In the fall of 2002, two FISD employees at Frenship Independent School District were notified that they would be called to active duty in Iraq. One was an elementary principal (Doug Smith) and Sgt. In the US Marine Reserves, the other an 8th grade Social Studies teacher (John Albin) and Captain in the Civil Affairs Unit of the US Army. The Social Studies teacher was informed he would make around $1200 per month more as a military Captain while on active duty than in his position as a teacher. Conversely, the Principal would take a $600 per month cut from his normal administrative salary. The Principal has three school age children. In neither of these men’s cases could this school district use taxpayer funds to assist their families.
That same fall, another employee of the district for 19 years (Evelyn Boyd) began chemo and radiation treatment for cancer and was told she would probably miss the entire school year. She has absolutely no family to financially assist her. Once again the administration and school board wanted to contribute financial assistance, which of course, is prohibited.
In August of 2003, Frenship ISD employees affirmed the need for this fund and decided they should completely support it. In December 2003, approximately 400 employees of the district elected to have $3.00 per month taken out of their paychecks and direct-deposited into this fund. FEERF Bylaws were clearly been established and procedures in place to oversee, promote, protect, and grant money when employees of FISD face "unexpected qualifying financial calamity." By 2010, FISD has 501giving employees that produce approximately $25,000 in annual contributions.
On April 12, 2003, parents of our school district (5400 student enrollment) held a huge, community garage sale. Parents and patrons of this district donated thousands of items, eventually raising $4,600 at the garage sale. Proceeds were intended to assist our PE teacher and the family of our Principal.
As this event was taking place, one of our long-time coaches (Jimmy Curtis) was flown to Dallas and placed on an emergency list for a liver transplant in May of 2003. The procedure required the family to put up $150,000 prior to any transplant. He received a new liver that July.
Of course the $4,600 was not nearly enough to assist with all of these employee’s needs, however the monetary gifts went a long way in providing much-needed financial assistance, and perhaps more importantly, it provided immeasurable emotional support to these employees.
The Frenship Employee Emergency Relief Fund (from this point forward referred to as FEERF) was established and a committee of campus representatives was elected to create bylaws and procedures by which the fund would operate. Each campus in the district elected one representative to serve on that committee. The committee created a means by which employees can apply for funds, show documented evidence of those needs and be granted funds - as employees qualify, and as funds are available.
FEERF Bylaws clearly lay out the annual selection process for committee members and restrictions upon that committee granting funds. The recommendations of this committee for granting of FEERF funds will be overseen by a committee formed by the Foundation’s Board of Directors as described in the Bylaws Article VII (1)(b) of the Foundation.
In the spring of 2004, it is the intent of the district to begin a new endeavor to assist our teachers and students for consistent displays of integrity and character. Our district is nationally known for the origination and implementation of the CHARACTER COUNTS! program.
The Foundation was based upon the belief that "character" is vital component in defining success, and "giving" is a major element of character. Since Frenship ISD has emphasized the teaching of character since 1997, there became a movement to reward FISD students who have shown a dedication to integrity – at a time in life when that may be the toughest. It seems ironic that college scholarships are most often granted to students for talents they were given at birth. In most cases we recognize that students have chosen to further develop or enhance those talents – yet, they still were born with intelligence, size and speed, musical/artistic talent, athletic ability, etc. Research suggests that character in youth is the greatest predictor of future success – and the primary difference…it is a choice we all are allowed make. How many talented musicians, artists, or athletes have served jail time? Prisons a full of highly intelligent people, but not many people are incarcerated who – as a high school students – chose to be young people of integrity.
In the Spring of 2004 we organized an annual Golf Benefit –
The Drive for Leaders – as a major fund-raiser. That first year The Drive for Leaders generated $28,000 and identified criteria for selecting students who The Foundation felt represented sound investments based upon their character in high school. The first year five students were granted scholarship money. By the spring of 2007, 33 FISD graduates had been awarded over $100,000 in college scholarships. Since the inception of these scholarships, 89 Frenship graduates have been granted almost $290,000.
With the 501(c)(3) status, we can give our teachers a tax credit for their annual donations to the Frenship Employee Emergency Relief Fund, as well as our donors to the annual Drive for Leaders golf benefit. We recognize our donors in a variety of ways: A full page in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and in the Frenship Today.com in May, full back page coverage on all Frenship Focus publications (3 times annually), and full back page (in color) in the annual Frenship Back-to-School Guide. None of the ads ever mention the golf tournament in any of the publications, as we do not want our donors hounded with other tournaments.
Future endeavors include two primary focal points: (1) a means to financially reward students, who in grade 6 make a commitment to follow a rigorous class schedule through grade 12, designed to bolster SAT and ACT scores. (2) A means to meet grant requests by teachers who have shown innovative practices that may require additional funding to continue that endeavor.