By Brittany Shepard
In 1995, a group of community leaders in Dothan banded together around a common passion – the impact and importance of public education in Dothan. They formed The Education Foundation for Dothan’s Future that eventually was renamed to the Dothan Education Foundation in 2012 when Yes We Can Dothan and Adopt-a-School Dothan combined under the renamed foundation.
Since the start, the vision for Dothan Education Foundation has simply been the desire to see that “all children in Dothan have the opportunity for a great education.” But, this vision is carried out through the mission to “unify and mobilize community resources to advance the success of Dothan City School students.”
Current president Gindi Prutzman has been serving in her role at Dothan Education Foundation since June 2016.
“My role is to communicate the mission, activities and needs of the Foundation to stakeholders within the community and beyond,” said Gindi. “We are a two-person office, and Meagan (Dorsey, DEF Communications Director) and I both spend a good portion of our time as liaisons – working to bring different groups, organizations, businesses, etc. together to serve the needs of our students.”
Practically, public education is a bit complex and often community members are at a loss on how to efficiently support local schools. This is where Dothan Education Foundation comes in – to act as a sort of bridge between the school system and the community to find effective ways for the community to serve the schools.
“The DEF has two main strategic goals that drive our work,” said Gindi. “The first is…to keep the community engaged and apprised of essential Dothan City Schools initiatives and offer ways for the community to be involved. Our second goal is to provide support to teachers and schools to improve educational delivery to Dothan City School students.”
One of the main ways Dothan Education Foundation accomplishes their second goals is through their Teacher/School Grant program. Since 1995, over $480,000 have been invested back into the schools through this program.
Teachers and schools may apply for grants each year to fund specific learning projects, and the grants are awarded to teachers at the annual Dothan City School Institute – an event for district teachers and staff members prior to the first day of school that serves as sort of a “pep rally” for the new school year.
The funds for the Teacher/School Grant program are raised through various fundraisers throughout the year including the Morris Slingluff Memorial Golf Tournament in the summer and the Impact on Education event in the fall.
Dothan Education Foundation also seeks to find ways to encourage educators by offering support that is not specifically financial. Each year Dothan Education Foundation hosts the Spirit of Education event to honor Dothan City Schools Teachers of the Year.
Another project that Dothan Education Foundation does each year is the Stuff the Bus Campaign which provides needed schools supplies to the schools and teachers.
“In addition to much-needed funding, the Dothan Education Foundation serves as an advocate on behalf of the community by serving as a liaison and lead communicator between Dothan City Schools and the stakeholders of local public education,” said Gindi.
Dothan Education Foundation does this by coordinating the Adopt-a-School! Dothan program which partners over 100 businesses and community members with local schools to help meet the school’s specific needs. Another way this is done is through the annual Dothan City Schools Education Showcase.
“We are currently planning our 9th Annual Education Showcase that will highlight the schools and students of DCS and the innovative work they are doing,” said Gindi. “It will be held on January 25th (2018) at Wiregrass Commons Mall.”
A new project that Dothan Education Foundation is working on is planning an event to be held in January 2018 that will connect non-college bound seniors with employers, training programs and other opportunities that will help them succeed upon graduation.
Dothan Education Foundation’s impact on Dothan City Schools cannot be understated, and the organization continues to be innovative and look for ways to enhance the education of all children in Dothan. And, according to Gindi, the most rewarding part of her job is serving as a liaison between the school district and the community.
“I often joke and say that I know ‘a little about a lot of things,’ but to me, that is the only way to make connections for success,” said Gindi. “We have so many great organizations and people doing amazing work in Dothan, but often work is duplicated or disjointed. Partnerships and collaborations can bring about amazing results, and when I get a chance to make those connections [on behalf of the school system]that lead to success, that is my reward.”
Dothan Education Foundation’s greatest need is for the community to really know who they are and what they do.
“In terms of community engagement, we need for more parents, businesses and community members to do just that – ENGAGE,” said Gindi. “By simply educating yourself on the challenges of our community, you can easily find ways to plug in. DEF wants to develop a strong base of people who are passionate about public education and bring them together to work for the good of all DCS students.”
For more information, visit their newly redesigned website at www.dothaneducationfoundation.org, find them on Facebook and Instagram as Dothan Education Foundation or follow them on Twitter @TheDEFWay.