The Education Foundation was formally established in April 1984 through the efforts of concerned business and education leaders. A $5,000 grant from the Florida Department of Education in 1983 provided the initial funds to plan the groundwork of a Partnership in Education Foundation. Parallel efforts taking place during a Futures Conference co-sponsored by the Economic Council of Palm Beach County led to the incorporation of the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County under the care of the Economic Council. An executive director was hired and the foundation was modeled after other successful foundations in the country. One of the early champions of the Education Foundation was Council Member William T. Dwyer whose untimely death prevented him from seeing the fruition of his efforts. Once the Foundation was incorporated, a five year plan was developed including a contract agreement with the School Board of Palm Beach County.
The first year, the Foundation gathered a Board of Directors representing the business community, school administrators and community organizations. Goals were set to include short term projects to provide enhancement resources to teachers and long term future planning committees to help the school system prepare for the next century. In 1985, Executive Director, Irene Jones, joined the organization and began to build a strong base of support from corporate contributors. The Education Foundation began to create a slate of ongoing programs which included the “Mini-Grants For Teachers”, “Career Shadowing” for occupational specialists, and a “Student Showcase”. The Foundation also raised funds for the “Region IX Science and Engineering Fair, the “Reach For Excellence Award Program”, the first “College Career Nights” and participated in forming the first “Student Leadership Conference”. By June 1987, the Education Foundation had distributed over $100,000 in program funds to Palm Beach County Schools and established itself as a valuable and important link between education and business.
A membership program was developed in 1986 to give individuals, especially parents, a means to participate in the Education Foundation’s mission. The first “School Calendar” was designed as an annual membership benefit to showcase student art and provide parents and teachers with important school information in a central and cohesive format. An expanded committee structure was initiated to begin involving individuals with expertise and influence in the process of addressing educational issues and formulating cooperative efforts to help the School Board with areas of need. The committee structure was designed to reflect the Education Foundation’s annual goals. Two new committees which have already set a tone of accomplishment are the “Teacher Retention and Recruitment Committee” and the “Career Development Commission”. Activities from these committees have already been noted at the Florida state level as innovative and successful models for other counties.
In a few short years, the Education Foundation has set a course of active involvement with education; a significant course that will help to shape a positive future for the children of Palm Beach County.