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home : education : schools May 23, 2016

6/17/2014 1:33:00 PM
Volunteers will shine a light on Sisters schools
By John Griffith

A group of local volunteers has organized to tell the story of Sisters schools in hopes of drawing more students here. Sisters schools are funded on a per-student basis; increasing enrollment is the school district's best hope of climbing out of a deep budget hole.

In mid-March the Sisters School District held a well-attended community forum/school board meeting at Sisters High School to discuss the district's impending budget shortfall. At that time the shortfall was estimated to be about $800,000 for the 2013-2014 school year.

In the intervening months, various groups of volunteers and local organizations have come together in a variety of configurations to try to come up with some short-term and longer-term solutions to the budget challenges.

One such group has coalesced into a working group focused on putting together the definitive story on what makes Sisters schools exceptional. Working off volunteered effort and some anonymous financial contributions, this group is now in the position to produce some tangible results.

They are mounting a significant effort to pull together the Sisters schools story, and to get it out to current parents students and potential community volunteers, and to make the information easy to access for potential parents and students.

The district's unique programs such as IEE, the Americana Project, Flight Science, Entrepreneurship, Fire Science, STEM, KZSO community radio, the luthier program, culinary arts, Chinese/Mandarin language instruction and health science will be highlighted.

Community partnerships that include SPRD, Sisters Science Club, Sisters Folk Festival, Sisters Eagle Airport, Sister-Camp Sherman RFPD, FivePine Lodge, Aspen Lakes Golf Course, the Deschutes County Farm Bureau and many others will also be featured.

With the school district's blessing, this group will be working with district staff in adding to, expanding, and upgrading the district's website to allow simple' user-friendly access to all the special programs offered by the district that makes it unique. The state-produced district performance report cards and statistics will also be highlighted.

Later this summer the group will be placing "brag boards" within the schools and in key high-traffic areas around Sisters Country. It is envisioned that these student-focused "brag boards" will also be included in trade show displays and conferences.

The volunteers are also putting together printed materials to be available at various venues around Sisters Country such as the chamber of commerce, city hall, restaurants, hotels and major sporting events in the area. These full-color brochures, tri-folds, and rack-cards can also serve as mailers.

This initial effort is being supported by donated time and material from local organizations such as the Sisters Schools Foundation, the Sisters Folk Festival, and the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce. Local citizen volunteers include Wes Lawrence, Erin Borla, Jon Renner, Gary Wehrle and Debbie Newport.

The group will also be conducting a fundraising campaign to underwrite the salary for a permanent PR person to continue to ferret out and present to the world all the things that make an education in Sisters unique and special.

An anonymous donor has made the first contribution toward this permanent PR effort by arranging for a matching-fund grant of up to $10,000. Every dollar contributed will be matched dollar-for-dollar by this donor. Contributions can be made through the Sisters Schools Foundation, P.O. Box 2155, Sisters, OR 97759.

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