Mission Statement: "Recognizing Excellence and Promoting Innovation in Okemos Public Schools"
In the fall of 1984, under the leadership of Superintendent Dan C. Wertz, a group of parents and educators looking for a way to fund good ideas above and beyond the normal school budget formed the Okemos Education Foundation. Over the years, the OEF has had immeasurable impact on the education of countless Okemos students. The OEF has provided Okemos Public Schools with more than $1,000,000 to enhance learning and provide academic experiences for students at every grade level in every school throughout the district.
The first OEF grant was awarded in 1985 for development of a district-wide program to provide information and support to parents concerning adolescent substance abuse. In the early years of the foundation, grants of $500 or less were given for a variety of projects including guest speakers, assemblies, start-up funds for extra-curricular clubs, and field trip expenses. Larger grants were given to support early efforts to bring technology teaching tools into the classroom such as the creation of Publishing Centers in each school consisting of a computer, scanner, and printer for student projects.
In later years, the grants program became more focused on supporting innovative projects that were closely aligned to the curriculum, providing resources that would remain in the district for long periods of time and impact the greatest number of students. This grant program continues on today along with a micro-grant program begun in 2012 that provides for smaller projects that fall outside of the criteria of the regular grants, such as funds for field trip transportation, extracurricular club supplies, or normal classroom supplies.
The OEF has also supported the annual visiting author series for elementary schools for many years. In 2007, the OEF board made support of this event a permanent line item in their budget and have been able to continue support of this with the co-sponsorship of Horizon Bank.
In 2007, the OEF created the Lee Gerard Professional Development Fellowship to honor former Superintendent Dr. Gerard’s service for Okemos schools and his strong commitment to professional growth and development. These fellowships are available to Okemos teachers for collaborative projects that implement new instructional projects for the benefit of Okemos students.
In 2008, The Deits Family made a $50,000 donation to create the Connie Osborn Deits Science Enrichment Fund to honor Connie’s deep commitment to science education in Okemos. This fund has had a great impact on the understanding and appreciation of science by Okemos students.
In 1997, the OEF expanded its mission with the creation of its Commitment to Excellence Awards to recognize the significant contributions Okemos educators make to the Okemos school community. Over 100 teachers and administrators have been honored with this award which includes a $1,000 grant to support their continued contributions to education in Okemos.
In 2004, the Special Recognition Award was created to honor support staff. OEF Awards are also given to honor outstanding alumni, volunteer service in our schools, and those that have had an impact through their support of the OEF.
Response to budget challenges
Over the years when the district’s finances have been challenged by declines in Michigan’s economy, the OEF has stepped up to bridge gaps in the district’s budget. In 2003, the OEF’s Okemos Cares campaign raised over $300,000 for needs in wide variety of areas including Music and Visual Arts, Athletics, Gifted and Talented programs, as well as general academic enrichment.
In 2010, as the district’s budget shortfall dramatically increased, the Strategic Fund was created to restore and maintain educational opportunities. The Strategic Fund has provided large grants to purchase textbooks and software and other academic needs as well as funding for virtually all of the extra-curricular clubs throughout the district.
As of 2016, the OEF has continued to fund extra-curricular clubs across the district in addition to maintaining its other grant and award programs. With the foundation now in its fourth decade, the impact of OEF funding continues to grow.
Shaping the future
Of course, OEF donors have played the most important role in the history of the foundation. By supporting innovation and creativity in our schools, OEF donors are shaping the future. The grants and awards that our donors provide with their financial support help our children acquire the insights and skills they will need to respond to the challenges and opportunities facing our community, nation, and world throughout their lives.
Currently, many of today’s Okemos Public School’s kindergarteners will likely be around to usher in the 22nd century. The classroom innovations OEF donors provide today will continue to shape our world far into the future.
The OEF gave special recognition to those donors who contributed during its first 25 years.
Honorary Founders ($5,000 and above)
Chili’s of Okemos
Dr. and Mrs. Charles H. Bill
John & Kristen Courtney
Warren Culver and Jean Davis-Culver
The Deits Family
Delta Dental of Michigan
Lee & Linda Gerard
John S. Hettiger
Peter and Beth Janick
Cheryl and John Kreger
John and Kathryn Lanzetta
1984 – 1986 Jack G. Nimphie
1987 – 1988 Robert E. Miller, Jr.
1989 – 1991 R. Kenneth Gruber
1992 – 1993 Gary Sturk
1993 – 1995 David M. Lick
1996 – 1997 Ross Woodstock
1998 – 1999 Heather Clark
1999 – 2000 Mark Guastella
2000 – 2004 Jack Hettiger
2004 – 2005 Sherman Garnett
2005 – 2008 Kathy Schalter
2008 – 2014 Dean Bolton
2014 – 2018 Martha Hentz
2018 – 2019 Ron Styka
2019 – 2020 Ron Styka and Sue Hallman
2020 – present Sue Hallman
Miller, Robert E.
Nimphie, Jack G.
Tenbrunsel, Thomas W.
Wertz, Dan C.
Davis, Jack G.
Richards, George H.
Basso, Ronald M.
Dowley, Joel E.