WESTFIELD, NJ – An open workshop was held during Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting to further discuss the goal of hiring a director of development who focuses on coordinating alumni and fundraising.
The position and its requirements are still hazy, as the board admitted that many questions were asked on Monday night during a committee meeting regarding the topic.
“We had alumni from Westfield and representatives from the PTC attend last night’s meeting,” Superintendent Margaret Dolan said. “We do not have the expertise. We have experience, and we have studied it and this is something that is very different. We had more questions than answers.”
Board members agreed the idea of a director for public school funding is very new in many other education districts across the country, and the motion cannot be rushed.
Christopher Langhart, who attended the meeting on Monday, explained the troubles of finding a starting point for the entire mission, and whether or not to pitch projects or a job description first.
Brendan Galligan suggested a role that would somehow not compete with the Education Fund of Westfield, as he believes it suffers from a lack of volunteers.
Since severe budget cuts in 2010, New Jersey schools have struggled to operate with sufficient costs and look to outside sources as a result.
Currently, the Westfield Board of Education receives donations that are allocated for certain improvements, such as computers, according to Dana Sullivan. However, she said that if the board would accept funds from sources for unspecified reasons, it would need to establish a sort of trust fund and then distribute them somehow.
The director position would be self-funded and paid through the operating budget.
The blurry topic became a bit more clear as board members agreed on realities of the proposed job, noting that the 25,000 alumni of Westfield Public Schools are indeed an untapped resource.
In preparing for the position, a guiding change document was issued and unacceptable means were suggested. Gretchen Ohlig said that the position will have dual goals of networking and fundraising, with projects, endowment and grants at the helm of spending.
The position is unlikely to be filled until the next BOE budget is approved in April 2016, and Mark Friedman advised the other members to take all the time needed before making a hire.
“We ought to find a happy balance, get a good start, and be aggressive with a good idea,” he said.
The board concluded the workshop in agreement of setting scheduled dates for more workshops and accepted free consultation from a Council of New Jersey Grantmakers member who offered free support.