Braham Area Education Foundation discusses priorities

Delwayne Hahn
Contributing Writer

The new Braham Area Education Foundation board met June 26 for a funding priorities and visioning session led by Kristin Ackley, community philanthropy specialist from the Initiative Foundation, Little Falls, which is under contract to advise the local group as it moves forward.

Members of the board of the new Braham Education Foundation (left to right) Tracy Fix, Carrie Davis and Tim Nelson discuss the assets and challenges facing the new group. Photos by Delwayne Hahn

The evening was spent inventorying assets and challenges, prioritizing next steps and selecting priorities for the group.

The hope for the foundation is it will be a resource to unify efforts for funding support in the district beyond the annual budget.

Officers for the 12-member board include Tim Nelson, chair; Terry Turnquist, vice chair; Kelby Jennissen, treasurer; and Stephanie White, secretary. Other members are Carrie Davis, Tracy Fix, Peter Hesselroth, Tammi Johnson, Aitor Leniz, Marie Meyer, Sue Riesing, Heather Sward and Superintendent Ken Gagner.

Ackley explained to the group that once the fund reaches $20,000, then making grants becomes a possibility. She challenged the board: “What measurable

Heather Sward, Kelby Jennissen and Sue Riesing work on an assignment during the recent board meeting of the Braham Education Foundation.

changes can you make through awarding grants?”
She then asked three questions: “What are the most important assets in the Braham Area School District? What are the most significant challenges in the district? And what measurable change can we make in the next three years?”

Under assets, the group listed small class size, the ability to participate in many activities, peer mentorship, outstanding staff, supportive community, new facilities and the leadership of Gagner. The phrase “small enough for support but big enough to stand out” was used as a summary statement.

Listed among significant challenges were declining enrollment, limited resources to support programs, budget cuts for athletics, parents lacking information to help, income and educational levels in the general population of the area.

Pictured in a breakout group during the Braham Education Foundation meeting are (left to right) Terry Turnquist,
Marie Meyer and Stephanie White.

The group included the following among the measurable changes envisioned for the next three years: expanding on skill developments, offering more opportunities within trades education (leading to vo-tech pursuit), filling in gaps in extra curricular activities, kindergarten readiness and drawing in outside experts for seminars.

In a final exercise, each member was given a sheet of round stickers and asked to place no more than two dots on a posted sheet listing the priority areas for the foundation’s future. From that tally, “providing educational grants and learning opportunities for pre-K- through 12th-grade” (nine dots) and “strengthen family involvement and engagement” (four dots) came out on top. A third priority was “career and college readiness” (three dots).

At the close of the session, two working groups were formed to write funding priority statements (Riesing, White, Johnson, Fix and Nelson) and to review the logo and develop next steps for marketing (Jennissen, Seward, Davis and Gagner). These two subgroups will meet during the interval before the next board meeting on July 24.

Working on an assignment to determine priorities for the work of the Braham Education Foundation are (left to right) Aitor Leniz, Peter Hesselroth and Tammi Johnson.