Southwestern Education Dept. Provides $20K For Upgrade

The Southwestern Central School District has received a major boost in the way of technological advancement.

The district’s technology department has received a donation in the amount of $20,000 from the Southwestern Schools Education Foundation.

Since its creation in 2004, the foundation has been collecting money from both private and public sectors in order to fulfill the financial needs of the SWCS district.

According to Lori Radack, president of the Southwestern Schools Education Foundation, the foundation essentially works on a first-come, first-serve basis to provide departments of the district with their upgrade requests.

“People send us letters of interest, and we try to do our best to accommodate those who need our help,” said Radack.

“In 2011, the technology department came and told us that they were way behind and that (the students) were not prepared for the real world when it comes to the technology that was available to them. So each of the schools on campus presented a list to the board of education of technology upgrades, because state aid provides practically zero funding for technology.”

This request launched the most recent of the foundation’s fundraisers, a project called “Technology Rocks!” The fundraiser, which originally set a goal of $50,000, ended up bringing in $20,000 over an 18-month period. According to Radack, the district was still quite pleased with the amount raised.

“I think that $50,000 was kind of a lofty goal, but the school was still happy with the $20,000,” she said. “We went for about 18 months because we figured, at that point, we’re as close as we’re going to get and people get tapped out.”

The funds raised through “Technology Rocks!” will be split between all three schools in the district. The first $15,000 given was used to purchase 50 desktop computers – 25 for both the elementary and middle schools – and nine SmartBoard systems for the high school, including the accompanying software.

According to Radack, the remaining $5,000 was given approximately two weeks ago and its purpose is yet to be determined.

In order to raise money, the education foundation is utilizing social networking websites and its partnership with the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, through which the foundation helped to provide approximately $500,000 for the construction of a new football field.

“Social networking is helpful, so we use Facebook when we can,” said Radack. “And, as part of the Community Foundation, we can go to a lot of their other foundations (for assistance). We approached everybody – foundations, businesses, community members and alumni. We do a lot of mailings because we have access to a huge alumni database.”

She added: “We also get a feedback form to send out because we like to know how we’re doing, and how people think the process went. Both the Community Foundation and the board of education have to approve how the money (raised) is going to be spent.”

In addition to departmental demands, the Education Foundation does provide consistent funding in the form of grants.

“Every year, we give $1,000 to a teacher that has an out-of-the-box idea, and we choose the one that we think is the most innovative and will reach the most kids,” said Radack. “We also give two $250 scholarships to graduating seniors who most exemplify what the foundation stands for.”

According to Radack, the foundation has provided the district with approximately $750,000 in funding since 2004 – to the benefit of the schools, the students and the educators. This figure includes the $500,000 football field project.