The incorporation of a tax-exempt fundraising foundation to support Syracuse City Schools was successfully achieved with the support and inspiration of Dr. Stephen Jones and his late wife Marilyn (see In Memoriam below) during his tenure as Superintendent of Schools. There had been previous discussions regarding an education foundation, but it wasn’t until Dr. Jones arrived in Syracuse that these ideas began to take shape.
In early 2002, Dr. Jones reintroduced the idea of establishing a fundraising organization or foundation to support Syracuse City Schools. He enlisted the support of a Board of Education member, Laurie Menkin, and a local real estate developer and supporter of Syracuse Schools, Gary Pickard. Dr. Jones also asked his wife Marilyn to participate and provide research in the planning process. As a professional fundraiser and someone who had spent her professional career establishing contacts for Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Marilyn Jones create the framework for how the Syracuse School District should proceed in forming an Educational Foundation. Attorney Benjamin Ferrara, who served as Counsel to the District at the time, provided the legal support needed to prepare application to New York State Department of Education, and the Articles of Incorporation.
With a generous contribution from Gary Pickard and an initial outreach plan to approach community leaders and individuals to build a base of support for the Foundation, the seeds for the Syracuse City School District Educational Foundation were planted and the organization was officially incorporated in 2002, and began fulfilling its mission of supporting the teachers and students in Syracuse City Schools in 2003.
The Syracuse City School District Educational Foundation initial Board of Directors included Dr. Stephen and Marilyn Jones, Gary Pickard (Chair), Benjamin Ferrara, Gary and Marjorie Wordlaw, Lucy Popkess, Tony Procopio, Jr., Paula Deckman (Treasurer), Marisa Ovadias (Secretary), Patricia Dorazio, and Patti Driscoll. Fundraising events during 2003 included a Hip Hop Summit, a Winton Marsalis Concert, and an All-City Chorus Festival.
It was determined that the Foundation would recognize individuals, businesses and/or organizations that had gone above and beyond to support Syracuse City Schools or Syracuse school children. In 2004, the first Recognition Award was presented to Dr. John Carter, Pastor of Abundant Life Christian Center. With the support of Reverend Carter and his church, as well as other investment partners, they raised over $650,000 in funds and rebuilt the Blodgett School Library.
Also in 2004, School Board Member Laurie Menkin suggested to Dr. Jones that hosting a golf tournament could be a fun and successful fundraising opportunity for the Foundation. Together with support from Drumlins Country Club, the Foundation hosted its first Annual Golf Tournament in September 2004. The tournament has been a successful event each year since, and is now held at The Pompey Club.
In 2013, the SCSD Educational Foundation celebrated its 10th year of service and success in supporting Syracuse City Schools. Since it was founded, the Foundation has consistently raised and donated $50,000-$70,000 a year to schools and teachers in the form of supplemental education grants for projects that encourage students to be creative and expand their learning and comprehension of the world around them.
The Foundation has successfully provided over $800,000 in education grants for projects that otherwise would not have been possible. The Foundation has purchased a wide array of educational resources such as iPads, computers, smart boards, classroom programming aides, books, tutorial programs, supplies, instructional software programs, equipment, and the components necessary for presentations and classroom initiatives. The Foundation has supported themed projects in environmental studies, improving literacy, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). In addition, Foundation funds have paid for STEM labs, vegetable gardens on school grounds, field trips, museum tours, experiments, and guest lecturers, performers and artists.
The success the SCSD Educational Foundation has achieved has been a direct result of the generous support and donations from major corporations, local businesses and individuals, including personal United Way contributions from school district employees and administrators.
On behalf of the current and past members of the Board of Directors, and in appreciation of Dr. Stephen and Marilyn Jones and the founding members of the Foundation, we profoundly express our thanks to everyone who has contributed their time, resources, and vision to bring us to where we are today.
Marilyn enjoyed the individualism, cultures, and values of people, especially as reflected in music, theatre, fine arts, dance, media and movies. She appreciated individual expression and understood that the arts could lead to rewarding careers. The hope of the grant in her honor is to foster appreciation for and life‐long learning through all forms of the arts. Marilyn lost her battle with cancer in 2007, but lives on in the hearts and minds of the Syracuse City School District community and the SCSD Educational Foundation. Teachers are invited to indicate their interest in having their grant request be considered for this distinction if their application supports any arts project including fine arts and visual and performing arts projects.