Sandfort to contribute up to $5,000 to new student leadership development fund

Preliminary approval of the creation of a student leadership development fund was given by the Lindbergh Board of Education during a recent budget workshop.

The fund will help to partly offset the loss of revenue anticipated due to the district’s new wellness initiative, and the board is committing $5,000 for the next three years to continue student leadership training.

At the May 16 workshop, Superintendent Jim Sandfort, who had requested the creation of the fund, announced a matching-grant challenge besides the board’s allocation. Sandfort requested that the board withhold an amount up to $5,000 from his salary as a dollar-for-dollar match for parent or community contributors who are willing to invest in student leadership training.

The challenge will begin July 1 and continue until Dec. 31.

The district’s new wellness policy, which take effect for the 2006-2007 school year, was adopted by the Board of Education in response to state and federal mandates, growing concerns over obesity and related health issues, as well as parent and community concerns. Among other things, the policy calls for the elimination of all soda and candy sales throughout Lindbergh School District.

Revenue from these sales has gone primarily to clubs and organizations — such as the Lindbergh High School Student Council — to help fund dances and activities and also leadership development opportunities.

“Our concern as a board is that in doing something beneficial and needed for the general health of our students, we have eliminated funds that have been used to build a nucleus of strong student leaders,” board President Mark Rudoff stated in a news release.

The student leadership development fund will be overseen by a committee comprised of the high school principal, a Mothers’ Club representative, a staff member and Student Council representatives.

The school board treasurer will serve as an ex-officio member.

All applications must be endorsed by the club sponsor, and the applicant is expected to “give back” to his or her organization or club through a project or program. The scholarship is open to any Lindbergh High School underclassman and provides up to one half of the cost of the training.

Asked about the matching-grant challenge, Sandfort stated in the release, “Several events have come together to make it the right thing to do. With leadership development being put in jeopardy by our new wellness initiative, I wanted to do something to preserve this part of our program. I have been supportive of student leadership development since my days as a high school principal in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, when we hosted the National Student Council Convention.

“I have seen the good things that happen for students and schools when this type of investment is made. Lindbergh has a strong tradition of ‘giving back,’ and I personally want to do something to extend that tradition prior to the district’s transitioning to a new superintendent,” he said, referring to his recent announcement that he will retire at the end of the 2007-2008 school year.

“The community is aware that, for the past few years, the board has been working to raise the salary for the superintendent’s position to the lower end of the upper quartile for St. Louis County superintendents. The board has already done this with teacher and other administrative positions by benchmarking salaries to other successful districts. This reflects the increase in expectations for academic performance held by parents and the community. It will also assist the board in being able to attract a quality replacement for the superintendency,” Sandfort stated.

“Rather than have some in the community turn the board’s decision into a negative, I want to make it a positive. Anyone interested in improving opportunities for students and investing in the future of this district can make a contribution I will match,” he added.

The final details of the challenge fund will be published by June 30. The fund will be set up like a scholarship fund with all contributions being tax deductible. If enough donations are received, it will become a self-sustaining fund where the principal is reserved and only the interest is used.

“That’s the ultimate objective,” Sandfort stated.