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Chairs For Change

Etienne MacCormack, 16, is framed by a chairback of the chair he is converting to a work of art for the Chairs for Change project at Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun

Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy is enlisting the help of students, staff and parent volunteers to make a fundraising plan that will hopefully smooth out the school’s finances.

The academy finances have always been relatively cyclical because they depend on the number of students enrolled in the school, but recently a number of financial problems have come to a head, leaving the school facing the possibility of a shortfall of about $160,000 at the end of June, said FALA Executive Director Larry Wallen. The school has a reserve fund that it can draw from to make ends meet, but the school and its supporters want to create a plan that would bring a steadier source of funding.

Staff met with students and parent volunteers in late January to brainstorm fundraising ideas to stabilize the school’s bank account, Wallen said. The school, students and supporters have already started to move forward on some of the suggestions raised.

“We’re moving along quite dramatically to create a fundraising program,” he said.

Staff is working on a database of donors that volunteers can use to send out fundraising letters and special appeals letters for funds. They’re also creating a master list of events that could be used for future fundraisers.

A marketing plan for the 2018/2019 school year is also in the works with the help of students from Assistant Professor of Visual Communication at Northern Arizona University Patrica Murphey's class. The school is also ramping up a campaign to educate parents and the public about the Arizona Public School Tax Credit.

The credit allows taxpayers to donate up to $200 for single people and $400 for married couples to a school of their choice up until April 15. In return, the taxpayer gets a credit on their taxes for the amount they donate. They’re hoping to get people to donate a small amount of money on a monthly basis that will allow donors to budget a contribution and claim the tax credit.

In order to make it easier for people to donate to the school, the academy has put a donate button at the top of its website. The link leads to a webpage where donors have their choice of filling out a general donation form or an Arizona Public School Tax Credit form. Residents interested in donating can also contact the school directly at (928) 779-7223.

“We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people,” Wallen said.

The school and its volunteers are also working on a corporate sponsorship program where local businesses who are interested in donating funds or sponsoring a particular project could sign up. The school is also writing up a donors’ bill of rights and a gift acceptance policy to make sure that donors know where their money is going and that the money is used properly.

Right now FALA is making a list of infrastructure improvements it would like to fund through its marketing and fundraising program, Wallen said. The school needs items like Chromebooks for the students, a fume hood for its science classes and musical instruments for students.

Wallen is also hoping to get approval for a $150,000 loan from the company that handles the school’s bonds. That money will help with the general operation of the school.

The eventual plan is to set up an endowment that would help smooth out some of the mountains and valley in funding the school experiences over the year.

FALA already plans to cut some classes that don’t have a high enrollment and are not required by the state in the next year, he said. They’re also expecting to fill 50 new seats for sixth graders in the fall and the other seats that are open in the seventh and eighth grades. The new sixth grade class will also bring in about $50,000 of new revenue to the school through state funding.

Ed. note: This story has been changed from its original.

The reporter can be reached at or (928)556-2253.


Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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