Education foundations

HCEF and LEEF raise funds for Leander ISD

Although the Hill Country Education Foundation and Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation take different approaches to help Leander ISD students, each aims to provide better educational opportunities for children and to ready teens for a college experience, according to foundation representatives.

Hill Country Education Foundation

Launched in September 2010, HCEF, a volunteer-run organization, and LISD reached an agreement outlining how funds would be transferred from the organization to the district, HCEF Vice President Michelle Beck said.

"We just felt that we had a different set of goals in mind," Beck said. "People are more free to give when they know it's going back to their schools."

HCEF focuses on financing students living in the Four Points community, and on developing their interest in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The foundation's initial project was to support the area's fledgling robotics programs, Beck said. In its first year, all Four Points LISD campuses maintained robotics programs, sponsored in part by HCEF grants.

HCEF funds support its Impact Grant Program, which awarded more than $24,000 in grants in both December 2011 and May 2012, Beck said.

The foundation counts college readiness among its goals, she said. HCEF guaranteed the district $10,000 per year for five years to fund the college-readiness program Naviance, beginning with the 2011–12 school year, she said.

Revenue from the foundation's auction, the Giddy Up Gala, and corporate partnerships totaled more than $140,000 for the 2012–13 fiscal year, Beck said.

"Our goal is to really increase our membership," Beck said. "The word is getting out. People see the money going back into their schools, and the teachers are asking for more grants."

Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation

LEEF began in 2007 with ties to a bond election held earlier the same year, LISD Community Services Director Lauren Bingham said. Community members and investors who helped get the bond package passed for district construction projects formed the education foundation. Two years later, the foundation hired a consultant to help direct its growth.

The foundation's primary goal is to provide LISD educators with innovative teaching grants and funds for classroom and team programs, said Greg Bowden, president of LEEF's board of directors.

Foundation dollars support scholarships for books for LISD students attending Austin Community College, summer library programs and help offset advanced placement test fees for low-income students as part of its "College Ready, College Bound" mission.

Since its inception, LEEF has raised funds through its annual campaign, Bowden said. He said that from 2007–12, LEEF donated a total of $189,700 to LISD. However, in 2012–13, LEEF raised about $80,000, Bowden said.

"Every year we've been consistently growing," he said. "This is the first year we've had a significant jump."

Bingham said that LEEF's commitment to growth prompted the creation of her position, a hybrid between district staffer and foundation worker. Although employed by LISD, LEEF pays a portion of Bingham's salary to help with the foundation's administration and events.

Two foundations, one district

Greg Bowden, LEEF board of directors president, said that an overlap in funding by the HCEF and LEEF does occur but he distinguishes HCEF as more community-oriented, citing its long-range goal to build a Four Points–area library.

"LEEF's focus is on every single student in LISD," Bowden said. "HCEF focuses only on the southern end of the district. Yes, there is some overlap—we're still going to help and support that [southern] end of the district.

"There has been some conversation on ways we can work together," Bowden said. "It's probably a unique situation."

Education foundations

Hill Country Education Foundation, 2900 N. Quinlan Parkway, Ste. B-240, Austin,

Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation, P.O. Box 358, Cedar Park, 512-570-0027,