By Kevin Coughlin
Last week, students were the stars.
Now, it’s the Morris Educational Foundation’s turn to take a bow.
The organizers of Morristown Onstage announced Wednesday that they have been ranked among the top five K-12 foundations in America by a national study.
The Caruthers Institute ranked the MEF fifth among foundations with revenues of between $500,000 and $1 million, right behind foundations in Barbers Hill, TX; Ogden, UT; Lawrence Township, IN; and Irving, TX.
In all, 188 K-12 foundations serving 220 school districts were included in the study. The only other New Jersey entity cited was the Foundation for Newark’s Future, ranked 10th among foundations with annual revenues exceeding $2 million.
Foundations such as the MEF “are providing vital programs for students and valuable grants for teachers that otherwise would not exist,” study author Dewey Caruthers, president of the Florida-based institute, said in a statement.
The study, Stepping Up: The Nation’s Top K-12 Education Foundations 2016, calculated rankings based on eight performance categories: Annual revenues, revenues per student, total assets, assets per student, investment income, total program expenses, expenses per student, and volunteers.
“We know that strong schools are the foundation of strong communities,” said MEF Chair Kim Pistner in a statement.
Established in 1992, the MEF has raised nearly $2.5 million for programs in the Morris School District. Morristown Onstage, a benefit talent show created by the nonprofit foundation, celebrated its 10th anniversary last week at the sold-out Mayo Performing Arts Center.
“We have worked very hard over the past several years to advance our mission and significantly increase our impact on the lives of the students, teachers, and families of the Morris School District and our greater community,” Pistner said.
With the right mix of visionary educators, motivated and diverse students, and dedicated donors, partners and volunteers, “you can truly make exceptional education extraordinary,” said Debbie Sontupe, MEF executive director.
Foundations have become increasingly vital for innovative programs as state funding for public education has declined, said Megan Dzwonkowski, executive director of the New Jersey Education Foundation Partnership, in a statement.
“The MEF has made a significant impact on, not only, the students in the Morris School District, but the community at large,” Dzwonkowski said. “Their collaborative and strategic work is exemplary, bringing creative and innovative programming to the students while building bridges between the school district and the community.”