Summit County parents form foundation to aid school district |

Summit County parents form foundation to aid school district

SUMMIT COUNTY – A group of local parents has come together in hopes of offering succor to Summit Schools a little weary from a months-long budget-cutting process – the impacts of which may last for the next few years.

The Summit Education Foundation, the brainchild of Breckenridge resident Chris Renner, is a newly created nonprofit designed to fill gaps and broaden educational opportunities as local schools struggle with flagging state funding.

Renner came up with the idea late last month at the district’s community budget meeting, during which about 350 people weighed in on how to cut more than $800,000.

“In all that doom and gloom, we looked around the room and saw so many friends and families we knew could help financially support the schools if there was a mechanism to do so,” Renner said. “We left that meeting with an understanding of the stark reality of the situation and an exponentially bigger motivation to solve it.”

When Renner got home that night, he began researching private funding options for public schools and found thousands of foundations in communities across the country that aid their local school districts. Within hours, he was on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, creating a new nonprofit organization. The next day, he opened a bank account under the foundation’s name and deposited its first contribution.

Since then, Renner has been sending out e-mails, meeting people for coffee, organizing neighborhood gatherings, talking with school district leaders and making presentations to interested groups. He estimates that his message has reached about 300 Summit families so far, as word has spread from one circle of friends to the next. The Summit Education Foundation website went live Thursday, and it will be able to accept online contributions within a week. Renner is in the process of forming a board of directors, with representation from each of the district’s schools and a non-voting member from the Summit Board of Education.

Renner has high hopes for the organization’s fundraising efforts, setting his sights on the million-dollar mark. He hopes to make a “million-dollar difference” by funding positions, materials, projects and programs. The organization will operate independently of Summit School District, but will have close communication with the district to stay apprised of its needs.

Summit Education Foundation is still in its infancy, but Renner expects its pool of funders primarily to be Summit parents with school-age children. Targeting that demographic will keep the organization’s fundraising from taking away from other nonprofits, like the Summit Foundation, he said.

“I don’t think we’re dividing the pie. I think we’re enlarging the pie,” Renner said.

Summit Foundation executive director Lee Zimmerman concurred, saying his organization’s largest group of contributors is retirees and second homeowners.

“It’s an organization focused on education, which is a positive thing,” Zimmerman said. “And their fundraising will likely not have a negative impact on what we contribute to education.”

Nor does Renner foresee the Summit Education Foundation taking away from individual schools’ parent-teacher associations, which he sees as having missions distinct from the foundation.

Summit School District leadership is supportive of and optimistic about the new organization.

“I do believe you’ve injected a ray of hope into a situation that was reaching despair,” superintendent Millie Hamner told Renner at a school board meeting Tuesday. “This has energized our community in support of funding public schools.”

Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or

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