The Bellevue Schools Foundation's annual Spring for Schools luncheon brought in more than half a million dollars that will benefit programs for students and training for teachers.
About 1,000 people attended the lunchtime event at .
The foundation pays for items such as VIBES, the district's volunteer program; AVID, a study skills and college readiness development program in all middle and high schools; grant programs for academics and music and other programs. The foundation also helped raise more than $800,000 in matching funds and donations after and organizes businesses and other volunteer mentorship opportunities.
According to the Bellevue Schools Foundation's annual report, in 2010 it spent $1.2 million on funding educational programs.
According to the Bellevue Schools Foundation, Thursday's fundraiser brought in $555,815 for programs.
Foundation board member Bill Pollard, who is also the manging principal at Talon Private Capital, told the crowd that with state budget cuts, it becomes more important for local givers to contribute to programs that help students succeed.
"You see what's coming out of this district, and yet you look on the curve and the dollars are just plummeting," Pollard said. "As an employer I'm nervous. Are we teaching the kids that I want to employ in the future? The teachers are nervous. Do I have the resources to actually impart the skills that I've learned and that I'm very good at?"
He said that recent successul fundraisers at the school foundations in and Issaquah show that there is pride in the local public schools.
Thursday's event included displays from the various programs that the foundation funds or helps pay for, including a competing robotics club at Interlake High School, reading programs at all the elementary schools, a college counseling program at Interlake and Sammamish high schools and photos from various field trips and after school activities.
Several students, teachers and adminsitrators also gave presentations on the programs that the foundation money pays for.
principal Eric McDowell told the crowd about one of the programs paid for through the foundation, Starting Strong, a late summer program for incoming sixth graders who need help with the transition to middle school.
McDowell said that the program, which involves study in a variety of subject areas and study skills sessions that McDowell and assistant principal Jacqueline McKenzie teach.
"If we teach them nothing else this week, we will teach them that we care about them," he said.
But this year's GPAs showed that Starting Strong is more than giving kids a good feeling about school -- that the extra help appears to have boosted grades. The average GPA of sixth graders the previous year was a 2.0, he said.
"The average GPA of Starting Strong students was 2.65," McDowell said. "That's a tremendous improvement in their academics."