In today’s news story, I discuss the battle being fought at the Del Mar Union School District over the operations of a nonprofit foundation there.
The controversy revolves around two main issues: the $115,000 paid to the foundation’s executive director; and the close ties between the foundation and the school district — lawyers for the district say they’re an “alter ego” of one another.
Here’s a roundup of how some other education foundations in San Diego compare:
- As reported in my story, the Torrey Pines High School has its own foundation that raises more than $2 million per year for the school. The foundation’s finance manager, Bobbi Karlson, said it spends about $50,000 on two part-time paid staff members.
Until a few months ago, the foundation also had an executive director who was paid $93,000 a year, plus benefits. Karlson said the foundation’s volunteer board has done a good job doing the work of the executive director itself since eliminating the position.
However, she had nothing but good things to say about Maria Olson, the executive director of the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation, the subject of my story.
“She does a lot of hard work, and has been very successful. I think she’s done a great job,” Karlson said. “I know what she’s done there. She’d licked every envelope and put every stamp on every solicitation, and she works very hard.”
The San Dieguito Union High School District provides the foundation with free office space, and both of the foundation’s staff members have district e-mail addresses.
- The San Diego High School Foundation raises less than $100,000 a year, and has an all-volunteer staff. One of the foundation’s founders, Daryl Ferguson, told me the foundation focuses on funding programs the San Diego Unified School District can no longer afford, like athletic teams. It does not provide funds to pay for district or school staff.
She said the foundation is completely independent of the district, but that “the district is well aware of what we’re doing.”
- In Solana Beach, the Foundation for Learning raises about $600,000 for the two elementary schools there. The foundation has a target of raising $300 per student, and the money raised by each school is spent by a special advisory council at that school. Half of each council is made up of parents, and the other is school staff.
The foundation pays a part-time accountant to keep its books, and, until recently, advertised an opening for an executive director. However, that plan was scrapped recently, the foundation’s President Karen Trissel said, and the foundation hired a consultant on a $25,000 contract instead. Trissel expects the consultant will pay for himself by bringing in much more corporate money.
“We’re basically dipping our toes into the water with this consultant,” she said. “We’re really not a huge foundation, so we really want to be careful. While we’re working toward some very lasting goals, we don’t want spend a whole lot of money.”
The district provides free office space for the foundation’s accountant.