The impact of the partnership between the Bellevue School District and Bellevue Schools Foundation can be felt every day across our schools – in STEM, the arts, project-based and social emotional learning, AVID, VIBES, and more.

“I know it’s making a difference for our students,” Superintendent Tim Mills said.

The Foundation, led by Executive Director Lynn Juniel and the Board of Trustees, provides funding for programs and initiatives districtwide, with investments this year totaling over $1.2 million.

“Our schools are recognized nationally for excellence and innovation,” Juniel said. “Community support drives this achievement. When parents, residents, and businesses partner in support of our students, great things happen. That’s why I’m here every day.”

Rob Lowe has been involved with the Foundation for the past 17 years. He served as treasurer, was a trustee for 10 years — including a term as board president, and, currently serves as a committee member.

Lowe said that one of the things that stands out to him about the Foundation is how closely it works with the district to achieve goals.

“That’s one of the things that impressed me at the beginning and made me want to be a part of the organization,” Lowe said.

A few recent and ongoing areas supported by the Foundation include the Elementary STEM Initiative, the elementary and middle school social emotional learning pilots, the K-12 Computer Science Initiative, providing scholarships for preschoolers, early literacy intervention, and National Board Certification for teachers.

Additionally, each year teachers have the opportunity to apply for smaller classroom or school projects to be funded through the enrichment and innovation grant program which can support things like art projects, field trips, and speaker visits.

“I look at Bellevue Schools Foundation and recognize that for 37 years it has been in existence, and to be able to sustain it and continue to grow in support is really remarkable,” Mills said.

Working Together for Students

The Foundation helps the district narrow the gap between state and federal funding and the education the community desires for its students.

“Even if funding was up to what the state and the legislature thinks would be 100 percent, it still would not take care of the things that our Bellevue schools parents have come to expect,” Juniel said.

The reality of budget constraints means that there isn’t extra funding for things like developing state-of-the-art curriculums, implementing supplemental programs and early interventions. However, such things are possible with Foundation support.

“Through their efforts we are able to fund innovative projects,” Mills said. “In most cases we probably wouldn’t have been able to make that initial investment without some additional support the Foundation gave.”

The process for funding projects like the initiatives begins when Foundation representatives meet with district leadership and discuss the district’s needs and vision. Project leaders are then invited to fill out applications and submit them to the Foundation for formal consideration.

“We work with the school district to bring to life ideas that they can germinate on a small scale and then slowly pick up speed and be expanded outward,” Juniel said.

Community Commitment to Education

Founded in 1979, the Foundation has been a longtime partner in educating the students of Bellevue, providing over $26 million in additional funding thanks to community support and those who volunteer their time with the Foundation as trustees.

“The board of trustees are individuals who have a great commitment to education,” Mills said.

Cathy Habib, a current trustee and vice president of grant making, who has been involved with the Foundation since her children were in elementary school, said she is inspired by seeing Foundation programs in action.

“When kids are engaged and really soaking in learning, I see that as really exciting,” Habib said. “The other thing that inspires me are the teachers and other professionals – those critical staff that we have that are already doing a great job, and the funding allows them to do even more.”

Habib said she joined the board because of the good work the Foundation was doing in helping the district support every student.

“The board of trustees also becomes a way for us to have conversations around the direction of the Foundation and district — strategic thinking about where we want to go in the future, and reflecting on what’s working well for us,” Habib said.

The vision for the future of the Foundation is to double annual program investments in Bellevue schools by 2020.

“It is a big goal, but we know there’s need in the community,” Juniel said. “We want to be in the position to live out our mission every day which is to fund the best possible learning opportunities for every student, in every Bellevue classroom and school, every day.”

By way of example she cited the Enrichment & Innovation Grants program, the committee for which typically receives over $200,000 in requests and has the ability to grant $85-90,000.

As part of growing what the Foundation has to give, Juniel explained that the Foundation is broadening its scope beyond the purely academic to include supporting areas like social emotional learning.

“We want our children to be able to strive, achieve, to have high expectations, but also have balance in their lives,” Juniel said.

Habib said that she first got involved with the Foundation by attending its annual Spring for Schools fundraising event. The event showcases the breadth of impact of the partnership between the Foundation and the district.

“I think one of the most incredible experiences I had was the first time I stepped into the Spring for Schools luncheon,” Mills said. “To look at that room setup for 1,100 people that were there in support of the Foundation and its work, you just don’t see that. It’s phenomenal.”

To learn more about the Bellevue Schools Foundation and its upcoming Spring For Schools fundraiser please visit bellevueschoolsfoundation.org.