Schoolpower’s Strategic Options

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Editor,

We all owe thanks to Robin Rounaghi for five years of upbeat boosterism in our schools (“Schoolpower Leader to Assist in Filling Her Own Shoes” Indy Mar. 17).

But is “filling her shoes” the best way to build on Schoolpower’s long-term success? Similar non-profits in comparable school districts experimented with both volunteer and salaried directors, finding both models have strengths and weaknesses.

Salaried staff provides continuity, but disproportionately high overhead diverts donations from teachers and students in the classroom to the non-profit corporate boardroom. Yet, under both volunteer and paid staff models actual community wide fundraising donation levels typically are about the same.

That’s why school districts found overhead costs comparable to major national charities unjustified, returning to original volunteer-led models.  One model for continuity is a two-year, volunteer co-director, supported by a paid CPA to ensure compliance and transparency.

Several parents have reported Schoolpower posts tax returns, but does not breakdown salaries and expenses.  If a detailed annual report is not public it should be.

Tax returns indicate Rounaghi probably was paid at least $500,000 and Schoolpower incurred $250,000 in entertainment and other overhead expenses during her tenure. Schoolpower should thank parents trying to understand its finances and respectfully set the record straight so the public does not have to speculate.

Certainly, the public needs to know if up to 20% of our donations have been “for the adults” instead of “for the kids.”

LBUSD is a small school district funded directly by local property taxes, making it one of the most affluent statewide and nationally. We’re not beholden to Sacramento or Washington for funding excellent schools with students able at a high rate to meet most state and national academic standards.

Even without Schoolpower’s generous and gratefully accepted support, LBUSD annual spending per student is almost double that of most public school systems in the county, state and nation.

So our parents should be spared high-pressure fundraising tactics, linking good schools to high real estate values, or extolling privileged “private school” experience not available in other public schools.

Schoolpower donates around one half of one percent of school costs borne by taxpayers.  However managed, Schoolpower should return to its original mission as a small town volunteer organization demonstrating community support by augmenting but not disproportionately influencing public school policy or programs.

Howard Hills, Laguna Beach

Correction:

The letter to the editor, “Schoolpower’s strategic options” in the May 11 edition included factual errors. Over the past five years, SchoolPower’s executive director earned $65,000 to $75,000 annually, with bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each year. SchoolPower staff annual “entertainment” expenses range from $100 to $500.

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