TAKE 5: Foundation chairman promotes partnership to strengthen education

Jun. 07, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

This week we Take 5 with Jamie Kelly, the chairman of the Lee County Education Foundation. Kelly, 43, is the owner and CFO of Mottis, a Sanford-based marketing and advertising firm.  A Sanford native, Kelly previously served as a Lee County commissioner and now is a member of the CCCC Board of Trustees.  Kelly's motivation for strong educational opportunities stems largely from his two sons, Bruce and Waett, and daughter, Olivia, who all attend Lee County Schools.

You recently remarked that not enough people know what the foundation was all about and what it did. So why is the LCEF important in Lee County, and what are its most important contributions?

For a historical perspective, the Lee County Education Foundation was founded in 2003 as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization with the mission to mobilize financial resources and fund programs that are highly likely to improve Lee County student achievement. Through private donations, the foundation has raised $1 million for its endowment. For the first seven years, the foundation funded various programs at the K-12 levels to boost student achievement. We found our true calling with the creation of our flagship public-private partnership program “The Head of Class Project,” where we award $50,000 each year to the top performing elementary school in Lee County.

Most folks know about the foundation through the Head of Class project. What plans are there to build upon that project?

The Head of Class Project is a state and national model of public-private cooperation that infuses healthy competition into the academic mix for our school system's elementary sector. We would love to be able to expand this into the Lee County middle schools to provide this incentive for the students, teachers, administrators and custodians. We believe this paid incentive not only boosts scores, but also promotes ingenuity, creativity, loyalty and school pride.

You're stepping into the chairman's role on the foundation's board. What plans do you have for your tenure?

My current plans are to get my arms and head around the structure and accounting of the organization. I'm working now to create a job description for our new director, Michelle Bullard, and help incorporate her into that role. I plan on adding the Lee County “Teacher of the Year” to our corporate board so we can stay closer to the classroom. We're going to update our marketing efforts and then in the spring of next year launch a fundraising and awareness campaign to the general public of Lee County. Finally I hope to create a corporate advisory board that keeps us attached to our local industry executives and their economic needs as it relates to our education system.

You mentioned Michele Bullard … she's well known in the community for her roles at the United Way and the American Red Cross. What role will she have at the foundation?

Michelle's role as director will mean that she will wear many hats for the foundation. Her excellent organizational, grant-writing and fundraising talents will be well utilized. She will be in charge of marketing and public awareness of what the foundation does and what it means to the people of Lee County. My hope is that Michelle will be the face of the Lee County Education Foundation and keep the great things we do top of mind to the citizens of Lee County.

Why is it important for business and industry to partner with education in the way it happens with the foundation? Why it is essential that the business community be connected with public education?

Two words: economic development! We are blessed in Lee County by a thriving manufacturing base that has been here since the 1970s when Coty came to Sanford and transformed our community when top-level executives moved here and called Sanford home. Now Caterpillar, GKN, Static Control, Moen, Frontier Spinning, Pfizer all need a workforce that is intelligent, adaptive and creative. These attributes only happen when business, education and government all recognize the true importance that each plays.

It's nothing more than an economic circle, and if one part of the circle is not functioning, then the whole system breaks down. Business and industry recognize this, and that is why and how you have initiatives like Central Carolina Works, born from founders of the Lee County Education Foundation like Kirk Bradley and Chet Mann and administered by Dr. Bud Marchant of Central Carolina Community College and Dr. Andy Bryan of Lee County Schools. This is a perfect example of public, private and government all working together for a common good, getting our children educated and great-paying jobs. That is the bottom line for the Lee County Education Foundation.

For more information about us, please visit leecef.com, or if you would like to get involved or donate to our cause, please contact Michelle Bullard at (919) 935-2089.