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Five Questions With Tarrytown's Mary McBride

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – Mary McBride is president of the Foundation for the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns , a non-profit organization that raises money and resources for the Union Free School District of the Tarrytowns.

McBride sat down with The Daily Tarrytown to answer five questions about the Foundation. The following is a lightly-edited transcript of the interview.

What exactly is the Foundation, and what does it do?

Our mission is to encourage and enhance the programs of the Public Schools of the Tarrytowns. We raise private money for the public schools.

Originally, the Foundation was started in the year the bond issue passed with the purpose of buying and equipping the schools with computers. Subsequently, the schools were networked and it went on from there.

We have a very balanced program of funding athletics, arts, drama, multimedia. So it's really balanced across programs and across the schools.

What are some things the Foundation is focusing on this year?

This year, we're trying to focus on being really creative about how we network and partner with the groups in our community, seek out new sources of funding and look at different ways of getting donations and sponsorships.

We are looking at having a targeted marketing campaign. We may make a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce, see if any businesses in town want to sponsor a program for five years or something like that. We're going to try and identify programs that have a long life that could be available for a sponsorship and may be a great fit for with the right business or right individual.

We did a lot of work last year trying to communicate with the community. Let people know what we are and how we differ from the PTA and some other groups. I think we did a great job with that. We want to build that this year: rebuild our Facebook page, re-do our website so we're a lot more interactive. When we have good news, we want to share it.

So we're just looking to really be creative in any ways we can think of to keep ourselves going and help people understand that this is good energy. That every dollar that they give really does go to the kids and really does make a difference. We're all sitting down and trying to figure it out.

How do you think the Foundation's role will change as the school district has to work within the next tax cap?

It doesn't affect our structure, but I suspect that we'll have even more grant proposals this year than last. I think last year we had gone from maybe 68 proposals, requests for funding to something like 90. I suspect that that will increase.

We don't exactly know how the tax cap will affect the school. We haven't heard anything specifically. But we anticipate that besides the pressure to keep our funding at the same level that it's been at consistently—that we will have much more pressure to cover some programs that will be dropped altogether.

What are some challenges the Foundation has faced or is facing?

We are the host of a lower Westchester roundtable for foundations to get together to get together once every year or two to discuss these issues. In last year's roundtable meeting, one of the principal questions was 'When everyone has a full-time job, how are you getting and keeping volunteers?'

It's a real issue. We have a pretty much fully-working board. Everybody has a job. So we need to be careful that we don't fatigue our volunteers and give them too much work.

Some of the other foundations in lower Westchester County have had big cutbacks and two of them are on hiatus because they didn't really have any personnel left to work with. We have had to outsource some things that turned out to be too onerous. There are some jobs that a volunteer can no longer handle, so that's been a difficult decision to make.

I'm hoping to add about seven board positions this year. I have jobs in mind for about three of those. Four of them we hope can work with the committee level and start to take some responsibility from other people.

How can people get involved in the Foundation?

Well, the easiest and the best way to get involved in the Foundation is to help out with the dinner dance. The dinner dance is our principal fundraiser. We make a great deal of money, it's a lot of fun and it's a short-term commitment. You get to know some people and a dedicated job and you're done. They can contact the Foundation office—Shelly Colley will discuss this with them.

We're also seeking to build up our committee groups. We've put out some requests in the district newsletter. We are looking for people with special skills. If you have a special skill and you want to join, please let us know what your skill is.

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