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The new model

Submitted by on 1, September 11, 2008 – 2:45 pmNo Comment

When Brooke Briggance and her husband, Bram, did a consulting workshop on strategy and vision for the Alameda Education Foundation a little over a year ago, they found an organization that she thought was heading in the wrong direction. Its board was bloated, its fundraisers lost money, and its other strategies for raising funds were, she thought, not viable.

“I found I disagreed with them a lot,” she said of the session that day.

On that morning, just weeks before the start of the school year, director Kris Murray announced her resignation, and Briggance tossed her hat in the ring for the job. Since taking over last September, she has built AEF into a force for education in Alameda – and she’s working to make it a new model for educational foundations nationwide.

Traditionally, education foundations have focused on raising money for their local schools, no more, no less. But Briggance doesn’t feel that this approach best serves schools. Instead, she’s pushing a three-pronged approach for these foundations to pursue: fundraising, plus educating the public on often complicated school issues and advocating in Sacramento and beyond for a better shake for schools.

Alameda, she thought, would be the perfect place to test such an approach: It is demographically and educationally diverse, and socially, there is a fault line down the center of town that desperately needs bridging. Briggance thought she’d have two years to get her new approach up and running. But when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced plans to make massive cuts to education in January, that all changed.

Over the past year, Briggance has worked all three prongs of her plan to keep local schools funded in the face of yet-to-be-determined state budget cuts. AEF launched a campaign that captured the attention of local residents and major, mainstream press in an effort to highlight the importance of adequate school funding. They educated groups all over the Island about the vagaries of school funding in California. And Briggance put out a strategic plan for long-term change.

She’s also taken her pitch to a number of state and national organizations, in an effort to publicize the new model. “We need policy change. And we need a coalition to make that happen,” she said.

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Briggance: Some have questioned the organization and its motives, and the Measure H parcel tax the group championed to fill a projected $4 million budget gap for next year is the subject of a pair of lawsuits. But Briggance says her group is only out to help the Island’s underfunded schools, in ways the district can’t help itself. Says Briggance:

“AUSD is an underfunded district, and as such it needs its community’s support more than ever. Supporting the Foundation means that Alameda can be reassured everything is being done to advocate for change on the state level; the community has access to information it would otherwise be left without; and will have grant writers working on finding necessary revenue to meet the needs of students.”

Right now she’s researching a plan to make Keep Alameda Schools Excellent, which led the charge for the Measure H parcel tax, a sister organization. That, she thinks, will help her group advocate in a more decisive manner. And she hopes her organization can provide more leadership on local school issues, and more money for schools.

And of course, she’s got a host of local fundraising efforts: She’s seeking $25,000 for an audit that would allow AEF to pursue much larger grants; $42,000 for community outreach and education; donations for a host of specific programs the schools need.

Wanna help? Click the Alameda Education Foundation hyperlink here.

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