Troy Foundation for Educational Excellence hires inaugural director

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published July 2, 2021


TROY — The Troy Foundation for Educational Excellence, known for providing fundraising and grant support to the Troy School District for the past 33 years, has made some changes around the office.

The foundation hired inaugural Executive Director Alison Hendry in May. Hendry, a former band and choir teacher, most recently directed the Birmingham Education Foundation for the last six years. She has a bachelor’s degree in music education from Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s degree in conducting from Sam Houston State University.

“It’s so great,” Hendry said of the new position. “For six years I’ve had the pleasure of doing this work for other people’s children. I’m just so thrilled to be able to do this work and be able to support the district that my son attends; to still work toward my passion, which is public education, and impact my own son at the same time. What could be better?”

Before Hendry’s arrival in May, foundation board President Julie McClure said, the board had been discussing onboarding an executive director for two years.

“When we joined the state organization and became linked more with them, we could easily validate the benefit of an executive director to really take us to the next level,” McClure said, adding that the pandemic did delay the original timeline a bit. “We’ve been successful in providing for the district; however, we always want to do more. It’s all about getting that money into the classrooms, for the students and the staff.”

The pandemic wasn’t all negative for the foundation, though. It provided them with an opportunity to reassess the types of grants they were offering. Where the foundation would once before offer teachers individual classroom grant opportunities, McClure felt it was unreasonable, and potentially burdensome, to ask teachers to apply for grants that way. The foundation started shifting its focus toward districtwide grant-funded projects.

“They’re very impactful and they’re very sustainable. We’re not doing away with classroom grants by any means, but it just gave us another opportunity (and) a different way to look at getting the money into the classroom,” McClure said.

Hendry expressed excitement that the foundation was already thinking about expanding in that direction. “We can continue to offer support for these smaller projects that impact maybe a grade level at a school or at one building — those passion projects that you need to have that really strong leader to pull off and get the grant money for, but we can also do these larger grants that really fulfill our mission of impacting the education of all the students attending Troy’s schools.”

The foundation doesn’t have to choose one or the other, Hendry said, explaining that one example of this is through the foundation’s forthcoming classroom libraries they will be providing to all the district’s middle school English teachers in September, before the start of the 2021-22 school year.

“Rather than one school raising funds to get their English teachers classroom libraries, we’re able to come in and make sure all of the English teachers at the middle school level get this resource,” she said.

The foundation has yet to finalize its strategic plan for the upcoming school year, McClure said, but it will be in place by August. Community outreach and engagement will be two major focus areas, McClure and Hendry agreed.

“We’ve been very successful at our fundraisers and focused on those, but I think the whole picture, our visibility within the community has been less than what we would like it to be,” McClure said.

The issue isn’t magnified to just Troy’s education foundation, however. Education foundations supporting districts elsewhere have similar issues with exposure.

“I think the first thing is to really start working on community awareness,” Hendry said. “When you connect with us, you’re connecting with an organization that is going to be working to support your child K-12. We’re here the entire way through your child’s school journey. Any investments you choose to make in the foundation will benefit your kid all the way through.”

It’s important the foundation can communicate why it’s here, what its support can do and how it helps the district, she added.

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