WEST HIGH SEEKS ALUMNI AID – $150,000 NEEDED FOR NEW ENTRANCE
GAYLE WORLAND firstname.lastname@example.org 608-252-6188 | Posted: Monday, March 23, 2009 12:00 am
West High School students will have a grand new entrance to come through next fall. But to help finance it, organizers are
looking down the street and across the country – to alumni.
Later this month, about 20,000 West High graduates will find in their mailboxes a donation plea for “The Ash Street Project,”
a $400,000, front yard reconfiguration of a building that many consider a Near West Side landmark. Designed by Madison
landscape architect Ken Saiki, a West High alum, the new entry will have a symmetrical, formal staircase, decorative walkway
and performance area.
Referendum funds and grants will cover $250,000 to replace the school’s crumbling steps and make the new entry comply
with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. But it’s up to West to raise another $150,000 to fund Saiki’s design, a vision
approved by a community committee, said Principal Ed Holmes.
“Technically the district money is enough to take down what we have and put it back the way it is,” Holmes said. “It’s time for
a renovation, kind of a starting over. The Ash Street entrance is really the symbol and the image of West High School that
people have had over the generations.”
Organizers hope to tap into that sense of connection by selling paving bricks engraved with a name or message for $100, $250
or $1,500, depending on size, to be set into the finished promenade.
It’s similar to having alumni “buy a seat” with a name plaque to help fund the renovation of a school auditorium, a method
formerly used by West and in 2006 by La Follette High School, which upgraded its seats in a $60,000 project. And soon, a
community group at East High will announce a multimillion-dollar, private fundraising campaign to renovate the school’s
auditorium, said East Principal Alan Harris.
Turning to alumni for big capital projects “has become an increasing trend,” said Martha Vukelich-Austin, president of the
Foundation for Madison Public Schools. “It’s really the economic times that our school districts are in.”
Yet fundraising for public schools “is still in its infancy,” said Dan Mansoor, a West alum and professional fundraiser in Ohio
hired to consult on the Ash Street Project.
The buy-a-brick campaign is meant to link school and community, and West has challenged each class and club to raise
$1,500 for its own paver, Mansoor said. He recalled that when the tennis courts at West – a spot where he’d spent many happy
hours as a student athlete – needed to be re-paved, no one approached him.
“If they would have asked, I would have given generously,” he said. “The number-one reason people don’t give is because
they’re not asked.”