July 6, 2005 - Before stepping down as president of the Catalina Foothills School District Foundation, Terry Fortunado will sign a check for $350,000. The check is the foundation's gift to the district's governing board, the largest amount in the district's history.

The foundation is known for its lavish fundraisers which often bring in thousands of dollars in support of the school district. Annually, the foundation puts on a posh dinner/auction in addition to about 14 food-themed fundraising events aptly titled "What's Cooking," Fortunado said.

Money is raised throughout the year, not only through the fundraisers, but through direct mail outs, she said, and each year the amount the foundation can give to the district increases, she said.

Last year the foundation raised $300,000, according to the district.

While Fortunado said she has enjoyed her time as the president of the foundation she is ready to let another parent and past board member take over, John Hicks, who will begin as the foundation president July 1, she said.

"He has been a terrific volunteer," Fortunado said.

The foundation has a policy of not letting any board member sit on the board for more than six years, and Fortunado, who has been president for five years, said she wanted one year to sit on the board without being president. So she will bask in her new role as chairwoman of fundraising for the foundation, she said.

Under Fortunado's reign, the foundation has grown to more than 30 board members and more than 30 volunteers, she said. Annually the support for the foundation increases.

Superintendent Mary Kamerzell remembers coming into the district nine years ago and hearing the foundation was hoping to raise $40,000. She is astonished at how much the foundation has grown and said a lot of that has to do with Fortunado, she said.

"She is an inspirational leader," Kamerzell said.

The money raised by the foundation will go into keeping class sizes small at the elementary school level, Kamerzell said, funding about four or five teacher salaries, she said.

In addition to teacher salaries, the money is used at the middle school level to offer students a honors geometry course. An additional two high school positions will be funded through the money, which will increase honors and advance placement offerings, Kamerzell said.

Even with the $350,000, a greater amount more than any other local school district foundation, Fortunado said no amount of money is enough, citing that Arizona is among the stingiest of states when it comes to per pupil funding.

"We've tried to work to make our fundraising continue long-term," she said. "It's making a dent."

Hicks said he hopes to increase the amount of money the foundation can give to the district in the years to come.

Hicks, who has sat on the foundation board for three years has three children attending district schools. He said he just hopes he can do as well as his predecessor and continue to raise awareness of the foundation, increasing community and business involvement.

One of his main goals in his new presidential role will be to focus in on the $1 a day program, looking to raise $1 million through the foundation, he said. No matter what the increase will be for the foundation, Hicks said he thinks he is fortunate to have such a supportive community.

"One of the great things about the Foothills School District is the parent involvement," he said. "It's a very worthwhile cause."

Other districts are also aware of the cause and have established a district foundation. One of the main reasons a foundation exists is because residents cannot donate money directly to a school district so they need another way to disseminate funds, which is where a district foundation comes in.

The Amphitheater Foundation exists in a different way than the Foothills Foundation. The amount of money contributed to the district annually is smaller and it is allocated to different areas, said Vice President of the foundation and Lu Lu Walker Elementary School Principal Roseanne Lopez.

Last year the Amphi Foundation started the Marion Trien Education Scholarship, named after a women who spent many years teaching within the district. The foundation awarded three high school scholarships worth $500 each to three different students from the high schools. The scholarships were awarded to students looking to pursue a career in education, she said.

Annual fundraisers are another way the foundation receives money, she said.

The foundation is largely responsible for writing grants. This past year it wrote grants for science equipment and materials, which was fulfilled by Raytheon for $1,500, she said. Another grant was written for $3,500 for literacy programs, which will help fund book clubs and additional classroom materials, she said.

The foundation also funded travel expenses for about $3,500 for students who participated on national academic challenges, such as the Odyssey of the Mind and Future Problem Solvers of America. The money helped pay for travel costs for some students, she said.

The foundation also works in conjunction with the Amphitheater Clothing Bank. Annually the clothing bank gives out clothes to students and families in need about three times a year, Lopez said. The cost to operate the clothing bank is about $10,000 a year, which includes the electric costs in addition to the purchasing of new socks and underwear, she said. The clothing bank is run solely on volunteers, she said.

Raytheon awarded the clothing bank $1,500 this year, she said.

The Marana Foundation for Educational Excellence is also responsible for grants and fundraising which aids in the Marana Unified School District's partnership with the community.

No matter what way the districts' foundations give back to the schools it is just a way to increase support and awareness to public education, Fortunado said.

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