Until recently, the Houston Education Foundation has had the same president since it was founded in the fall of 2006: Joe Richardson.
About a month ago, Richardson passed the baton to Ryan Munson, but will stay with the HEF as its treasurer.
Back in 2006, there was a push locally for the creation of a volunteer-based non-profit foundation that could offer financial assistance to the Houston School District by providing things above and beyond what the district’s budget allowed. Richardson had been a school board member for several years, and didn’t refile in 2005. When the HEF was subsequently launched, he was appointed president of the new organization.
“Everything we do is geared toward helping the school district and the students,” Richardson said.
The HEF’s bylaws indicate it can have up to 15 board members. It operates under the umbrella of the Houston Community Foundation, and is affiliated with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO), an organization based in Springfield that works with nonprofit groups to help them “fulfill their missions through fund administration, grantmaking and learning opportunities.”
While the CFO administers much of the HEF’s funding, other sources have been integral to the cause, including the Walmart Foundation, Casey’s Classroom Foundation, Intercounty Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up and various group and individual donors. The HEF also raises money itself by hosting various community-oriented events.
“We get funds through a lot of sources,” Richardson said.
Richardson is well-known in the area for his long-time dental practice. During his tenure at the helm of the HEF, the organization orchestrated numerous significant acquisitions for Houston Schools, including the purchase of welding stations at the Piney River Technical Center, choir risers, band uniforms, a sound system for Hiett Gymnasium and much more. One of the biggest transactions was the purchase of about 300 Chromebook laptop computers and seven charging carts for close to $30,000.
While the HEF frequently takes on large-scale projects, it also provides numerous “mini-grants” for specific needs outlined by individual teachers. The HEF also presents $2,000 scholarships to two graduating seniors each year.
“We would like to grow that,” Richardson said.
‘NEW BLOOD’ TAKES THE REINS
Munson is owner of the In Season Sports and Outdoors retail store in Houston, and has strong ties with the Houston School District. He’s a 2001 graduate of Houston High School and spent 10 years coaching within the district and five years as an elementary level physical education teacher. Munson’s wife, Amanda, is current HHS principal.
“Joe has done a great job,” Munson said. “Starting from scratch and building what they have is pretty impressive.”
“It will be nice to have a younger influence,” Richardson said. “Ryan called me during the summer and said that if I would stay on the board to help him get adapted to being the new president, he would take over.
“I think we need some new blood and young energy in there. He’ll do a good job.”
Munson joined the HEF as a board member a little over a year ago.
“I saw the need and I was wanting to help out,” he said. “And they’re wanting younger blood in there; I think there are some good things we can do, but sometimes you get a bit stale, and I think we can have some fresh, new ideas.”
Richardson intends to offer all the mentoring Munson wants as he learns the ins and outs of leading the HEF.
“I told him I wouldn’t even consider being HEF president without his help,” Munson said. “And maybe this will be a refresher for him, and he can sort of catch a second wind and keep doing things.”
The HEF sends out a newsletter each October. There are currently openings on its board. To inquire about getting involved (or to find out about donating), call Richardson at 417-217-0588.
“It’s a great way to support the schools and the community,” Richardson said, “We’ve done a lot of great things over the years, and we appreciate all the support we get from all directions.
“One of the things we did back in 2006 was come up with a mission statement that basically says we would help provide educational opportunity and excellence above and beyond the capacity of the school district by raising private funds in different ways to help improve the district’s programs. That’s basically what we’ve done.”
More information about the HEF is available on the Houston School District’s website. Detailed information about the CFO can be found online at cfoozarks.org.