The school year at R. Roger Rowe School will start with a new development director to help lead fundraising efforts of the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation.
The Rancho Santa Fe School Board approved the appointment of Barbara Edwards to the position on July 29 at a special board meeting.
“It’s a dream come true, to get to represent something I feel so passionate about,” Edwards said.
Superintendent Lindy Delaney said for the past few years, the foundation has discussed bringing in a development director to help manage the organization.
With the foundation contributing 11 percent to 13 percent of the school’s annual operating budget, said Delaney, “the $1.3 million they have pledged to contribute is critical to what we do.”
Funding from the foundation allows the district to provide “robust” enrichment in certain academic areas, additional support, technological resources and high-caliber teachers. The foundation’s most significant impact is in the area of maintaining small class sizes. Delaney said parents would be happy to know that this year, class sizes in several grades will be 16-17 students per class.
While the district has always had the benefit of “fabulous” parent volunteers to run the foundation, Edwards said, every year they must start from scratch in their efforts and undergo a transition as they understand their roles. This position will provide continuity and allow Edwards to be ambitious in bringing in funds for the annual giving campaign and the endowment.
Edwards first became involved in the Rancho Santa Fe School District in 2006, taking a role on the endowment fund board. She was the vice chairwoman of the fund in 2007 and co-chair in 2008 and 2009. Her four children went through the district and she was last a parent of a student in 2012.
“We love the school and moved here for the school,” she said. “I learned to love and appreciate it even more as a community member. It’s a gem. It’s a key part of this community.”
Edwards also has experience as a parent volunteer on the donor committee at La Jolla Country Day from 2011 to 2013, and last year she was the president of The Bishop’s School Parents Association. In that position, the president also serves a one-year term on the board of trustees.
Delaney did the main interviews with potential development director candidates and brought two finalists to meet with the foundation and endowment board members.
“Barbara possesses all the qualities we were looking for. She is intelligent, hard-working and basically did an internship for the job when she co-chaired the endowment. We felt like she had a great sense of what the school needed,” Delaney said. “She earned the position and we’re grateful. I feel like she is the perfect fit.”
Delaney said Edwards’ best quality is her ability to understand the big picture and have a clear direction on what to do.
Edwards said being on “both sides of the ask” gives her the perspective to appreciate all facets of the situation.
The foundation hasn’t changed that much since Edwards has been away, although the grant has grown from $800,000 to $1.3 million.
“Fundraising is always a challenge, but I feel like the value proposition of this school is so solid,” she said. “I’m very confident that we can meet our goals.”
Edwards will be working with five foundation groups: the parent volunteer team, annual giving, marketing, finance and endowment teams. Each group has a chair and a vice chair, all parent volunteers.
The foundation changed its leadership structure last year amid some concerns about parent involvement, with some parents even advocating the return of a parent-teacher organization.
“This school district has always had very involved, very passionate parents and we benefit greatly from that,” Edwards said. “I think the new structure will do really well and serve everybody.”
Delaney said the foundation is working on parent forums, hosting speakers, workshops and discussions to promote collaboration and allow the parents feel like their voices are being heard.
“All indications are that everyone is feeling really happy and positive for the year, because at the heart of it, we’re doing what’s best for the kids,” Edwards said.
The Sept. 25 Red Envelope Day will be the first event of the foundation’s annual giving campaign. Edwards said they hope to get half of the school families to make a pledge to contribute.
All parents are also invited to the foundation’s Back to School Coffee event at 9:10 a.m. Monday, Aug. 24, in the Performing Arts Center courtyard. At 9:30 a.m., the gathering will move to the center for an introduction of the administration and comments from Delaney.
For information on how to get involved, visit rsfef.org.