The North Royalton School District is working with a consulting group to explore the possibilities of private fund-raising to assist help to offset the cost of their proposed facilities plan. They have entered into a contract with Hudson-based, The Hodge Group, to explore private philanthropic fund-raising. The proposed plan includes the construction of an elementary school and the updating/addition to the Middle School and High School. The measure will be placed on the November 8 ballot.
The North Royalton Board of Education approved the contract last month. Board Member John Kelly recommended the idea, according to Board President Jackie Arendt. She said Kelly proposed that the district try to seek additional funding through a professional group for private donation.
“We are doing everything we can to take the burden off of the taxpayer,” stated Kelly. He said that the idea came from discussions with residents, who had suggested that certain additions to previous levy campaigns be privately funded. He was very instrumental in the private fund-raising for the Stadium Foundation, which brought in about $1.3 million for that project. Kelly said the difference was that most of that came from individual donations, most of which had a personal stake in the project. “We needed to look at a larger scope,” he said. With that, he initiated a statewide search for a firm that took on capital projects, through the assistance of the Ohio School Board Association. Four firms were recommended and then vetted through the Board and School Administration. The Hodge Group more accurately fit the bill.
According to Hodge Group officials, “our purpose is to help you fulfill your mission with synergistic fund-raising, management, and branding strategies. As servant leaders, we come along side you to find sustainable solutions. Over the past 30 years, we have had the privilege to work with small and large nonprofit organizations and associations across the country. We have raised close to $1 billion, increased awareness and visibility through effective storytelling, and have increased the membership base for associations.” Some of their clients include the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, Cleveland Heights/University Heights Public Library and Notre Dame Academy and Central Catholic High School in Toledo.
School Superintendent Greg Gurka said that the $30,000 contract is separated into three parts. The first part, which costs $10,000 is the feasibility of the project, which has already commenced and is expected to take about five to six weeks. The Hodge Group is in the process of “seeking information and working to develop presentation materials.” Generally, the firm will be looking to see if it will be feasible to seek philanthropic funding through companies and foundations. If the project shows promise, then they will seek initial contacts. “If it doesn’t work out, we have an out clause,” stated Arendt.
“This is uncharted territory,” said Gurka. He noted that the district is not “building a typical elementary school, we are looking at a flexible space. We want to see our educational initiatives achieved through the use of flexible classrooms and critical thinking. This might be intriguing to foundations and companies.” Gurka said that the possibility of potentially raising up to a million dollars for the project made the investment worthwhile.

Contributing Writer