BROOKSVILLE — Wanted: A business-savvy leader willing to work for a relatively modest salary toward the lofty goal of supporting the Hernando County school system.
That, essentially, is the job description for the new executive director of the Hernando County Education Foundation.
Formed in 1988, the nonprofit group's mission is to secure state and federal grant funding and donations of dollars, supplies and time to benefit local schools. The foundation has had part-time volunteer executive directors in the past, but now the time has come to bring on a full-time, paid leader to take the group — and its fundraising efforts — to new heights, said board president Gus Guadagnino.
"We're up to the next plateau," Guadagnino said. "You can only do so much with volunteers."
The executive director would work hand-in-hand with development director Tracy Echols, a part-time paid employee who has had success bringing in donations since starting on the job two years ago. The foundation distributed funds and services totaling more than $170,000 in the last school year.
"We started raising some serious money, but what comes along with that is more administration," Guadagnino said. "It was way too much for one person."
People skills are a must and knowledge of grant applications and connections in the community are a plus, he said. Even in this troubled economy, there are still plenty of resources out there if you know where to look, and even a smaller foundation like Hernando's could raise $1 million a year, Guadagnino said.
"It's almost like knowing how to fish without knowing where the fishing holes are," he said. "It gets frustrating."
A salary for the position has not been determined — Guadagnino declined to even give a ballpark figure — but it won't be big. The hope is to find someone willing to work hard for a sum that will still be a fraction of what other executives make, he said.
"Whatever it is, we have to make it happen somehow," he said.
The foundation's structure — a volunteer president leading a volunteer board of directors pulled from a variety of fields in the county — will remain the same.
One of 60 local foundations in the state, the Hernando group has garnered praise from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations for its results given the county's demographics and population, Guadagnino said. The foundation is probably best known locally for its annual Teacher of the Year awards banquet.
The group's plan to hire a director is encouraging, said Hernando school superintendent Bryan Blavatt.
A veteran educator on the Hernando job for 16 months, Blavatt has worked with similar groups in the past districts.
There are several organizations in the county that help support the schools, but none has the direct, consistent connection to the school district, Blavatt said.
"This is a pretty intense group," he said. "It's small but they work awfully hard."
Blavatt's active role has made a big difference in the last year, Guadagnino said.
"He gets it, what the foundation is, the possibilities and where it can go," he said. "As long as I've been doing this, it's the first time a superintendent sits at the table, voices an opinion and listens to what people have to say."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.