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Norwood-Norfolk School Board hears presentation from NNY Community Foundation

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NORFOLK - When the Norwood-Norfolk Central School Board of Education meets on Tuesday, one of the items they’ll be discussing is whether to contract with the Northern New York Community Foundation to handle donations to the school, including scholarship funding.

Board members heard a presentation this week by Rande S. Richardson, the foundation’s executive director, who said they have a lot they can offer the school.

“Our main purpose is to act as a 501(c)(3). We work with donors and organizations to do more officially what you’re already doing or would like to do,” Mr. Richardson said.

Their “primary investment to the community” is through scholarships, he said, but they also provide grants. They have provided more than $11 million in scholarship funding since 1980 and, in 2011-12, they provided $740,662 to 352 students in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties for educational pursuits.

The Northern New York Community Foundation began in 1929, and although it’s based in Watertown, it serves Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, according to Mr. Richardson.

They raise, manage and administer an endowment and collection of funds for the benefit of the community.

“One of the things we’re seeing more and more of an interest in is partnerships with schools,” he said.

Part of that partnership is the “scholarship piece,” Mr. Richardson said.

“We are essentially the community endowment part of what the donors wants to give to the school. We’re a vehicle to get (donations) to your school to help enhance what you’re already doing here,” he said.

Mr. Richardson said that, if somebody was considering leaving money to the school after their death, they would likely meet with their estate planning attorney who would wonder what kind of structure was in place at the school to accept the funds and how they would be stored over the years as administrations and school board members change.

“If people are thinking about their school and what it means to them (and desire to make a donation as part of their estate), what structure is in place to make sure it’s properly stored? Most organizations have nothing to say because they haven’t thought about it,” he said. “I think that’s really the value the Community Foundation can bring to a school.”

The Northern New York Community Foundation will ensure “the gifts goes on in perpetuity” at the school,” Mr. Richardson said, and they can also tailor the gift to meet the person’s wishes.

If the funds were invested by the school into a certificate of deposit, “eventually that scholarship is going to run out,” he said.

“To me, the real benefit of this is having something established for when and if somebody desires to do something for your district,” he told board members.

Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie agreed, noting, “We’re just not financial experts.”

Mr. Richardson said they would work with the school district to find out what wanted to accompany, with a philosophy that “we’ll do whatever we can to make that happen.”

“There’s nothing that the Community Foundation does that’s for us,” he said. “Everything that comes in goes back out to the community.”

The Northern New York Community Foundation is already working with some schools in the region, including Potsdam Central School, where they have set up a Potsdam Educational Opportunities Fund under the auspices of the Community Foundation.

A Potsdam Central couple had made a challenge earlier in the year in which they would match up to $100,000 raised. If successful, the group would start off with $200,000. The fund will be administered by the Northern New York Community Foundation.

A kick-off event was held in September for that fund, which is designed to enhance the educational experiences of Potsdam students and the efforts of their teachers beyond the scope of the curriculum. They launched a program that grants funds to PCS teachers for the enhancement of their work with students, on the basis of competitive proposals.

“You establish it with an initial gift. You just need some seed money to start it,” Mr. Richardson said

The St. Lawrence Central School District is also considering contracting with the organization after initially looking at setting up their own non-profit foundation at the school. They intend to invite Mr. Richardson to talk about the Community Fund during one of their upcoming board of education sessions.

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