BY RICK SCHULTE
It’s no secret many school districts — including the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District —have had to roll up their sleeves and come up with creative means for funding. That’s because traditional revenue sources have had less to offer in recent years.
The Woodhaven-Brownstown Education Foundation has grown to become as innovative as the projects it helps to fund. While many items are covered through annual funding, there are some items geared toward adding to the educational experience.
“That’s what we really focus in on, the unique and the innovative,” Woodhaven-Brownstown Superintendent Mark Greathead said. “Our teachers, administrators, even coaches, we give them the opportunity to apply for grant to enhance what we may already have in place.”
The foundation raises money for a wide variety of causes. For instance, it supports the school-to-home reading initiative in the elementary schools. At the higher level, it helps fund the high school’s successful robotics program. And at all levels, it has helped create community gardens.
A good example of how it works can be found with the high school’s broadcasting club, which creates daily announcements and news updates. Now it has the ability to do even more.
“We got them a drone to help with their production,” Greathead said. “Absolutely, they have what they need for daily programming. But we do our best to meet the wish lists. That’s the best way of putting it.”
Seeking partnerships with local businesses is a big part of the program’s success. Last year, the grand reopening of a Kroger supermarket in Brownstown Township offered up proceeds to the district. Another example: MOD Pizza in Woodhav-en raised more than $6,100, hosting a “pay what you want” fundraiser.
Not only does this help the district, but can prove to be a good introduction to businesses as they come into a new community.
“We are thrilled to have partnered with an organization that plays a critical role in enriching the lives of the residents of Woodhaven and the surrounding area,” said Jake Schostak, brand leader for MOD Pizza.
In the spring comes the foundation’s annual Signature Event. For the third year in a row, it will take place at Crystal Gardens in Southgate.
“We recognize all of our sponsors and business partners, that do business with the school district and within the community,” Greathead said. “But it also serves as a fundraiser.”
Matt Czajkowski, principal at Woodhaven High School, admits it’s an event that keeps getting bigger and better each year.
“The Signature Event has grown into a great night for our community,” he said. “It takes a lot of hard work and effort to pull off such a large event but the benefits for the employees in our district are tremendous. Each year, staff members can apply for grants to help their classrooms and programs.
“I know at Woodhaven High School we have been fortunate enough to have 10 to 15 staff members receive various grants over the last couple of years. These grants help enhance the experience at WHS for our students.”
The buy-in was great; more than 100 gift baskets offered a wide range of prizes, created by teachers, administrators, parent-teacher groups and others. Greathead also noted he’s fortunate “to have a couple of fantastic people that oversee the foundation,” which includes Cara Pimer, who serves as president.
More than 400 attendees participated in last year’s Signature Event, which raised more than $110,000. There were more than 200 raffles, with more than 175 businesses donating to the event. Also, a live auction included many items made in the WHY welding and woodshop labs.
Six years ago, there were 4,800 students in the district. Today, the number is more than 5,300.
“We try to provide an educational experience that meets everybody’s needs, and we have great facilities,” Greathead said. “Also, we have everything from our advanced placement programs to our career tech programs. Really, we have something for everyone.”
That has helped create a district that has produced favorable results for its parents, too. Geri Theobald has put three children through the school district, including Jacob, a senior at WHS.
“I’m glad the community supports our schools,” she said. “I’m very happy with the district, mainly because of the amazing teachers who have given my children a quality education and introduced them, as well as myself, to some amazing new experiences and viewpoints.”
To learn more about the Foundation, go to www.woodhaven.k12.mi.us/district/education_foundation.