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You are here: Home Schools School Board Moves to Refine Gift Policy to Permit Recognition of Donors for School Facilities
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School Board Moves to Refine Gift Policy to Permit Recognition of Donors for School Facilities

PaverGardenWith plans to raise $800,000 for lights at Butler Field moving swiftly forward, the Scarsdale School Board returned to a discussion of their gift policy to decide whether or not donors could be recognized individually for donations to the school, and whether a system of tiered recognition for gifts at various levels would be permitted.

Dr. Hagerman did a first reading of a proposed revision to the policy that would allow for donor recognition on a case by case basis. Here was the first draft of the edited langauge in the policy:

Donor recognition related to gifts to the District or a school will be determined by the Board of Education on a case by case basis. Recognition of a gift must be sought by the prospective donor and shall require a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Board of Education and the prospective donor that outlines the mutual agreement of each party's requirements and responsibilities, including the scope, costs, and manner of donor recognition and an appropriate expiration date for such recognition. The MOU shall be negotiated and agreed to designed in consultation with the Superintendent.

After the last discussion of the policy, Board members agreed to speak to various community organizations to find out their views on the subject.

Board President Scott Silberfein said that he reached out to the leadership of the PTC, Scarsdale School Educational Foundation, the Friends of Music, Maroon and White and Scarsdale Family Counseling Service to find out how they thought donor recognition would impact their ability to fundraise.

Maroon and White and SSEF said that donor recognition is vital to their fundraising efforts. They said lack of donor recognition would endanger their efforts to raise money for large ticket items. SSEF said their fundraising was inclusive and promoted wide participation and that giving back is a non-sibi act, that helps the entire community.

However the PTC, Scarsdale Family Counseling Service and Friends of Music and the Arts did not feel it impacted their fundraising but did want to be treated equally to other community organizations. Pam Fuehrer said that the PT Council Executive Committee came to a consensus that if the school adopted a policy to allow donor recognition, some donors might decide to give their dollars elsewhere. They appreciated that the SSEF campaign was accessible at many levels, starting at $250.

Jay Genova from Scarsdale Family Counseling Service said there was no impact from donor recognition on students in general, but he did believe there was a perception that kids of donors may get preferential treatment.

Dr. Hagerman searched literature on this and also went to visit the MIT media lab and said “Everything had a name attached to it -– kids get exposed to this.” Hagerman said the high school student government gave feedback on both sides. They thought it was good to recognize people who donate money, …”if it works why not do it.” Those who opposed it said,” Many contribute in other ways and are not recognized,’ and “it’s not a level playing field for those who cannot afford to give a lot of money.” They asked if those who gave money would get special treatment and if it ran counter to the district’s motto of non-sibi. They asked that instead of affixing plaques, a ceremony could be held to recognize the donors.

Alison Singer quoted a letter from Diane Baylor that said that the proposed new policy that calls for a case by case review is not a policy because sit provides no guidance. Singer said, “We are fast tracking this policy because of Butler Field.” She suggested that the Board discuss the Maroon and White proposal under the current policy and then consider the new gift policy afterwards.

However, Board members agreed they wanted to handle the policy revision now. Scott Silberfien said, “We have dealt with this 3 times in 15 years – I think we should handle it now.” Chris Morin said, “We would not want to do something with Maroon and White which is at odds with our new gift policy.” Bill Natbony said, “This is not the first time this policy has come before us – we have had discussions on both sides.” Pam Fuehrer said, “There’s a lot time to get more input if we have to. This won’t be an action item until the middle of May. We have already received a lot of feedback.”

Discussing their views Pam said, “I support recognizing donor organizations and not individual donors. But it appears that the Board is going toward a policy that does not prohibit individual recognition. A case-by-case approach does not provide guidelines. Do we want to provide parameters that indicate a preference for more participation, or a system that does not compromise student well being?”

Lee Maude added, “I see that contributing is non-sibi. But at the same time I am troubled by “the bigger the donation, the bigger the font.Because what is easy for one person to contribute may not be easy for another. Accessibility is important and not shouting out the biggest donors.”

Nina Cannon said, “I think we should deal with this policy at this moment. We have gotten good feedback and can continue to receive it. I am fine to have these discussions now. Students should learn through other means that their self worth is not determined by their name on a plaque. They are going to see donor recognition and wealth outside of Scarsdale. It’s the way of the world. Students show their wealth in other ways in the community…. by driving expensive cars and by wearing expensive sneakers. Should we ban these displays as well? People who give these gifts are doing this for the benefit of the community. In my view, this is non-sibi. I want to make our schools as strong as we can be. I favor tasteful recognition of a gift.”

Chris Morin concluded, “I think we have identified middle ground – are we comfortable with tiered recognition? It’s an important tool for the fundraisers but it is less democratic than some are willing to accept.”

Alison Singer sought compromise, saying “It seems like the general consensus is to move forward with creation of a policy now. Maybe we could work toward providing more specific guidance than a case by case basis.

Bill Natbony noted, that the existing policy already prohibits a gift that would only benefit an individual or involves the semblance of influence over programs.

Ending the discussion, the Board agreed to continue to refine the policy and add language about gift scope, costs, manner and accessibility. Scott Silberfein and Pam Fuehrer agreed to rework the gift policy to add some language about accessibility, impact on well-being and tiered giving. Nina Cannon also asked them to make the language about donor recognition more prominent in the policy.

Watch the meeting here:

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