Parent volunteers have raised a record-breaking $2.9 million to provide help to Palo Alto's 17 cash-strapped public schools, the foundation Partners in Education (PiE) announced Tuesday.
Bringing sunshine to an otherwise bleak day of budget talks, PiE President Lois Garland told the Board of Education that contributions had come from "across the community -- from parents to local businesses -- and represented a 13-percent increase over last year's donation."
"Even in tough economic times, we continue to be inspired by our community's commitment to educational excellence," Garland said.
Garland led school representatives and a 24-member board to raise the funds, primarily from parents.
The average donation per family was more than $750, a 5-percent increase over last year, PiE said.
Family participation was 56 percent at the elementary school level; 41 percent at the middle school level; and 31 percent in high schools, PiE said.
Garland said she was particularly gratified by a rise in contributions from residents who do not have children in the school district. That group contributed $130,000 to the total.
"These people don't have kids in the schools but they're still donating. They really care about the quality of education children receive here," she said.
PiE's result exceeded by $330,000 this year's goal of $2.57 million.
Funds will be targeted to priorities set last spring in conversations between PiE and school district officials.
The district's 12 elementary schools will receive $1.685 million for teacher aides, reading and math specialists, science-enrichment programs and arts.
The three middle schools will receive $530,000 for additional courses in video/digital production, creative writing, music and biotechnology. Funds also will go to student-support programs, academic guidance and technology mentors for teachers.
The two high schools will receive $685,000 for college and career counseling, additional courses in engineering, digital media, technology and performing arts, as well as for technology mentors.
Superintendent Kevin Skelly called PiE's support "indispensable" in helping to solve the district's budget problems.
"With this year's district budget cuts estimated at $3.7 million, our efforts to balance our budget have been extremely difficult," Skelly said.
"Support from parents and the community -- through contributing to PiE and through other revenue sources such as the parcel tax -- is indispensable in plugging the breach created by state funding cuts, slowing local revenues, and rising enrollment.
"Thanks to the generosity of PiE donors we expect the programs and staffing that PiE funds to continue in the year ahead with minimal impact. Through all our collective efforts, we are confident we can maintain -- and build upon -- the excellence of Palo Alto schools during this extraordinarily challenging time," Skelly said.