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!

Board of Directors

The MEF Board of Directors is comprised of twelve to twenty-one members, each serving a three year, renewable term.

Mission & Purpose

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 more than $6 million in funding.

MEF's History

The Mountain Education Foundation’s (MEF) roots extend back more than 30 years. While the structure has changed, the goal remains the same – to raise funds for peak performing schools on Signal Mountain!

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board works with principals and parents to identify funding needs for Signal Mountain public schools.

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. 

Hilarie H. Robison, M.A.

Executive Director


Executive Board

Cara Hennings, Chair

Travis Hutchinson, Treasurer

Sarah Provonsha, Secretary

James Story, Development

Jonathan Welch, Past Chair

Laura Malone, At Large


Amanda Bruce

Catherine Fore

Brittany Ennen

Doug Griswold

Kurt Keene

Emily Lehman

Brooke Maedel

Rusty Posey

Pamela Rivers

Casey Robertson

Michael Schleger

Hannah Silverman

Gabe Whitmer

Charlotte Witry

Katherine Womack

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

MEF's History

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
    Lawrence Hulbert
    Anne Caldwell
    Margo Gardner
    Bome Patten

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.

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