Education is a key and definitive goal for both Waxahachie ISD and its Education Foundation.

Founded in July 1999, the primary purpose of the foundation is to raise private dollars for public education and present that money as grants to teachers to help underwrite programs unable to be funded through the district’s limited budget.

“We are a 501(c)3 separate entity from the school district that focuses on two main initiatives — awarding campus grants and student scholarships,” said foundation executive director and WISD’s public relations director Nicole Mansell. “We work with the district to greatly enhance education by awarding grants and scholarships. Although we both serve one purpose, the district benefits from our fund-raising efforts.”

“We’re here to support the district and enhance what the district already has,” said foundation president Cindy Hess. “The district’s motto is, ‘Excellence in Education,’ while our mission statement is, ‘To enhance the quality of educational opportunities in the WISD.’ ”

The foundation saw its start when the Partners in Education advisory board and a group of local residents in collaboration with the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce approached the WISD board of trustees with a proposal to raise funds for curriculum-type programs.

“This foundation was started by local people who started from scratch and took the initiative to begin it with small donations and their personal time to enhance this educational program,” said vice president John Sanders. “We truly give gratitude to their contributions and hopefully over the years, we will see more avenues of funding.

“We also appreciate the initiative of the teachers for promoting the foundation,” he said. “Funds are available but they (teachers) must research the grants and complete essential paperwork. The more they participate and the more we can provide, the more children can benefit from it.”

Since its inception, the foundation has awarded $80,000 in grants and, in the past three years, $10,000 in student scholarships.

For the 2006-2007 academic year, the foundation awarded more than $15,000 toward teacher grants and student scholarships, including nine $1,000 teacher grants and six $1,000 student scholarships presented to graduating seniors with the help of DART Foundation.

“We’re hoping to include more student scholarships for existing high school students, not just graduating seniors so that they may benefit from these resources during their high school years,” Sanders said.

The program started out by providing teacher grants and expanded to include student scholarships. The program now also offers campus and district-wide grants.

“One of our goals is to hopefully expand teacher-grants and since we’ve added student scholarships, we will continue to expand our financial offerings throughout the year,” Mansell said. “The overall reason for the foundation is to provide extra funds for more innovative programs.”

Hess agrees.

“This is our first year to award campus and district-wide grants and because a group of teachers and campuses can apply for the grants, this is the time to benefit from it,” Hess said.

Among the grants funded by the foundation are:

A Calculated Effort to Dunaway Elementary School - $1,998.22 - spring 2002 Weather Station to Northside Elementary School - $1,453.71 - spring 2001 Science Olympics to Waxahachie Junior High - $1,141.65 - spring 2001 GLOBE (Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment) to Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy - $1,827.50 - spring 2003 Emergent Readers for Students to Marvin Elementary School - $1,969.92 - fall 2005 Science Success with Leveled Readers to Wedgeworth Elementary School - $1,000 - spring 2007 Playaway for Reading to Waxahachie High School - $494.89 - fall 2006 Integrating Technology and Literary to Shackelford Elementary School - $2,000 - spring 2004 Reporting Investigative Crime Stories - $2,000 for Turner Middle School - spring 2001 The Winning Catch to all elementary schools, except Marvin - $4,428.80 - for spring 2007

“The Winning Catch grant, which is a character-building grant, was awarded to all elementary schools, except Marvin, and will go into effect this fall,” Sanders said. “This grant will reach every first- through fifth-grade student in WISD.”

The grant - the largest awarded to date - will serve 2,445 students and address specific ways for children to handle bullying, teasing and conflict. When students put these techniques into practice, they will be able to develop the character and social-emotional skills necessary to become responsible, knowledgeable, caring and successful, according to the grant application.

In order to provide such grants and scholarships, foundation board members look to four main avenues of fund-raisers to support their cause.

The fund-raisers include an employee fund drive, which is held in the fall; the annual Festival of Trees, which is set for Nov. 16-17 this year, along with a silent auction; a golf tournament, which is the largest event and held in mid-April; and the Have a Seat Campaign, which occurs year-round at the Fine Arts Center.

Although school is out for summer, board members continue to work diligently for the upcoming year.

“Throughout the summer strategic planning session, we’ve discussed old and new business for our fund-raising avenues,” Sanders said. “We’re trying to control the amount of growth that is taking place here in the community. Our ultimate goal is to enhance the educational experiences and scholastic tools for our district and our students.”

Mansell said the members just want the community to know what they are about.

“We’re just wanting people to know that we are here to volunteer and to support our children and their education,” Mansell said. “These people give up their time and have hearts of a servants.”

For more information, contact the public relations office at (972) 923-4631.

E-mail Chicarra at chicarra.dense@waxahachiedailylight.com