About the Rural Schools Partnership

School Bell

The Importance of Rural Schools

Schools play a critical role in the well-being of small communities and towns that serve as rural hubs, providing a focal point of activity, a sense of civic pride, and a reason for families to stay in place. Schools are an integral thread in the community fabric; they provide a sense of purpose.

Rural education is a linchpin issue in rural economic development.

Our Ozarks Region

The Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ wide service area is firmly grounded in the hills of the Missouri Ozarks, a unique cultural and geographical region. Predominantly rural, a significant portion of the Missouri Ozarks is designated by the United States Department of Agriculture as an area of “persistent poverty.” In fact, the Foundation serves nine of Missouri’s ten poorest counties.

The Foundation’s network of affiliates stretches from the Mississippi River in the east to the Kansas and Oklahoma borders in the west, to the Missouri River in the north and the Arkansas border in the south.

Recognizing the overarching importance of schools to rural development, in 2009 the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ board of directors established the Rural Schools Partnership, a comprehensive program to strengthen small school districts. The Rural Schools Partnership resulted from a year-long planning process involving CFO’s regional committee, public school leaders, affiliated foundation leadership, donors, and area business people.

The Rural Schools Partnership embraces three consensus-based strategies for strengthening rural schools:

  • Develop alternative resources
  • Promote collaborations and partnerships
  • Support place-based education strategies

Program Features for Rural Schools Partnership Members:

A.     Resource Development

> Developing school foundations & charitable resources; CFO staff will assist schools, school foundations, and affiliated community foundations with:

  • Technical support
  • Administrative support
  • Fund management
  • Legal counsel
  • Board development and donor education
  • Planned giving programs
  • Establishing and managing scholarship programs

B.      Collaborations and Partnerships

> Provided professional development support for teachers and administrators through the Rural School and Community Trust’s Rural Schools Innovation Network.

  • This project was supported by a $20,000 grant from an anonymous foundation and $30,000 from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks Philanthropy Initiative.  A cohort of 25 schools participated in the two-year pilot project. Go to www.ruralschoolspartnership.org/archives/144 for a list of schools that took part.

> CFO will build meaningful relationships with local community foundations through fund development and community education

>Making a Difference Where You Live, a quarterly radio and web-based program on important rural education issues. Sponsored by Ozarks Public Broadcasting, KSMU, www.ksmu.org ; available 91.1 Springfield, 90.5 Branson, 90.9 West Plains; 88.7 Mountain Grove, 98.9 Joplin, and 103.7 Neosho on the FM dial.

C.      Place-Based Education

> The Louis L. and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Foundation Regional Grantmaking Program of Commerce Trust will provide $70,000 per year in grantmaking support for cooperative ventures that enhance teaching and learning through innovative place-based education programs. Visit this page for more information.

Bring place-based, cross-curricular learning to your school with the Placeworks arts outreach program. Kate Baird, museum educator at the Springfield Art Museum, and a team of teaching artists come to your classroom to blend arts training with other elements of your curriculum–math, science, social studies, language arts–for multi-session programs. This program is free, and requires only time and space for the learning to happen. Download this brochure (PDF, 5MB) for more information.

>The Community Foundation of the Ozarks Philanthropy Initiative will provide start up grants to support the establishment of youth philanthropy/leadership  programs in rural communities. Contact Bridget Dierks at 417-864-6199 or bdierks@cfozarks.org .

Our hope is that the Rural Schools Partnership and its various programs will increase philanthropic support for rural education, encourage purposeful collaboration, and strengthen the bonds between school and community.

Membership in the Rural Schools Partnership is open to any school, school district, or school foundation that has a formal relationship with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks or one of its affiliated community foundations.  For more information please contact one of our offices:

Springfield, Julie Leeth:  417-864-6199
West Plains, Joe Kammerer:  417-256-4725