Shorewood's new advancement officer pioneering a possible trend in school fundraising

July 16, 2014

Shorewood — When the Shorewood School Board first announced its intention to hire a full-time development director last year, some wondered whether this was the start of a new era in fundraising for public schools.

Ted Knight is not sure if his new position is the start of a trend, but he seems up for the challenge of making it work in Shorewood. He and his family just moved from Maryland to Shorewood for his new job as the school district's first "chief advancement officer." He began working full-time on June 30.

Shorewood School Board President Rob Reinhoffer said in a district blog that the idea of adding a professional fundraiser to the district began a number of years ago. Although fundraising positions are typically only found in private schools, Reinhoffer said the model has become popular in California, as well as at public charter schools.

"The board came to the realization that maintaining the variety and quality of programming and learning experiences we provide was not realistic if we continued to rely solely on our regular sources of revenue from the state and local property taxpayers," Reinhoffer said in the blog. "In fact, the board set a goal of raising 1.5 percent of the district's annual budget through donations and grants."

Knight said he plans to seek support from corporations, foundations and individual donors.

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Washington University and a master's degree in public communication from American University, Knight went on to hold communications positions at Washington University and the University of Maryland — most recently as the assistant dean of communications at the Clark School of Engineering.

"My background has been in higher education, corporate relations, research development, communications and advancement," Knight said. "What I bring is an interesting perspective, having been immersed in a higher education environment for many years. In the K-12 arena, I am thinking hard about how we can bring new resources to the district and make new learning experiences available for students."

One example of Knight's potential duties includes beefing up the STEAM program, which integrates art into science, technology, engineering and math courses. Another program that could be expanded is Shorewood High School's Watershed Wisdom program, which is an environmental awareness course that takes students hiking, biking and canoeing around the Milwaukee River watershed.

Knight also said the district could do more to engage students in hands-on, problem-solving experiences — themes that fall in line with the recent Maker Faire held at the White House.

"If we're serious about developing the next generation of creators and innovators, then we need the resources to make that happen," he said.

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