In 1987, Clarkston Schools’ Superintendent Gary Haner gathered together a number of Clarkston community leaders who could share with him their ideas on how to grow more support for school district academic programs and student success. Haner shared information about educational foundations in nearby communities that had developed support programs, and he invited members of the Waterford Foundation to help him with this project.
Feedback was positive and encouraging, and all members agreed that the district’s fine reputation, most often linked to successful athletic and performing arts programs, could easily be connected to its academic excellence, as well.
Soon, Superintendent Haner appointed David Reschke, then the Principal at Sashabaw Junior High School, who had previously worked in Waterford, to form a local planning team that would be joined by Waterford Foundation members John Beech, Don Arsen, Ron Arnold, Bob Coates, Tim Patterson and others, in an effort to create together a Clarkston and student success. The Clarkston Board of Education approved the formation of the Clarkston Foundation, and the Waterford Foundation loaned the planning team $3,000 to pay for necessary legal fees and first year operational costs. Documents from Waterford served as the models for the needed documents in Clarkston. Legal advice was donated from Tim Patterson of the Waterford Foundation, as well. This support saved time and money in our early startup days.
Slow growth was expected, but clearly, dedication to this effort was high, and the start up of the Clarkston Foundation for Public Education was seen as a watershed moment for our community. There was now a recognized group that would support our excellent math, science and arts programs. This group was dedicated to raising awareness of these programs, and seeking additional funding support for them.
In 1989, any financial support that the Clarkston Foundation could provide for students would truly make a difference
Statewide, school funding was limited, and many districts were cutting needed programs just to balance budgets. Clarkston now had a way to supplement the funds the state was not able to provide, so that, in many cases teachers could continue to provide important learning experiences for students. Student scholarships could be made available to inspired and deserving students to further their education.
A lot of work had to be done! A lot of people would be needed to help!
The good news was that most of the planning committee members volunteered to serve on the first Clarkston Foundation Board of Directors. Bill Bliesath was the first president of the Clarkston Foundation, and Gary Haner served as the school district liaison. As for the other Foundation board members included Bob Olsen, Kim Beattie, Rick Huttenlocher, Clarence Catallo, Carol Rush-Wallace, and Dr. James O’Neill. Dave Reschke volunteered to be a facilitator and academic adviser for the group.
With very little money to work with, the first order of business was to plan fund raising events that would build a financial endowment system for the Foundation. The Foundation was ambitious right from the start! Clarkston, Holly, Brandon, Lake Orion and Oxford all joined forces in an effort to showcase student artwork from North Oakland County. We gained support from the new Palace of Auburn Hills and piggy-backed on to a concert by Grammy award winning country western singer Ricky Skaggs.
Each Foundation was given tickets to sell, and ads were produced and aired. On the day of the concert, student artwork was displayed throughout the Palace. Student success was celebrated but at the end of the day, profits were non-existent. The Palace, in a gesture of sincere community support, absorbed all of the cost over-runs, and each foundation “broke even” for the event.
This was just the beginning for the Clarkston Foundation!