Erica Halada, the new executive director of the TPS Foundation, at the Toledo Public Schools administrative building in Toledo, Ohio on November 21, 2017.
The Toledo Public Schools Foundation is expanding its mission beyond awarding scholarships to high-achieving students once a year.
The non-profit, charitable organization was founded 25 years ago and for the past two years volunteer leadership has kept it afloat. Now, with a new executive director in place, the organization is restructuring and reimagining what it can do.
“By not doing so we’re turning our backs on the students, teachers, and the district as a whole, when right now I think they need the community’s attention,” said Erica Halada, who this month was named executive director.
Ms. Halada comes to the TPS Foundation after seven years with ProMedica and United Way of Greater Toledo.
She aims to grow the foundation — which operates separately from the school district — to not only provide scholarships for graduates going to college or into apprenticeship programs, but to offer classroom grants, support more preschool opportunities, help fund capital projects, and connect TPS alumni.
“It is really supporting TPS on the front end with early childhood, on the back end with apprenticeships and scholarships, and in the middle with schools that can request funding for programs that fit our mission and vision,” said Superintendent Romules Durant, who also sits on the foundation board.
Board member and TPS alumnus Bob LaClair said the foundation historically has raised money for annual scholarships and doled out as much money as it brought in. Last year the organization awarded a total of $32,000 in scholarships to 29 students.
But Mr. LaClair wants to build an endowment that will grow over time and be able to fund more than those yearly gifts. In order to do that, he said, the foundation needs to engage TPS graduates near and far.
“The board really feels like we’ve got an opportunity with alumni who have gone on to be successful to build up an endowment,” he said.
This year the foundation board launched a massive mailing campaign and sent about 92,000 postcards to high school graduates to try and gather current names, addresses, phone numbers, and other details. They aim to establish a TPS alumni association — a place for graduates to reconnect and share memories and success stories.
Several TPS high schools already have robust alumni groups, and Ms. Halada emphasized the district-wide alumni association is meant to complement those that already exist.
“It’s really exciting to think about what the alumni association can be in years to come, and I think if we engage the right way, the dollars will come,” she said.
Board member Matt Mishler said people often want to donate to TPS or leave a legacy gift, but don’t know how. He is hopeful the revitalized foundation will become well-known as the organization that collects and spends donations responsibly.
Ms. Halada is also working to get area businesses involved, whether they can provide volunteers, donate materials, or create internships for students.
She views the foundation as the support arm of the district, and she’s particularly passionate about helping students who face challenges at home.
“A flourishing public school system means higher employment rates, lower crime rates, a healthier community, and lower poverty rates,” she said. “We should all have a stake in that.”
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