Owasso Education Foundation Benefits Students
By EMILY RAMSEY
CLASSROOM ADVOCATES: Owasso Education Foundation board members pictured above are Paul Bauman, Kim Coppiola, Donovan Caviness, Pam Creekmore, Michele Dempster, Brent England, Michael Gordon, Robin Hanner, Stephanie Horne, Danita Laboyteaux, Chelsea Levo, Skip Mefford, Richard Zamor, Jo Anna Dossett, Deirdre Hodge, Alex Lamb and school Superintendent Clark Ogilvie. Also pictured is Shawna Fender, Ator Elementary librarian, and Cindy Jolley, 8th Grade Center media specialist.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Owasso residents are showing through their support of the Owasso Education Foundation () how they feel about their city’s public education system.
received its highest amount of donations in 2014. The foundation reported raising funds of nearly $100,000 in 2014 and, at the start of the 2014-15 school year, awarded $54,000 in teacher grants.
Board Chair Stephanie Horne attributes Owasso’s continued growth as a factor in its increased donations as well as growing awareness of the foundation and its purpose.
The foundation holds two annual fundraising events, the Holiday Home Tour and The Patriot Classic Golf Tournament. The 2014 Home Tour, held in December, raised $40,000, the highest amount to date, and last year’s Golf Tournament, held in May, went from raising $18,000 in 2013 to a record-breaking $60,000.
The 2014 golf tournament was also the first time that the event was held at The Patriot Golf Club as opposed to Bailey Ranch Golf Club.
Horne, who lives in Stone Canyon and whose husband knows Folds of Honor founder Dan Rooney, suggested moving the event to The Patriot. “With Folds of Honor being located there, it’s a special place,” she says. “And for people who aren’t members, the tournament gives them an opportunity to play the course.”
Horne and her family relocated from Tulsa to Owasso almost five years ago and, after that transition, transferred her two children from a Tulsa private school to Owasso Public Schools.
“My kids are getting as good of an education in this school system as they were at their private school,” she says.
Horne’s strong belief in Owasso’s public school system led her to get involved with two and a half years ago. “I saw the need to get out in the community to raise more money for the schools.”
Horne is also a past educator. She taught for seven years before leaving the classroom to raise her children.
“As a past teacher, I know they (teachers) are not going to arrive in class with everything they need,” she says, which is one reason why she is such an advocate of the need for the foundation. “Schools don’t have this money.”
began in 1990 with the sole focus of supporting classroom teachers and education through community events and awareness campaigns.
Seventy percent of funds raised goes to the Grants to Teachers program, which provides supplemental funding to teachers in order to provide additional student educational opportunities.
The foundation chooses grants based on various factors such as the number of students impacted and the length of impact, cost, encouragement of creative learning, and integration of technology in the classroom.
Over the past few years, the board has keyed in on grants that focus on specific needs including , robotics, and hardware and programs to help non-English-speaking students learn English.
“Imagine trying to read ‘Gone With the Wind’ in English when you don’t know English,” says board member Brent England, a long-time education proponent.
England is OEF’s current treasurer. He started with in 1993 and has been involved off and on throughout the years. He has been a member of the Owasso school board since 2003. His children graduated from Owasso Public Schools.
“If you’re a part of the community and you have a child in school, you want to give back and bring benefits to your child and all other children,” says England.
He has worked to remain affiliated with the foundation and the school district over the years because he sees the good that it brings to the district. “When you go to the schools and you see how grant money is utilized with different projects, you see the interest from the kids and how it enables their curiosity: that’s the biggest reward for me,” England says.
Since the foundation’s inception, it has provided $550,000 in teacher grants.
Although, in those early years,
only a couple thousand dollars were awarded each year, England says.
However, the trend is, fortunately, moving upwards, not backwards in donation amounts.
“The community has realized the importance of donating and that the legislature hasn’t supported education as it should,” England says.
A portion of the foundation’s funds also goes towards school and teacher activities, such as the school district’s annual back-to-school gathering that is held for teachers and the district’s Teacher of the Year assembly held in April.
The foundation’s board of trustees is made up of community and school members including city employees, bankers, local entrepreneurs and parents of children in the district.
“It’s important that the board represents the community and that it’s diverse,” Horne says.
Horne hopes word about the foundation continues to circulate as Owasso expands so that the foundation can increase its support of teachers. “I don’t know that people realize how they can help the schools,” she says, “that they can help through a small donation to the foundation or by attending the home show or in other ways by getting involved with the foundation.”