Changes on horizon for Ann Arbor educational foundation

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By Lindsay Knake | lknake@mlive.com

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation has several changes on the horizon as the organization reaches its 25th anniversary.

The employees have a new work space and a new mission to become more engaged in the community.

Executive Director Linh Song moved the office from the Dykema Law offices to Workantile on South Main Street in Ann Arbor, keeping the employees close to downtown businesses and in the center of the city, and to work like a startup.

“We’ve changed who we are,” she said. “I want to be part of the community.”

The foundation now has five people on its team, with approximately two and a half full-time employees between them. Part-time employees manage the funds, marketing and program development.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Foundation, started in 1991, has primarily been an organization to give out grants and manage scholarship funds.

But Song wants the foundation to become more than that.

This summer, the foundation hosted a concert and is starting a tradition of hosting educational events.

On Oct. 18, the foundation will sponsor a free screening of the film “Most Likely to Succeed” at the Michigan Theater.

Song also wants to work with parent-teacher organizations and get the word out about what the foundation can do for students.

Grants and scholarship will remain an integral part of the the Ann Arbor educational foundation.

In 24 years, the foundation has given out $1.8 million in grants and scholarships.

Song and foundation recently finished raising $350,000 for STEAM labs at Ann Arbor’s middle schools.

The Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation now has $500,000 in cash and $500,000 in scholarships in partnership with the Ann Arbor Community Foundation.

Those scholarships include money for bus passes, school fees and prom.

“There are ways we help kids literally get to school,” Song said.

In order to better move forward, Song wants to examine trends in how the foundation has spent its money in the past. She’s working with students from the University of Michigan to enter its past teacher grants into a database.

Having the database of information will help the foundation employees find trends and see the bigger picture of what teacher and student needs are.

“We’re hoping for a more critical view of where we’ve missed the boat,” she said. “We just need more data.”

What’s not changing are the Great Idea Grants for Ann Arbor teachers.

The foundation will give about $20,000 total teachers this year.

In November 2014, Song awarded $90,000 in grants because an anonymous donor gave the foundation $100,000.

Song hopes to see continued collaboration between teachers to help more students.

In giving out the grants, the foundation is looking for projects at schools that have fewer resources, such as smaller Parent-Teacher Organization budgets.

There’s a range in PTO budgets at individual schools, from $6,000 to $90,000, she said.

“We can try to address that difference with grants and initiatives,” she said.

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