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Capital Campaign

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What is the need?  As alumni, community members, and friends of the Ishpeming Public School District we recognize the value of the Ishpeming Schools in our own lives, in those of our children and in the life of the community.  We believe this school district is the heart of the community, not only because it educates our children,  but also because it's our gathering place for fellowship and celebration. 

We recognize the effect of economic constraints on public schools because we are affected as well.  We understand there is no easy solution and that legislatures will do what they feel they must, but they cannot prevent us from taking action into our own hands. 

We believe a city without valued school program is incomplete, a shell of a community, and that Ishpeming will thrive as a city only if it retains its school identity.  We believe that a district of 800 students deserves not only to survive, but to succeed.

We recognize that no greater investment exists than the proper education of children and that we have on chance each year to do so.  Today's student is tomorrow's leader, and Ishpeming High School has produced leaders for decades. 

What evidence is there that this is a pressing need?  Ishpeming, as a small rural school district, located in a city with modest per capita income and real estate values, has been limited, especially during the past decade, to the basic foundation grant provided by Michigan school funding law (Proposal A of 1994) and the ability of its citizens to tax themselves for specific projects.  Ishpeming unlike its neighboring districts, is able to rely on a small geographic area for local funding.  Its citizens have demonstrated their commitment over and over, providing new construction and renovation to existing buildings.  They have done their part. 

Ishpeming is at a disadvantage in that we may not vote to raise local taxes to fund the operational budget, even if local taxpayers were able to shoulder additional taxes.  As pressure grew on the state's general fund, particularly since 2007, transfers to the state's school aid fund were no longer possible for many years.  For the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Ishpeming saw a reduction of nearly one million dollars, going from a budget of $8.5 million to $7.6 million in a single year.  The board, administration, and staff did their best to minimize the impact, but the effects were both immediate and long-lasting. 

The pressure continues from the state budget and from other quarters as well; the lingering charm exerted by charter schools and "schools of choice" influence decision making, locally and at the state level.  Ishpeming finds itself not only with the challenge to educate the modern student, but to compete for each child and family, and find ways to demonstrate its advantages as other districts do. 

How are we uniquely qualified to tackle this need?  Ishpeming High School has a significant advantage in the strength of its alumni organization.  Few schools benefit from the organization, resources and spirit our Alumni Association can bring to bear.  Their database, newsletter, and website provide us with a means to begin to make our case for capital campaign fundraising effort.  The loyalty and interest shown by the many alums who travel to Ishpeming for the July 4th holiday, to reunite with others informally at local venues and to attend functions such as the annual open house and reunions, give us confidence that their devotion will extend to financial support.  They wish to see our school and city succeed.  Hematites do not wait for others to solve their problems or complain about circumstances;  Hematites dig in and get the job done. 

We have recently seen several unsolicited gifts that from the base of this campaign - a $250,000, 10 year pledge for technology purchases, a $30,000 gift from an alum, a $20,000 donation from Cleveland-Cliffs, a $25,000 gift from a community minded couple, and $100,000 donation from a local alum. 

What will be the benefits of our actions?  We are formunlating plans for many improvements, in several areas.  Notably, academic enhancements, athletic projects, technology, basic infrastructure needs, new tennis courts, a new locker room building, improved technology access in both buildings, enlargement and enhancing of the downtown campus area through land acquisition  and development of playgrounds and other appropriate structures and a new building to house a Hematite Fitness center, open to athletes and non-athletes alike, which could also house an alumni association display and records area, instead of the current basement room.

What are the negative consequences if we fail?  We believe the projects and funds discussed, and other, will contribute to pride of place, to a spirit of loyalty and commitment already strong here, and encourage those who might choose another school district to join hands with us in educating their families.  Without such funding, the district will maintain its record of excellence, but without the advantages we envision.  The alumni group will continues to host events and itself be a center of school and town activity., the area surrounding the high school will continue to be a blighted residential neighborhood with little attention from absence landlords, and our tennis teams will continue to play matches on other school's new courts. 

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