Ann Vernon, Foundation Board Member
“Where it began, I can’t begin to knowing, but then I know it’s growing strong,” sang Neil Diamond in his epic song “Sweet Caroline”. Unlike the famous singer, those responsible for forming the Oracle School Foundation knew exactly where it began … and indeed, it is still growing strong. The foundation actually began as two separate entities united to accomplish a common mission: to provide financial and related support to ensure that every Oracle student has unlimited opportunity to succeed.
The initial impetus for the Foundation started with Linda Lyon, who gathered together a team of visionary women in December of 2013. She called the effort Vision 2020 and the mission is reflected in the present mission of the foundation. In January 2014, the group met with Superintendent, Dennis Blauser for guidance about district needs. At the same time that Linda and her group were forging ahead, Alan and Betsy Levenson were on a similar path. Alan had begun tutoring first graders in the Oracle district and he vividly recalls how he felt as he passed the trailer park where most of his students lived. He wondered if these kids would ever have a chance to succeed given that most were impoverished. Alan’s motivation for doing something for Oracle students was based on empathy. Betsy was also motivated to make a difference, but her drive came from altruism and the importance of giving back to the community. Betsy was frustrated that the SaddleBrooke community didn’t support the bond issue in 2011 that would have provided much needed support for the Oracle Schools.
Linda’s group and the Levensons joined forces early in 2014. In the spring they held several planning sessions and began to research how to establish a foundation.
Ed Hartman, an Oracle resident and retired university professor, was invited to be the first board president. Other members included Alan Levenson, Richard Borland, Maria Menconi, Elizabeth Tilley, Linda Lyon, and non-voting member/superintendent, Blauser. Betsy Levenson, a former teacher with a passion for education and a background in leadership training and non-profit management, led the group in a series of strategic planning sessions. As a result of these sessions, the group decided to focus on preschool. In Betsy’s words, “early childhood education offers the biggest bang for the buck.”
Thanks to the hard work of board members and Betsy’s leadership with strategic planning, in 2015 the Foundation received their Certificate of Good Standing, their Employer Identification Number from the IRS, and approval as a 501(c)(3).
The foundation continues to grow, raising money through grants and an annual gala fundraiser, which was postponed this year due to COVID. However, many SaddleBrooke and Ranch residents responded to our “ask” for money so that we could honor our commitment to the Oracle School District (OSD), and we are very appreciative of that generosity. We invite you to become a Champion of the OSD (www.OracleSchoolsFoundation.com) because “with your help, we succeed so that they can succeed.”