United by a concern for both local students and their own property values, parents from the Byron Union School District (BUSD) have banded together to form the Byron Partners in Education (BPiE) Foundation.
This 501(c)(3) nonprofit is focused on raising money from the general community for the three schools of the Byron district: Discovery Bay Elementary, Timber Point Elementary and Excelsior Middle School. The board members hope their funds will help minimize future budget cuts that impact the quality of education the community’s children receive.
“Last year, I was part of a budget committee ... we talked a lot about what cuts we could make to keep the schools from going under state (control), and after a while, there was nothing else we could cut,” said BPiE President and Founder Jennifer Dahl. “So we began looking at how we could raise money.”
Dahl took the idea and ran with it, setting up the nonprofit and organizing a board of eight members. Joe Le Bel, whose two young daughters attend Timber Point, signed on as secretary.
“A successful education program is what attracts young families to communities,” said Le Bel, noting that one of the first things prospective home buyers do on Zillow is swipe down to see the local schools’ scores.
Le Bel and the other members of the BPiE board firmly believe that, in addition to boosting students’ educational experience, they will improve their community at large by improving school scores.
“We are really trying to bring more STEM projects back into the schools, because those are the first things that get cut,” Le Bel added. “We are also making it clear that we are working hand-in-hand with the PTA, not competing against them and their fundraising efforts and event schedules.”
While the PTAs at the three schools generally raise money exclusively from student families, BPiE intends to target the entire area, asking residents to consider the values of their homes, while pointing out the latter’s connection to local schools and the community as a whole. The goal is to close the gap between district funding and what the PTA can raise.
Dahl is also looking at corporate sponsorships and donation-matching programs to bring in funds.
“The idea is to raise enough money to have the ability to impact the current school year,” Dahl said. “We will get all the money into one big pool and then I will meet with the principals, and the schools will be able to write grants against the money.”
BPiE is off to a strong start and has planned their first fundraising event — a casino night — for September at Brentwood Veterans Hall.
“I think it’s good to have the event in Brentwood, because all these kids will get funneled into the Liberty district eventually, and we are really trying to tear down the walls between the school districts and get more community involvement for the education of the students,” said Le Bel. “That’s really the goal of BPiE.”
While the district itself has not been instrumental in the organizational process, new BUSD Superintendent, Dr. Reyes Gauna, is grateful to Dahl and her fellow board members for their efforts.
“I’m always going to be excited when an organization wants to come and work with us as a partner,” Gauna said. “Their intention is to help us and partner with students and staff. They come from a place of love and respect for our students and staff and community, so those are the kinds of things I am looking for, and we are going to move forward with them.”
The BPiE Casino Night will take place Friday, Sept. 20 from 6 to 11 p.m. at Brentwood Veterans Hall located at 757 First St. in Brentwood. Cost is $50. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Dolores Long at 925-584-6712 or visit www.conta.cc/2Y6sk5N.