't mean that VSF will do them.
Who runs the LEF? A Board of Directors. The most successful LEFs have board members who represent a cross-section of the community. This could include parents, seniors, businesses owners, teachers, and members of local government, school administration, and Board of Education. Whoever is on the board, the key is that they are dedicated to the purpose of the LEF and are willing to spend time and energy towards achieving that purpose. None of the board members will receive a salary from VSF.
Where will the money go? There is no decision about that yet. Nationally, the most popular areas of focus are arts enhancement, science and technology enrichment, rewarding teacher creativity, and continuing education for teachers. The VSF Board of Directors will establish policies on how the money is allocated, but the intention is to have as many students benefit as possible.
Don't the PTAs do fundraising? Yes, but they raise money for the individual schools only, not for the entire school district, and there are legal restrictions on how they can raise money and what the money can be used for. A foundation doesn't have these restrictions. It sets its own methods (as stated in its bylaws) of allocating its money. The foundation does not interfere with or replace PTA fundraising -- it has different reasons and ways of fundraising.
Why do we need an LEF anyway? The fundraising done by a foundation supplements how our schools now receive funding, namely from the State of New York and from local school taxes. An LEF paves a new avenue for expanding and supporting the District's educational mission on behalf of its students. For example, it could subsidize programs that might otherwise not be possible or might have to come out of parents' pockets. The LEF also can get a larger number of people and groups involved with contributing to improving our schools. For example, local businesses, national non-profit organizations and senior citizens could contribute in a variety of ways to the foundation's goals. Additionally, an LEF can recognize and support innovative and creative programs while raising the community's awareness of education and the prominent role it deserves in society.
How can I learn more? If you are interested in becoming a member of the board, or to find out more about the Foundation, please visit our website at:
The foundation meets on a regular basis at Valhalla Middle/High School and those dates are listed in the Calendar section.