Norwood Park School group gives funds to Taft HS
by BRIAN NADIG
A fund-raising foundation for Norwood Park School reportedly has donated $45,000 for future improvements at Taft High School, prompting concerns among some parents that those funds should be used for the elementary school.
The transferring of funds from the Norwood Park School Educational Foundation to the Taft High School Foundation was announced at the Sept. 12 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council, but additional details were not available.
It was later reported that the donation is not being earmarked for a specific project at Taft and that Norwood Park foundation members made the recent $45,000 donation because some of their children attend Taft.
About 8 years ago, the Norwood Park foundation had a disagreement with school officials about how to spend its money, and the Chicago Public Schools Law Department reportedly requested that the foundation’s remaining $300,000 be given to the school, but the department later recommended that the school community wait for the funds to be donated to the school in accordance with a 7-year payment scheduled established by the foundation. The last payment was scheduled for this year.
In 2011, a CPS law department official reportedly expressed concern that attempts to secure a one-time payment of all of the funds could result in the foundation spending its remaining funds on a legal defense instead of on the school, according to a summary of a meeting between the department and the foundation that was prepared for the Norwood Park Local School Council.
"CPS has also been in contact with the Illinois Attorney General’s office charitable trust division to ensure enforcement of the distribution schedule," the summary stated.
It was reported at a Norwood Park LSC meeting last January that the foundation had $90,000 in remaining funds, according to the meeting’s minutes. At the time and at the request of the foundation, the LSC and school administrators were preparing a list of items which the school wanted the foundation to spend its funds on.
The nonprofit foundation raised about $1 million between 2005 and 2010, and some of its funds had gone toward the construction of a new science lab and the purchase of laptop computers. Some parents reportedly were upset about changes made to the science lab after it was built.
The Norwood Park foundation raised some of its funds through auctions that were held at dinners for school parents. In a 2010 letter to parents, the foundation stated that it had "distributed over $560,000 to benefit" the school during a 5-year period.
The letter also stated that the foundation will "no longer actively fundraise on campus or target the NPS parent community" given that the school wants to change its fund-raising model. The foundation is an independent charitable organization that does not operate under the control of the school system.
One parent said that parents donated to the foundation during the recession of the late 2000s when they were struggling to pay their mortgages and that it would be an insult to those parents if those funds were not used for Norwood Park School.
At Taft, the foundation holds an annual school hall of fame ceremony and has contributed funds toward the resurfacing of gym floors and other renovation projects.