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Dec. 3, 2015


Paul Olivett

Executive Director, SCASD Education Foundation



Chris Rosenblum

SCASD Communications Director

jcr19@scasd.org, 814­272­8699

State College Area School District Launches Education Foundation For Charitable Fundraising to Benefit Students

A student could afford to travel with her club to a national conference.

Another could enjoy painting, foreign languages and martial arts through the after­school Community Education Extending Learning program.

Science lab equipment, musical instruments and fitness center machines could be updated, or a computer programming class could be added to the curriculum.

Exciting possibilities will abound for many children — if State College Area School District’s new Education Foundation succeeds.

To enhance student educational experiences, the district has started the fundraising foundation in hopes of attracting community gifts to support programs, projects and learning opportunities outside existing budgets. District administrators, the SCASD Board of School Directors and the Citizens Advisory Committee for Finance collaborated on a development proposal for the Board, leading to the Foundation’s creation.

In support of its goal, the Foundation has launched a website, www.scasdfoundation.org, to highlight donors and Foundation­ funded programs and projects.

Foundation Executive Director Paul Olivett, who was hired this fall to lead the official 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization, brings more than 20 years of experience as a development professional, including six years at Penn State as a Director of Development.

Additionally, Olivett can claim strong local ties. He and his wife, Denise, are district parents who moved to State College in 1995 and have been active community and district volunteers. Olivett has served on the district Citizens Advisory Committee for Finance, and continues to coach youth sports teams and referee interscholastic competition.

“I am very excited about the possibilities offered by the creation of the Foundation, as well as having Paul’s expertise in the district,” Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said. “I believe we have a very supportive community that values education and will be able to demonstrate that support by contributing to the mission of the Foundation.”

As Olivett and the district envision, the Foundation mainly will function as a “pass­-through” vehicle for tax­-deductible donations earmarked for programs, activities or facilities. Rather than building a “pot of money” from which to draw supportive funds, as some foundations do, the SCASD Education Foundation will focus on funneling donor gifts directly to intended recipients.

“That’s our mission: to get the money to the students as quickly as possible,” Olivett said.

Olivett is contracted by the district, so 100 percent of contributions will go to supporting students, faculty and staff members. Through the Foundation website and conversations with residents and business owners, he hopes to inspire philanthropy by connecting people to the district and charitable opportunities dear to their hearts.

“To me, as a development officer, I always saw my role as the orchestrator, getting people together,” Olivett said.

Starting out, the Foundation will send out its first direct mailing the week of Dec. 7. Letters will introduce the Foundation and seek contributions to the newly created Student Opportunities Fund. Its goal is to provide project or program resources allocated at the superintendent’s discretion.

Initially, the fund will focus on supporting:

  • student learning opportunities within more than 100 co-­curricular/extracurricular organizations.
  • development and up­front costs for new curricular programs or learning tools.
  • underprivileged students’ access to co-­curricular and extracurricular, including the CEEL program, intramurals and summer enrichment programs.
  • improving student access to mental health care.

At present, the Foundation is working with State College-based Affinity Connection on a community survey to collect opinions and perceptions of the district. About 15,000 parents and alumni received electronic surveys, and about 25 more key stakeholders have been interviewed live or over the phone.

From the survey and mailing results, the Foundation will establish more specific fundraising goals and complete long-term strategic planning. Future campaigns could focus on facility upgrades such as converting a planned practice field at the new State College Area High School from grass to a more durable artificial surface.

In the meantime, the Foundation is applying for permission to solicit Educational Improvement Tax Credit eligible donations from local businesses. Under the EITC program, the state Department of Community and Economic Development gives tax credits to businesses that contribute to an “educational improvement organization.”

Early initiatives also include a second mailing for Memorial Field brick campaign and a search for potential Foundation board members.

Olivett said he intends to pursue development opportunities with the Foundation as professionally and comprehensively as a small college would.

“I believe State College has a strong support network.” he said, “and I think there’s a real need for these things to add to the educational experience.”