More business involvement sought by Washoe schools

Heath Morrison, the superintendent of the Washoe County School District, and the district's board believe that partnerships with business are so important that they've named them as a specific objective in the district's new strategic plan.

Their goal: Line up at least one business partner for each of the 94 school sites in the district, and reinvigorate the partnerships so that they provide meaningful support to schools.

The nonprofit Education Alliance of Washoe County, which raises funds and builds support for the school district, plans an event Thursday to jump start the process of lining up businesses with schools.

The launch of the Partner in Education program is set for 4-5:30 p.m. at the Peppermill's Tuscany Ballroom.

Current participants in the Partner in Education program, as well as companies that might be interested in providing volunteer assistance, are invited.

Denise Hedrick, executive director of the Education Alliance, said about 176 organizations most of them businesses, with a smattering of faith-based groups and service clubs have signed on to become a Partner in Education.

Even so, she said 14 schools have no partners, while others have several partners.

Employees from partner companies commonly work one-on-one with students or help fill other volunteer positions within schools.

"This is about being a champion for the school finding other ways to support the school besides writing a check," Hedrick said.

Jim Pfrommer, a certified public accountant in Reno who serves as president of the Education Alliance board, said the benefits flow both ways between a school and a participating business. Volunteerism strengthens the reputation of a businesses within a community, he said, and participating employees find meaning in the hours they volunteer.

"It's good business, and it's good employee relations," he said.

Coleen DeLong, partnership and marketing coordinator for the Education Alliance, said small companies some with fewer than 10 employees are among the most active participants in Partner in Education.

Pfrommer said this week's session will include discussion of best practices and stories of highly successful partnerships between schools and businesses. Morrison is scheduled to speak as well, detailing the role that businesses can play in improvement of the district.

DeLong said one measurement of the program's success is the eagerness with which students look forward to the arrival of business volunteers in a classroom.

"It is the high point of their day," she said.

To RSVP for Thursday's event, contact DeLong at or 353-5533.


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