Twice a year – in fall and spring, the Sisters Schools Foundation (SSF) provides a financial shot in the arm to school programs that don’t get adequate funding through cash-strapped general budget.

“There are significant needs that come forth every year that the budget can’t address when you have continual cuts,” said SSF chair Julie York.

The board of directors for the nonprofit foundation is getting set to review the requests recently sent in by teachers and program directors from all three public schools.

While the board must determine how dollars are allocated, they aren’t sitting in judgment of the validity of requests or deciding what gets funded based on their own preferences.

“One of the things we try to do is support the priorities of the administration and staff,” said board member Treasure Lewis. “It’s not our place to decide what’s important.”

In the past, SSF has funded a ceramics firing kiln; P.E. equipment; 8th-grade retreat; 6th-grade writing curriculum; and outdoor school. The foundation has purchased iPads and Chromebooks to meet classroom technology requirements. Sometimes the foundation fully funds a request; sometimes there is only partial funding. In such cases, foundation members can often provide guidance for where a requesting teacher can seek additional funding.

The bulk of the foundation’s funds come from the Starry Nights Concert Series. Economic shifts and changes in the music industry have made staging those fundraising concerts more challenging and reduced the annual revenue the foundation can reap from them.

Still, the board is quick to thank the Starry Nights Committee for continuing to provide a vehicle for significant fundraising. They also singled out Hoodoo Mountain Resort, which donated $50,000 to the foundation despite facing a couple of very tough years due to low snowfall.

Individual donations are another critical source of funds. Those donations can be made to the foundation generally or targeted to certain programs the donor wishes to support. Since it’s an all-volunteer organization, the SSF has extremely low overhead; virtually 100 percent of donated funds go to programs.

The more funds the foundation raises, the more programs can be supported and the more robust the funding support can be.

“We would love to be able to fund 100 percent of the requests our teachers give us,” Lewis said.

York notes that support from the community, through the Sisters Schools Foundation, has enabled Sisters to maintain a rich educational environment despite dire economic circumstances.

“Those are programs that, if you look across the state, have all been cut,” she said.

Because of donated support, there are “incredible, enriched education programs here.”

Donations can be made to SSF at Sisters Schools Foundation, P.O. Box 2155, Sisters, OR 97759 or there is a PayPal link at the foundation’s website, which can be found through

Originally published by The Nugget Newspaper, October 13, 2015
by Jim Cornelius, News Editor
Click here to read the original story.