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549 Family maps strategy in battle for more Perham school funding

Bolstered by a new name, new money and a renewed focus, the 549 Family Foundation is setting its sights on new goals and objectives.

Recent activity has built the foundation's enthusiasm--including a $100,000 donation, a strategic planning retreat, and a raffle campaign.

To reinforce the name, the foundation is simplifying its title to simply "549 Family."

The entire 549 Family's seven-member advisory board had a retreat May 1, which also included Superintendent Tamara Uselman, school board member Mike Hamann and 549 Family members Tina and Jason Reed and Carol Wilkowski.

Discussion included evaluation of 549 Family's structure, its function and relationship with the school district, its vision within the community, the future of the foundation and setting short- and long-range goals.

The most significant long-range goal was for the organization to become self-sustaining, so funds can be granted from the interest generated on the foundation's principal, according to 549 Family director Jo Strege. The board is in the process of setting annual goals to reach that objective.

Short-range goals include increasing the number of board members to better distribute tasks and to increase community involvement--benefiting the school, the community and the future of both, said Strege.

"More Than Nothing" is the current battle cry for 549 Family and supporters of the Perham school district. The campaign was developed in the months following the failure of the November 2008 levy referendum. The school was seeking about $1 million a year in operating revenue through the levy, but instead, "got nothing" when it was defeated by more than a 2-1 margin. Hence, the name and the goal to raise "More Than Nothing" in local contributions to preserve educational programs.

Grants awarded by 549 Family in 2008-09 will total as much as $17,000. A total of 23 grants have been approved, ranging from $5,000 toward the high school agri-business program's greenhouse project, to $250 for an elementary class trip to the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge (see accompanying list.)

"More Than Nothing" has taken aim at raising $200,000 by September 1, 2009 to save several programs for the 2009-2010 school year.

Currently, the MTN balance stands at approximately $110,000 including the $100,000 gift from Kim and Kenny Nelson and family, and KLN Enterprises. The Nelson donation is earmarked for teacher retention. Some of the things that would be saved with these funds are class size (saved through retaining teacher positions), a much needed upgrade for basic lab & research materials for the 7-12 Science Department which could help keep students adequately prepared for college in the sciences, and other important programs which face reductions if new funds are not found.

There is a plan to raise the remaining $90,000 of the $200,000 goal. Among the plans:

---A 1,000 to 2,000 piece mailing completed before mid-June.

---Two 7th grade girls, Samie Roses and Selona Christianson, are spearheading a car wash May 23 at Service Foods from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. as a MTN fundraiser. They will be asking for a free will offering to MTN.

---Car raffle sales continue. The car has been on display at Dairy Queen, and will be featured at several different locations in the coming weeks. It will be at Mulligan's for a week starting May 18. On May 24, it will be at the pre- and post-graduation. Starting May 25, it will be at Sorella's for a week. The car will be parked at Mulligan's for the Chamber golf tournament May 29; and at the Chamber offices for a week, starting June 1--for the opening of the turtle race season.

Tickets are available at Marlo Motors, Sorella's, United Community Bank, Mulligan's, Chamber, PHS Admin. Office, from school board members, 549 Family board members, and district principals. Cost is $20 each. There are also 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes, in addition to the car give-away.

The winners will be drawn at the half-time of the Homecoming football game Sept. 25.