Edmonton Catholic Schools has established a new foundation aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of Catholic education.
"Our mission is to raise public awareness concerning the benefits of, and to enhance the funding for, Catholic education in the city of Edmonton. That is our overriding goal," said Owen Edmondson, chairman of the Edmonton Catholic Schools Foundation.
The foundation exists to raise funds with integrity through all available channels while assuring sound financial management.
The foundation sought concerned Catholics who are actively involved in the community to be its founders. Those founders are Edmondson, Dr. Mona-Lee Feehan, Rosanna Saccomani, Father Jozef Wroblewski and Henry Yip. Sharon Maclean is project consultant.
The foundation says young people are a valued treasure and the future leaders of the city. With that in mind, it wants to provide an exceptional education experience for students, one that is both Catholic and of the highest academic quality.
A five-to-15-member volunteer policy governing board with fundraising experience is proposed to determine the long-term direction of the organization.
The foundation has been advertising for an executive director. This person would be responsible for implementing the board's policies, management of the daily operations, and being the public face of the foundation. This person would also play a key role in determining which programs to fund.
"We're still early in the process. First of all, how do we raise funds? Next, how are we going to distribute those funds?" asked Edmondson.
"As a foundation, we don't think we are going to be active as a service provider. It's going to be more of a situation where the school board or possibly some other agency comes along with a program, and if we think it enhances our objectives, we will fund that program."
Edmondson has worked 32 years with ATCO in the finance and regulatory area. Apart from being a graduate of Edmonton Catholic Schools, he has no direct involvement with the school district.
The annual cost of operating the foundation is estimated at $250,000. For this first year, an additional $50,000 is set aside to incorporate the foundation, create and print marketing material, and to launch its website.
"We will look at a full range of fundraising techniques. We will consider everything from planned giving to quite possibly special events, legacy giving, and those kinds of things," said Edmondson.
"There are quite a few alumni in the city that went to Catholic schools, and we think those who speak fondly of Edmonton Catholic Schools would be willing to donate too."
He anticipates that current students and their parents will also want to contribute to the foundation. Individual schools may host fundraising events as well. At this stage, raising funds through casinos is not part of the foundation's plans.
"Our hope and desire is that this becomes an independent, self-standing foundation, and is able to fund additional services and programs for the Catholic school district in their three areas of focus," said Edmondson.
The three areas of focus that the distribution of funds will be guided by are: enhanced Catholic identity, community of service and communications.
"We are going to look at ways to sustain and support the Catholic message within the Catholic schools in a manner that resonates with educators, the students and their parents," said Edmondson. "We don't want to become a social service agency, but teachers and principals deal with children on a day-to-day basis, and often see needs for some kind of relief for individual students or their families."
Thus, the foundation could serve as a source for those students and their families who have "fallen between the cracks." Another key component is communications, through which the foundation will strive to celebrate Catholic education and its successes. The foundation will foster relationships with the public by serving as a bridge for advocacy on behalf of Catholic education.
"There are not many school districts in Canada that can brag that it has had a graduate of one of its schools go on to become the governor of the Bank of Canada and the governor of the Bank of England (Mark Carney).
"We have a number of Rhodes scholars that we have seen come through our Catholic system, and obviously a number of doctors and lawyers, to say nothing of the clergy who have come through our Catholic school board," Edmondson said. "We need to celebrate these successes, and share them with the public."