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The new director of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Foundation wants to steer his organization in a new direction.
Former Greensburg school teacher Ethan Crough, 39, took over for retiring foundation Executive Director Janice Montgomery last month.
“Ethan has infectious energy and enthusiasm,” Montgomery said. “He comes from a teaching background and also has incredible experiences in the nonprofit world.”
The foundation’s mission is to support the work of the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. by providing financial resources, as well as promoting awareness and philanthropy for programs that help students achieve educational excellence.
“Foundations are rising in importance,” Crough said. “It’s my job to increase the visibility and the support as we go forward, because of the rising need and declining tax support. We can then support teacher initiative grants or provide innovative ‘out of the box’ awards that teachers wouldn’t necessarily get without the foundation.”
The foundation launched an employee fundraising campaign through payroll deductions in late July. Crough said that, while he’s aware some teachers buy student supplies out of their own pockets, the campaign remains vitally important for the foundation.
“If the community says, ‘I’d love to help,’ they’ll also ask what we are doing to help ourselves,” Crough said. “If they see us supporting ourselves, they’ll understand they are not the ones doing everything on the outside. If we can get the participation level very high, it’ll show how committed the entire school district — teachers, administrators, bus drivers, janitors — is to funding our own interests.”
Obtaining funding for programs that teach marketable skills like science, math and technology are what Crough considers an easier sell to potential donors. But what he hopes to achieve is a more difficult challenge: an increase in unrestricted funds.
“So that when a teacher does get a bright idea and presents it to their school, they don’t have to wait on the grant cycle. They can just come to us. We’ll take it to our board, and the money is already there.”
But the new foundation chief knows that is unlikely to happen if the foundation can’t demonstrate visible accountability to contributors. He believes his organization must create a clear picture of how donations are spent, so that people can see results.
In order to demonstrate those results, Crough said the foundation must first get and later maintain the community’s attention.
“We are looking at bigger pictures, broadening our influence and getting invited to the table,” he said. “When all these different organizations that make Columbus a great place to live are looking toward the future, we’d like to be a part of that. Once we broaden our visibility, it might prompt them to increase funding opportunities for us.”
If Crough has his way, fundraising events that don’t illustrate the foundation’s work, such as last winter’s financially disappointing Royal New Year’s Eve Celebration will disappear. His ideas all involve student participation.
“Whether that be a giant dance-off or a dinner-and-aquatic show with swimmers from East and North, I can’t say right now,” Crough said. “But we’re a school foundation. Students should be involved in what we do.”
For now, his short-term goals include learning day-to-day operations. He also wants to visit all corporation facilities with students in order to increase awareness for the foundation’s work in each school. Another goal is to create a cleaner and fresher presence for the foundation on the Internet.
While advocating change, Crough offers only praise to the foundation’s past efforts and achievements. He said he is especially impressed by Montgomery, a retired grade-school teacher and administrator who served on the foundation’s board before becoming executive director in March 2009.
“She’s left me some very impressive shoes to fill,” Crough said. “Janice knows a lot of people and has been my mentor and guide. She promised to stay on as my number one volunteer. She’s extremely devoted, and neither she nor I will ever stop thinking about what we’re doing.”
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