If you want to do the job right, it’s not all that easy giving away $35 million a year.
But that’s what the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation plans to do.
As announced in June, the money will go to Idaho public schools. The charity has hired one of the state’s top education administrators to help with the task.
That brings the number of foundation employees to exactly five.
“We want the money to go to the school kids, not salaries,” executive director Sharron Jarvis said Tuesday.
Trudy Anderson, a Ph.D. who heads the state Division of Vocational Education, will start work for the Albertson Foundation in August.
“I look at this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said Anderson. “I’m flattered and honored and excited and can’t wait.”
Her reaction mirrors a broader excitement among educators and politicians. It started with news reports that foundation grants would zoom from $3.3 million in 1996 to $35 million per year, depending on the value of the company stock.
Kathryn Albertson, 88-year-old widow of grocery store magnate Joe Albertson, transferred her shares in the supermarket chain to the family’s foundation. That raised the charity’s assets from $30 million to $700 million, making it the 33rd largest foundation in the country.
The family foundation was started in 1966. According to Philanthropy News Digest, it lay dormant until Joe Albertson died in 1993. The next year, Kathryn Albertson donated that first $30 million.
Because Albertson had long been a supporter of education, his family decided to give grants to help the state’s elementary and secondary schools. Individual teachers and schools apply for the money to pay for special projects, training and equipment.
The foundation staff was surprised by Kathryn Albertson’s decision to transfer her shares during her lifetime.
“It was an unspoken thing that things might change when we lost Mrs. Albertson,” said Jarvis. “But we never knew the amount.”
Pouring so much private cash into one state’s education system is unprecedented. In a state with such a small population and low education funding, it is expected to have a big impact.
The foundation focuses on innovation. It emphasizes that money isn’t meant to replace the Legislature’s obligation to pay for basic needs.
“We don’t think education in Idaho is broken,” said Jarvis in a phone interview from her Boise office. “There are many educators who have great ideas rolling around in their heads that they simply haven’t had money to fund.”
Requests for grants have been steadily increasing.
Now, the foundation will expand to bigger projects. Some of those will be in professional development. It will be Anderson’s job to find ways to help teachers, administrators and school board members learn how to do their jobs better.
The foundation staff researches grant requests.
“You have to understand, what are the real needs? You need to know what already is being funded,” said Jarvis. “You need to know the key players in the state. Why are some districts stronger than the others?”
Requests to pay for classroom technology are especially tricky, Jarvis said.
“You have to make your own decisions, because the experts are divided (on the need for it).”
A six-person board of directors decides which grants to approve. The board consists of Kathryn Albertson; her daughter, Barbara Newman; foundation president Tom Wilford; Joe Scott; Everett Doty; and former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus.
Besides hiring two new people - the other is grants program manager Sally Anderson - the small foundation staff has had to adjust to the public awareness that comes with big money.
“We’re a very private group; we solicit no publicity,” said Jarvis.
“Until this hit the news, we were kind of a secret.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: FOUNDATION BOARD A six-person board of directors decides which grants to approve. The board consists of Kathryn Albertson; her daughter, Barbara Newman; foundation president Tom Wilford; Joe Scott; Everett Doty; and former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus.
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