- About Us
Foundation helps transform education | Rod Jones | Other Voices
By Rod Jones
When I moved to Bellevue from Michigan in June 2007, I found a welcoming community. The construction cranes that outlined downtown Bellevue – and have since returned – represented a vibrant and growing economy.
Yes, Bellevue is a thriving community full of actively engaged citizens and leaders, a dynamic business environment, beautiful landscapes, and an increasingly diverse population. Many of the largest and fastest-growing companies in the state and, in fact, the entire Pacific Northwest, have chosen Bellevue as their base of operations.
We are also home to one of the top school districts in the nation – no accidental twist of fate. We have committed parents, educators and community leaders focused on providing a world-class education for our children.
Perhaps this storybook view of our community, along with the widely held belief that Bellevue is an affluent and homogeneous suburb, leads some to conclude that Bellevue schools don’t need additional funding or community support.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Our schools serve an increasingly diverse student population. Thirty-two percent of our students speak English as a second language, with 48 first languages spoken at one high school alone. Non-white students make up 53 percent of our school district population. One out of five Bellevue students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, including 66x percent in one elementary school.
Meanwhile, Washington state has the third-highest percentage of jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), yet we are ranked 49th in preparing our children for these available jobs. Current estimates show that only six percent of current ninth graders will eventually graduate from college with STEM degrees.
The bottom line is that we are serving an increasingly diverse student population while navigating a rapidly changing and more competitive global economy. In spite of the recent news on state budget increases for education, we still fall below the national median on educational spending per pupil. Without community support, funding remains inadequate to address the challenges our children will face in the future.
Fortunately, our community does have an opportunity to take our children’s educational quality into our own hands. Since its inception in 1979, the Bellevue Schools Foundation has raised more than $23 million for our schools, funding programs such as VIBES (Volunteers in Bellevue’s Education System), national board certification for teachers, kindergarten early literacy intervention, and high school STEM curriculum implementation among many others. Its funding of pilot programs that transform learning makes it one of the most respected public schools foundations in the nation.
Bellevue is indeed a vibrant community with many strengths. However, we also must recognize our new challenges and opportunities by reengaging our community and supporting our students. The Bellevue Schools Foundation provides a proven blueprint for doing just that.
Rod Jones is a VIBES mentor and serves as a trustee on the Bellevue Schools Foundation Board, Sammamish High School STEM Advisory Board and The University of Washington - Bothell STEM Advisory Board. He is Managing Partner at Infinitas Ventures, a Bellevue-based private equity firm and lives in Bellevue.