PPIE Observes 25th Anniversary with Redoubled Mission

As it marks its 25th anniversary, Pleasanton Partnership in Education's activities are more mission-critical than ever. Originally proposed in 1985 by the Superintendent of the Pleasanton Unified School District as a partnership program, PPIE first came to life as the Business/Education subcommittee of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. By 1987, it had become an independent 501(c) 3 nonprofit, testimony to the fact that enlisting business and community support for the schools was an idea whose time had come.

From original programs that included tutoring and teaching critical thinking skills, the organization moved more directly to enhance learning experiences in the schools through a grant-making program. PPIE did its fundraising predominantly among the business community through events like the annual CEO Dinner, and the proceeds went back to the schools primarily through two types of educational grants: one to teachers and faculty, the other to students.

In 1998 PPIE added Foundation to its name, and in 2004, adapting to changing demographics, it rolled out a new type of annual fundraiser, Bon Appetit-Toasts & Tastes of Fall. As its name implies, Bon Appetit is a food-centered event that pits teams of local sponsors, chefs, and school principals against each other in an engaging - and creative-culinary contest. Last year's event saw 15 teams vying for top honors as they produced a signature dish, either hors d'oeuvre or a dessert, featuring seasonal ingredients. It raised over $84,000 for Pleasanton schools.

The fun - and the fundraising-continue with this year's Bon Appetit, slated for October 13, but in the meantime the school district is grappling with severe cutbacks and the threat of teacher and program loss due to the state's constrained finances. Realizing that the current budget challenges will be ongoing, PPIE is extending its planning horizons and developing other funding mechanisms to fill the gaps.

"The mission grew," remarks Debi Covello, who has been affiliated with the organization for 14 years, the past seven as Executive Director. "Over the past three years we've raised a little under $2 million for programs, including literacy and student support, science and technology, and health and well-being. But it's still a band-aid. The funding crunch isn't going away."

Last year PPIE formed a School Advisory Board, with representatives from every school site, to identify programs that might be eliminated and decide which ones to support. Last month PPIE distributed a Parent Survey, giving its stakeholders "a platform to talk to us." Covello explains, "Instead of operating on our own assumptions, we hear from them. What programs are important to them? What amount of money are they comfortable donating? That's what we need to know in order to be successful in filling the shortfall."

PPIE has also launched a supplemental fundraising campaign, the PPIE Giving Fund, targeting other revenue opportunities. In addition to requesting a per-student donation at school registration, the organization was the beneficiary of the first spring Pleasanton Half Marathon on April 29. Similar events are under consideration for the future. Visit www.ppie.org to find out how to participate.

The expanded planning horizon has resulted in "a more orderly process on a longer term with larger dollars," Covello says. "We aim to provide the support so district staff will never have to get layoff notices."

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