A Heartfelt Thank You and a Look Ahead
As we head into one of the last true summer weekends, it seems appropriate to thank the many people who have been responsible for the successful launch of the new Rural Schools Collaborative.
Thank you to the volunteers who have served as board members and advocates! Thank you to a handful of donors who “invested” in an untested concept with no guarantee of success! Thank you to the nearly 70 teachers who submitted applications to what must have seemed a “newfangled” Grants in Place program with an unrealistic submission timeline! And special thanks to the hundreds of folks who have supported us through our website and social media! We certainly realize our early accomplishments have been modest, but we know with equal certainty that what success we have had is because of you!
So, it with this sense of gratitude that we share our first-year accomplishments:
- Held a June 2014 meeting in St. Louis, where participants discussed the need for a "rural school and community" organization that "thinks otherwise." Since that time board members have been integrally involved in the planning and subsequent launch of the Collaborative.
- Incorporated, received our 501-c-3 status, and formalized our board of directors and operational bylaws in the fall of 2014.
- Designed, developed and went online with our website and comprehensive social media effort. This has been well received, and we are reaching more and more people every week. Our online presence is committed to telling the stories of teachers and advocates who are innovative, entrepreneurial, and committed to their respective communities. (Thank you to Cricket Design Works of Madison, Wisconsin for the stellar creative work and technical support!)
- Announced and completed a very successful Grants in Place program, which garnered almost 70 applications from 11 different states. Thanks to several matching contributions, we were able to award nearly $30,000 in grants to 35 teachers from 7 states.
- Provided technical assistance to grassroots rural efforts in South Dakota, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and Arkansas.
- Established partnerships with organizations in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Missouri. This cost-effective approach promotes a decentralized structure where the work remains as “local” as possible.
Admittedly, we are excited by our early progress, but developing a national voice for the bonds between rural schools and communities will require much work. To this end, the board adopted an action plan at our July 2015 board meeting in Ste. Genevieve, Mo. This blueprint will guide the Rural Schools Collaborative during the coming year:
- Increase annual charitable contributions to RSC to the $100,000 level.
- Secure needed match dollars to increase Grants in Place funding to more than $30,000.
- Significantly enhance online and social media engagement by increasing all current media numbers by 200%.
- Formalize the addition of at least three higher education or nonprofit partners.
- Award at least four capacity building/partnership grants.
- Develop a signature event in conjunction with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ annual Rural Rendezvous.
- Complete a plan to launch a cadre of “emerging teacher-leaders.”
In addition to the action plan, the board of directors elected new officers, added a board member, and appointed an administrative director. Officers for 2015-16 are:
David Ardrey, Carbondale, IL, chairman; Renee Carr, Fox, AR, vice-chairman; Joshua Gibb, Galesburg, IL, secretary; and Julie Leeth, Springfield, MO, treasurer. James Beddow of Sioux Falls, S.D. will be the newest board member, and Gary Funk of Cambridge, WI will serve as RSC director and as an ex-officio member of the board.