Staff Writer

TROY - This year, the Troy Area School Board created the new position of director of development for the school district.

Ché Regina, the district's elementary assistant principal and the district's athletic director, was named to the position of development director, and is moving ahead in the role. The position of development director was created to raise new sources of revenue for the district, in light of the cuts in state and federal funding in recent years.

"As with any new position, the challenge will be communicating the vision of why the development director was created and what role will this individual play for the future of the school district," he said, when asked for comment by The Daily Review. "Public education has been dealt a difficult hand these past few years, and continuing to increase our tax base while cutting programs that are important to our community is unacceptable. This development director will be able to communicate the district's needs to the public while providing a path for businesses and individuals to invest in essential programs and capital projects."

He noted that the district is being pro-active with the creation of the position.

"Eliminating essential programs and opportunities in public school districts is a horrific reality that all schools are facing currently," he said. "By creating the development director position, the Troy School District has decided to take a more proactive approach by searching for alternate revenue streams. This will help us create opportunities and maintain programs that are important to our students, community, and alumni."

When asked why he took the job, Regina said, "The harsh reality of our school district is that our current costs are greater than our revenue. Unfortunately you will not be operating very long with that equation, no matter how great your business model may be. Simply put, I took this job to help balance that equation."

Initially, Regina will seek funding for three major projects that he said the district is currently discussing: improvements to the agriculture program, improvements to the technology education program, and the construction of a track/football/soccer stadium. At the last school board meeting, board members approved a campaign "to raise alternate revenue sources for the track/football/soccer stadium project."

Regina said that the track/football/soccer stadium would be built on the "Turtleback" area in back of the intermediate school. The estimated cost is $3.8 million in the initial proposal from the architect. Local tax revenue will not be used for the construction of the stadium, according to Regina. His job will be to find alternate revenue sources to pay for it.

A stadium would put all these sports in one place. Currently, football players practice at Turtleback and play at Alparon Park. The soccer team plays and practices at TECE. The district doesn't have a track, but track athletes practice at TECE in the grass and on the pavement. Regina said conditions for the track players are substandard and "not adequate."

Regina also described the need for improvements in the agriculture and technology education programs. The agriculture program encompasses agronomy, animal science, forestry, power machinery, and biotechnology while the technology education program includes construction (metal and wood), computer-assisted design, electronics, engineering and architecture.

According to Regina, the machines in the shop are antiquated, some more than 40 years old. He said replacing these machines with more modern ones is important, so that students are prepared when they enter the workforce. He noted that the district was able to purchase a laser engraver, thanks to outside money. A more modern piece of equipment, Regina points to this as an example of what he would like to see in the shop.

As for the agriculture program, Regina pointed out that the agriculture classroom hasn't changed since it was built in the late 1960s or early 1970s. He said the goal is to improve the agriculture program and keep it going. He would also like to see a "more encompassing" agriculture curriculum. Currently, a local advisory committee for the district's agriculture program is addressing possible improvements to the program.

All these improvements take money, of course, and Regina hopes that he will be able to find alternate revenue sources to pay for the changes, in coordination with the district and the community.

According to Regina, the district is moving ahead with a course of action that is in line with feedback from the public made during a community forum held in the past. He said people at the forum expressed a desire to know the district's needs. He said they were in favor of working to raise money, making donations, and providing other types of services, rather than raising taxes, for various projects. He noted that volunteers in the community have already stepped up to the plate by helping to build an athletic storage building behind the intermediate school. They will put a roof on the building this summer. The volunteers donated labor, and the district paid for the materials. Regina hopes that this spirit of community cooperation will continue.

Regina described some of the ways that money can be raised in the district.

"Our foundation is now an approved Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) organization," he explained. "In a very competitive market, businesses and partnerships can apply for a 75 percent tax credit donation (90 percent for a two-year commitment) to the Foundation to be used for specific educational programs in our school district. Approved programs are the high school's advanced placement courses, an Intermediate School Green House to be used within our middle level's science curriculum, the intermediate school foreign language lab, and enhancing mathematics skills in W.R. Croman with a new i-Ready."

"Beyond these four programs, individuals will be able to donate using the foundations 501 (c) (3) status for tax credit purposes," he continued. "If an individual or business wants to donate to a specific project or idea, this money will be placed in the Foundation and can only be used for that purpose. The foundation is a separate entity from the school district and will honor all recommendations made by each donor."

"Finally, for our capital projects we will be creating naming rights opportunities for donors honoring individuals or businesses that are interested," he added.

Regina is hoping for the best as he and the district embark on this new initiative.

"For the sake of our students and community, I am hoping we are successful," he said. "I fear the day when our schools can no longer provide 'non-core' programs. Our students deserve better than that."

Anyone in the community who wants to make a donation or assist with fundraising is asked to contact Regina at (570) 297-4565 or by email at cregina@troyareasd.org.

Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: reviewtroy@thedailyreview.com.