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Schools drive launched

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Wake Education Partnership in Raleigh has begun its annual fund drive and scrubbed plans for a capital campaign that could have totaled $15 million.

Instead of beginning its annual drive with a quiet phase in July and a public kickoff in January, the group this year opted to forego a public kickoff and instead begin active fundraising right away, says Bob Saffold, who joined the group as president in July.

The goal for the drive, chaired by John McKinney, director of corporate and external affairs for BellSouth, totals $1.14 million, up from $1 million a year ago.

The partnership also decided not to pursue a capital campaign it had been considering to raise money to build its endowment, support its teaching-quality initiative and fund programs and a home for the leadership academy for teachers, principals and administrators it runs in partnership with the Wake County public schools.

“I think the bottom line is that when the campaign was launched, the economy was not in such a great state of affairs, and so there was not adequate progress that warranted continued pursuit of that strategy,” says Saffold, former senior associate for the Public Education Network in Washington, D.C.

Three strategic goals for this year, he says, are to provide leadership and professional development for teachers, principals and school-system administrators; help the community better understand and get more involved in the schools; and conduct research and advocacy to spur improvements demanded by the community.

Key challenges facing the schools, he says, include managing growth and overcrowding, and meeting community goals that all students grow academically and that 95 percent of students in all grades achieve at or above grade level on end-of-grade tests by 2008.

Other top priorities are to assess the partnership’s own priorities, and to strengthen the county’s high schools, says Saffold, a former classroom teacher and central office administrator in Marion, S.C., and former program director for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Education Network in Tennessee.

Improving high schools, he says, is critical to reaching the community’s student-achievement goals for 2008, and the goals of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that all students score at or above proficiency in reading and language arts by 2014.

“The issues around what are we going to do to create high schools that are more personalized, that work well for kids, and prepare them for lifelong learning and the world of work,” he says, “is a priority in the national education reform community.”

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