Call it a booster club for academics. The Oxford School District Foundation (OSDF) has been promoting learning in Oxford schools for 30 years now, thanks to a former superintendent and 17 families with a vision for how great the school district could be. Tuesday night, the organization honored some of those visionaries.
“Our original goal was to make this the best school district possible,” Jolee Hussey, one of the founding members, said. “We used to say we provided the icing on the cake. We wanted to step in to help provide something the district could or should have but couldn’t afford.”
OSDF started out as the Oxford Endowment for Public Education in 1986 thanks to then Superintendent Bob McCord. McCord had seen something similar in the Tupelo schools and knew the idea could work here, too.
“All I had to do is mention the idea and get out of the way,” McCord said. “The community has always been supportive of the district and willing to assist the administration and the teachers with whatever they’ve needed.”
Several founders and former board members attended OSDF’s annual meeting at the Oxford High School. They shared memories of the group’s origins and described awarding just under $9,000 to teachers in the very first round of grants back in 1987.
Now, 30 years later, OSDF is distributing nearly $70,000 through the 2017 Awards for Teacher Innovation. Though the foundation has grown over the years to include 200 families, businesses and individuals, the mission is much the same.
“We want to be the group that steps in when a teacher asks, ‘What if? What if I had something to make learning more fun, more interactive, more measurable?’” said OSDF President Allyson Best.
Teachers like Oxford Middle School’s Jill Knox say OSDF fills that role for the district. She won an award this year that allowed her to purchase virtual reality viewers, which will help her bring novels to life in her English classes.
“This lets me do something in my classroom that my school might not be able to fund,” Knox said. “The fact that OSDF is a part of us makes it feel more accessible than some other grant opportunities.”
McCord said in reflecting on all that the foundation has done in 30 years he’s reminded of a lyric from a contemporary gospel song.
“May all who come behind us find us faithful,” McCord said. “I think it’s clear that those who have come behind us have been faithful to what we hoped this foundation could be.”
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