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Firms mull school aid

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — A handful of Triangle companies are talking with area superintendents about pooling support for public schools.

At a meeting in March convened by Orage Quarles, publisher of The News & Observer, officials of four firms met with four superintendents, who were invited to identify key needs the firms might fund.

“Maybe there is a project we all have a common interest in,” Quarles says, and “a larger pool of money over a longer period of time could give us the benefits we all desire.”

The meeting included officials of Capitol Broadcasting, Duke Energy and SAS Institute, and the superintendents of the Wake, Durham, Johnston and Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. A representative of Progress Energy could not attend.

“The schools are going to get together and hopefully come up with two or three programs that they all can benefit from and give it back to us and we’ll sit down and see what we can do,” Quarles says.

He hopes to get proposals from the superintendents soon, and decisions by the companies in May.

Improving literacy will be a big focus of The N&O’s philanthropy, says Quarles, noting that roughly one in four persons in a typical U.S. community cannot read.

After supporting varied causes for many years, The N&O two years ago created a grants committee and has focused on supporting education, the arts and economic development.

The News & Observer Publishing Co., a subsidiary of Sacramento-based McClatchy, contributes roughly $375,000 a year to community causes, plus about $625,000 worth of free advertising, says Paul Brown, an N&O editorial writer and grants committee chair.

Because of previous cash pledges, the company already has commitments for $80,000 this year, $45,000 next year and $25,000 in 2005, Brown says.

He says he hopes the grants committee will survey corporate-giving levels by other Triangle firms and by newspapers in other communities to find out whether The N&O should increase its giving.

He also will propose that the company consider providing financial incentives to encourage giving and volunteering by the company’s 1,150 employees.

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