What is Mountain Education Foundation?
Mountain Education Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit public education foundation dedicated to serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade at Thrasher, Nolan and Signal Mountain/Middle High School. MEF is an advocate for all of the Signal Mountain schools. MEF gives the Signal Mountain community a unified voice with the school district and works to ensure our schools are well funded and the needs in our schools are adequately addressed.
To learn more about MEF, visit Our Role
What is MEF’s Mission?
Check out our Mission, Vision and Values
Does MEF fund teachers?
Yes. MEF currently pays the salaries for 13 staff positions at Nolan, Thrasher and Signal Mountain Middle/High Schools. The staff positions funded by MEF are:
- Melanie Lindgren (PT Reading Intervention/Nolan)
- Kathy Taylor (PT Math Intervention/Nolan)
- Kathie Nolan (PT Art/Nolan)
- Kellie Robison (PT Computer/Nolan)
- Bridgette Coloma (PT/Nolan)
- Jennifer Cisto (PT/STEM Lab)
- Nancy Stagmaier (20-30 hours Art/Thrasher)
- Ricky McEvoy (30 hour Technology/Thrasher)
- Susan Skaggs (PT Reading Intervention/Thrasher)
- Vanessa Dexter (PT Braindance/Thrasher)
- Leslie Wilson (FT Learning Center Coordinator/SMMHS)
- Sandy Mitchum (FT College Access Advisor/SMMHS)
Plus, MEF pays stipends for teachers who spend many hours, outside of the standard work week, working with students and leading clubs or programs such as technology, robotics, and dramatics.
What else does MEF fund besides teachers?
MEF supports our schools in many ways and paying the above-mentioned staff salaries is only one example. MEF also helps to supplement our public schools’ technology needs. In this regard, money raised by MEF has purchased iPads, computers, Chrome boos and Chrome book carts, Promethean boards, 3-D printers, STEM lab supplies, robotics supplies and supplies for various school clubs.
MEF has also supported the professional development needs at our Signal Mountain public schools. MEF funds have paid for in-house professional development programs, workshops, outside conferences, travel and substitute teachers (while Signal Mountain teachers attend professional development programs).
In addition, MEF provides funds for student activities, including but not limited to, ACT testing for 9th and 10th graders, college preparation workshops, Youth in Government and Model UN programs, and in-house field trips. MEF has also helped to fund various clubs, rising 6th grade activities and senior recognition programs, as requested by the school.
Lastly, MEF helped to facilitate an ongoing relationship with TVA and helped to fund both Nolan and Thrasher’s STEM labs, a greenhouse at Thrasher, and a theatre lighting project at SMMHS. MEF has also purchased subscriptions for various educational software programs utilized by our students including Fastt Math and IXL math and language arts programs.
What would happen if MEF did not fund these positions and programs?
The Signal Mountain public schools would either need to eliminate these positions and programs or find alternative funding. At this time, the Signal Mountain public schools do not receive enough money from HCDE to fund all these existing positions and programs.
Does MEF fund IB?
The majority of SMMHS’s IB funding comes from HCDE; however, MEF does provide additional support as requested. Routinely, MEF supports the IB scholarship program for students who cannot afford the testing fees and the IB pinning ceremony. Last year, MEF funded a one-day professional development training program in IB for the SMMHS teachers.
Does MEF fund sports, theatre, and band?
Although MEF does not directly fund sports, theatre and band, MEF does several things annually to help support the efforts of the booster clubs for these valuable programs. For example, MEF provides bookkeeping and administrative support as needed to the Sports Boosters and Theatre Boosters. MEF allows individuals and corporations to make designated donations to all booster clubs, which is especially significant for large donors who require tax exemption receipts. Additionally, MEF helps to coordinate an annual audit for our booster organizations at a significantly reduced cost.
How does MEF raise money for these projects?
MEF runs an annual campaign from August 1 – May 31 each year. This annual campaign consists of an annual mailing campaign, text drives, social media appeals, plus three fundraisers: The Celebration for Education, the Mountain Mingle, and the Dash & Bash. In addition, MEF makes personal appeals to major givers, writes grants and establishes corporate relationships for the sole purpose of increasing monetary support for our schools.
How does MEF determine which projects to fund?
Each year, the MEF Board of Directors evaluates our past fundraising campaigns and our future needs. Based upon this evaluation, a budget is set for the upcoming school year and a total allocation amount is approved. The approved budget is the designated amount that MEF must raise to support the schools in the coming year.
The school principals and PTA/PTSA presidents then prepare an annual allocation proposal that outlines how the money will be utilized at each school. It is up to the principals and PTA/PTSA presidents to request MEF funds and to determine the most effective use of those funds. To assist in preparing these requests, the MEF Advisory Board, comprised of the Signal Mountain school principals, PTA/PTSA representatives, and community members meets, discusses and evaluates opportunities and programs that might be beneficial to the Signal Mountain schools. The feedback gained from the Advisory Board helps to assist our Signal Mountain principals and PTA/PTSA presidents as they prepare their annual allocation proposals.
Are there needs at our schools that are not funded by MEF?
Yes, there remain many unfunded needs and opportunities at the Signal Mountain public schools. The following list illustrates some of the programs and staff requests that have been made by our principals, and supported by our Advisory Board. Unfortunately, at this time MEF cannot fund these projects, due to current financial limitations.
- Technology support and coaching positions
- Elementary level media hubs comprised of a design thinking studio, film production room, maker space, computer lab and read, write, think research center
- Project-based learning professional development programs and resources for K – 12
- Teacher classroom grants to encourage creativity and innovation in the individual classrooms
- Student scholarships for our successful students
- Enhancing STEM labs and outdoor classrooms at all three Signal Mountain public schools
- Facility upgrades to include repair of old buildings, sound system replacement, and expansion needs
- Expanded foreign language offerings
- Middle school drama classes
- Fabrication labs and maker spaces for all students at SMMHS
- And, much, much more!
What has MEF’s annual trend been for fundraising?
Between school year end 2013 and school year end 2016, MEF experienced a decline in overall fundraising dollars. Many factors contributed to this decline, but the largest contributing factor was that all Founder’s Fund pledges and grants expired in school year 2013. Additionally, two additional grants expired the following year. MEF also experienced a 32% decline in community support at events from 2013 to 2015.
In early 2015, the MEF board approved several changes to our annual fundraising plan that has ultimately helped to reverse this trend. By the end of 2016, community support at MEF events had increased by 18%. Also, by the end of school year 2017, MEF’s overall annual fundraising income was up 4% over prior year and that positive growth trend is expected to continue this year.
Who serves on the MEF Advisory Board?
The MEF Advisory Board consists of the following: 1) Principals (1 from each school); 2) PTA/PTSA Presidents (1 from each school); 3) MEF Representatives (PTA/PTSA board position, 2 from each school); 4) Community Members (4 total); and 5) Teacher Representatives (1 from each school, may rotate depending upon topic). At each meeting, the Advisory Board considers one MEF funding area and discusses opportunities to make improvements at our schools in that MEF funding area. Currently, MEF funding areas include 1) staffing; 2) professional development; 3) technology; 4) discretionary spending; 5) teacher appreciation; 6) classroom enrichment; 7) related arts; and 8) student activities.
Who serves on the MEF Board of Directors?
The MEF Board of Directors is comprised of community leaders who are elected to three year terms and whom have a vested interest in our schools. The board meets bi-monthly and is responsible for the strategic and fiduciary oversight of the organization.
If Signal Mountain forms an Independent School District will MEF be needed?
Absolutely! The MEF Board of Directors believes whole-heartedly in the mission of MEF and further believes that, no matter the structure of the school system, there will always be unique and expanding needs for funding to ensure that our Signal Mountain students are provided the most advanced education possible by our Signal Mountain public schools. Historically, MEF has successfully funded many projects that have been deemed priorities by an Advisory Board comprised of educators and community members. We envision continuing this mission regardless of whether the Signal Mountain public schools remain part of the HCDE system or become part of an Independent School District. We will leave those decisions to others and take no position on those issues. What we will take a strong position on, however, is the continued need for additional funding for various projects that our principals, teachers, and students have identified and requested. These unfunded projects would, no doubt, elevate the excellence and rigor of the educational experience at our schools and would result in an increased quality of education for all of our students.
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