About The Mountain Education Foundation
MEF is the private fundraising arm to support our Signal Mountain community’s aim for educational excellence beyond what public funding provides. #SignalSOARS with your support!
Our Mission and Purpose
The Mountain Education Foundation (MEF) is a nonprofit public education foundation focused on improving public schools and enhancing educational and developmental opportunities for students in the Signal Mountain community, a suburb of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Organized in 1991, the foundation serves approximately 2,600 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade at three public schools.
MEF enables Signal Mountain educators to go far beyond what a school can do with public funding alone. Over the last 25+ years, the foundation has provided millions in funding to achieve excellence in education.
All Signal Mountain public school students have the educational opportunities they need to be successful.
The Mountain Education Foundation (MEF) engages and unites the community to mobilize resources and support for strategic investment in educational excellence at Signal Mountain public schools. MEF is the private fundraising arm to support our community’s aim for educational excellence beyond what public funding provides.
Community Investment Priorities
We recognize the power of community investment in our students, and prioritize funding based on our belief in the impact of:
• People, including salaries for positions identified as local priorities that are not covered by public funding.
• Technology, in its ability to multiply, enhance and simplify both teaching and learning.
• Arts education, as an end in itself as well as a means to broader and deeper student engagement.
• Professional development for educators, to continually improve and expand the teaching quality for our children.
• Additional priorities as determined annually based on current needs and opportunities.
Board of Directors
The MEF Board of Directors is comprised of twelve to twenty-one members, each serving a three year term that is renewable. The board is responsible for fundraising, outlining the strategic direction of the foundation, setting policies and goals, and managing the foundation’s budget including granting funds to schools.
Cara Hennings, Chair
Travis Hutchinson, Treasurer
Sarah Provonsha, Secretary
James Story, Development
Jonathan Welch, Past Chair
Laura Malone, At Large
Our Advisory Board
The Mountain Education Foundation (MEF) Advisory Board works with principals, parents and educators to identify priority funding needs for each Signal Mountain public school. Advisory Board members meet together and serve as a “think tank” for collaboration and best practices in our schools.
2023-24 Advisory Board Members
Mallory Geismar, Co-President – Thrasher PTA
Jena Story, Co-President – Thrasher PTA
Ashley Nichols, MEF Representative – Thrasher
Jessica McCarthy, MEF Representative – Thrasher
Tara Salsman, President – Nolan PTA
___________, MEF Representative – Nolan
Samantha Ward, MEF Representative – Nolan
Lisa Wettstaedt, President – SMMHS PTSA
Lori Whitworth, MEF Representative – SMMHS
Jean Trohanis, Community At Large
Cindy Wilkerson, Community At Large
Jennifer Summerlin, Community At Large
Marcie Beasley, Community At Large
Brooke Maedel, MEF Board Liaison
Ashley Aldridge Wilson, Nolan Principal
Alisan Taylor, Thrasher Principal
Michael Carson, SMMHS Principal
Protect the Promise
The Mountain Education Foundation’s (MEF) roots extend back nearly 25 years. Over the course of time, the structure, events and priorities have changed, but the goal remains the same – to raise funds to support Signal Mountain schools and create peak performing schools in our community!
1991: Mountain Education Fund Created
The Mountain Education Fund (MEF) was formed by concerned parents and educators in response to statewide funding cuts for education. Funds were raised to preserve art education and enrichment programs, while also purchasing new computers and technology for the Signal Mountain Schools. MEF served Bachman Elementary, Signal Mountain Elementary, Signal Mountain Middle School, Thrasher Elementary and Red Bank High School.
1992: Board of Directors Installed
The MEF founders adopted a mission statement and bylaws to govern the organization. The first Board of Directors was selected. Board members included:
- Chairman: Less Lee, Jr.
- Vice Chairman: Ken Connor
- Directors: Fred Decosimo
1994: Funding Process Formalized
MEF formalizes its funding process with the Signal Mountain schools.
1999: Schools Open and Close
Nolan Elementary opens and Thrasher Elementary begins serving students in grades K-5. Bachman Elementary and Signal Mountain Elementary schools are closed.
2006: The Founders Fund
The Founders Fund is established to raise money to equip the new Signal Mountain Middle/High School.
2008: Mountain Education Foundation is Formed
MEF is transformed into the Mountain Education Foundation an independent 501(c)3 non-profit corporation. The purpose of the organization has remained unchanged, to provide ongoing financial support to achieve and maintain excellence in Signal Mountain public education.
MEF’s transformation included the creation of a new Board of Directors to manage and oversee the daily operation of the organization and an Advisory Board, charged with the task of assessing the needs in the Signal Mountain schools and allocating funds.
Signal Mountain Middle/High School opens and Signal Mountain Middle School (formerly known as Signal Mountain Junior High) is closed. The Founders Fund raises more than $3 million to equip Signal Mountain Middle/High School and is slated to merge with MEF at the completion of its mission.
2009: A New Era of Fundraising
MEF set a new fundraising record and provided more than $200,000 to support the Signal Mountain schools. MEF Endowment Fund is created.
2010: Final Founders Fund Disbursements
The Founders Fund made the final disbursements to equip Signal Mountain Middle/High School and merged with MEF. Strings program established at SMMHS. MEF provided more than $300,000 in funding to the Signal Mountain public schools including three grants for $25,000 to Thrasher, Nolan and SMMHS for technology upgrades, school curriculum and improvements. SMMHS receives authorization as an International Baccalaureate School for the Middle Years Programme (grades 6-10). First graduating class at Signal Mountain High School.
2011: IB Programme Approved
SMMHS receives authorization as an International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme School (grades 11 & 12). K-12 Enrollment on Signal Mountain exceeds 2,500 students. MEF sets goal to raise $200 per child to meet the growing gap in funding for education. SMMHS PTSA and MEF partner to implement new Learning Center to provide tutoring and other academic services at the school. MEF hosts Mrs. Leigh Anne Tuohy, subject of the hit movie The Blind Side and raises $201,091 in one night to support the Signal Mountain schools.
Funding provided by MEF between 1991 – 2014 (rounded to the nearest thousand):
- Bachman Elementary (91-99) $77,000
- Nolan Elementary (99-14) $1,099,000
- Red Bank High (91-10) $102,000
- Signal Mountain Elementary (91-99) $79,000
- Signal Mountain Middle & Signal Mountain High* (91-14) $4,064,000
- Thrasher Elementary (91-14) $1,180,000
*includes Founders’ Fund disbursements and disbursements to Signal Mountain Jr. High.