For more information about NYEF, please watch our May 2021 Community Virtual Meeting recording on You Tube HERE.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the North Yellowstone Education Foundation?
We enhance the Gardiner community by serving Gardiner Public Schools and associated programs.
What is your mission?
Our mission is to work with the community to build sustainable support and enhance innovative educational opportunities for students, teachers and community members in partnership with Gardiner Public Schools.
Are you a 501(c)(3) organization?
Yes, and contributions made to NYEF are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
It seems like there are a lot of nonprofits in Gardiner. How is NYEF unique?
We are the only nonprofit organization dedicated to meeting the needs of Gardiner Public Schools.
History of NYEF
Why does our school need a nonprofit?
The following information was taken from Successful Gardiner Community Profile Section 3: The Future of Gardiner Schools:
“Gardiner Public Schools enrollment has been on the decline for the past decade, dropping by about 33% in the past ten years, from a kindergarten through high school graduation enrollment of 255 in 2008–2009 to 171 in 2018–2019 . . . . If this continues, it will have a significant impact on school funding. One fewer student in each elementary grade will cost Gardiner Schools more than $100,000.” However, the school’s expenses are the same – for example, if one less second grade student is enrolled, the school still pays to have a second grade teacher regardless of class size.
Currently Gardiner Public Schools has an enrollment of 145 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. NYEF exists to fill some of the funding gaps and maximize the quality of education we are able to provide and to perpetuate the level of excellence we value for our students.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we have the ability to raise funding in ways that the school does not, or cannot. We work in close collaboration with the school administration to meet the needs of GPS through our programming.
When was NYEF founded?
In 2016, an impassioned group of parents, community members, and teachers joined forces to continue the tradition of excellence at Gardiner Public Schools by raising money and garnering in-kind support. NYEF officially filed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2018.
What have you accomplished?
For an organization that has been around less than a handful of years, our list of accomplishments is staggering. Below is just a brief selection. Please visit GardinerNYEF.org to learn more!
Since inception, we have raised close to one million dollars to support Gardiner Public Schools and associated programs.
NYEF founded the Connect! Grants classroom grants program, which is in its third year. By the end of this school year (2020-2021), we will have allocated $46,000 in grant funds.
In November 2020, NYEF acquired property in Gardiner, Montana, which was formerly used as a Bed and Breakfast. We are in the process of renovating this building with the goal of having two units available to teachers by the end of 2021.
In July 2020, NYEF became the fiscal sponsor of Park County Rural Schools 360 (PCRS360), a mental and behavioral health coalition created to meet the needs of rural Park County. With our support, PCRS360 was awarded a prestigious grant from AMB West Philanthropies for $350,000 over three years.
In January 2021, NYEF hired our first full-time staff member, Shelly Siedlaczek.
Who is your Board of Directors? What do they do?
Our current board of directors consists of community members, business owners, teachers, and parents. Our current board members are as follows: George Bumann (chair), Rebecca Demaree (treasurer), Christopher Shoup (secretary), Hali Kirby (teacher representative), Patrick Hoppe (board member), Josiah Reese (board member), and Quinn Harrison (board member). We are also excited to welcome additional board members starting this summer 2021.
Our board members meet once per month. They volunteer their time to provide oversight (both financial and logistic) for NYEF as a whole. They often volunteer their time to help with fundraisers and various other activities. We are proud to share that 100% of our board members also contribute financially to NYEF’s mission.
Who is your advisory council? What do they do?
Our advisory council is made up of 15 individuals from the Gardiner/Paradise Valley community. These are folks who provide particular skills that we can draw upon. For instance, we relied heavily on the advice of Kathy Nichols (an HR professional) when we underwent the process of hiring our first official staff member. To provide an additional example, advisory council member Bianca Klein created the templates we use for our quarterly newsletter.
Do you have any paid staff members? Who are they and what do they do?
We have one full-time paid staff member. This is our Executive Director, Shelly Siedlaczek. Shelly manages the daily operations of NYEF and leads all fundraising efforts. As the only employee, it is fair to say she does a bit of everything. You can reach Shelly at shelly@gardinerNYEF.org.
We also have one independent contractor, Nico Wood Kos. Nico’s areas of expertise are grant writing and communication, so her efforts are focused in those areas. She also supports Shelly on multiple fronts and you can reach Nico at info@gardinerNYEF.org.
What are your 2020-2021 programs? How were these determined?
Our programs are created to meet the needs of Gardiner Public Schools. The needs of GPS aggregate along three areas: enhancement of programs, affordable teacher housing, and mental health. Each of our programs is designed to meet one of these needs. Our 2021 programs are Connect! Grants, Teacher Housing Initiative, and PCRS360.
What are Connect! Grants?
Connect! Grants is our classroom grants program. Connect! Grants support projects that fill educational gaps, promote health and wellness, and reach a wide range of students. Connect! Grants are community driven (meaning they respond to community needs), community funded (meaning they are funded entirely by donations), and community evaluated (meaning funded projects are chosen by a committee of community members).
Connect! Grants are evaluated three times per year, at the end of the first three school quarters (typically late October, late January, and early April). These grant funds are reimbursable upon receipt of a final report.
Notable projects include: new skis for the Gardiner XC ski team, a new welder for the high school welding program, new picnic tables for the school, and a healthy snack program at Little People’s Learning Center.
In 2018-2019 we allocated $10,000. In 2019-2020, this number grew to $16,000, and in 2020-2021 we are on track to allocate $20,000.
See below under "Community Partnerships" for more info on who Connect! Grants serve.
What is NYEF doing to support mental health?
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that Montana is facing a mental health epidemic. Figures from the Health Resources and Services Administration estimate that current mental care providers are only able to meet 12.5% of Montana’s needs.
NYEF seeks to meet the mental and behavioral health needs of our community through our fiscal sponsorship of Park County Rural Schools 360.
The Park County Rural Schools 360 Program (PCRS360), in partnership with NYEF, has hired a full-time behavior analyst working across five rural school districts, implemented yoga in elementary schools, and launched numerous other support efforts for students, staff, and families.
What is the Teacher Housing Initiative?
Gardiner is in the midst of a housing crisis. Affordable housing was identified as the #1 concern for residents through the 2019 Successful Gardiner Campaign, and this is backed by statistics—the average price of a home in the state of Montana is $293K. In Park County, the cost rises to $350k. In Gardiner, the average home costs $484.5k, if one can be found for sale at all.
This situation has impacted the Gardiner Public School's ability to hire and retain teachers, who have a starting salary around $35,777. NYEF is working to alleviate this problem through our Teacher Housing Initiative.
NYEF recently purchased a property, a historic building built in 1908 that was once owned by Earl Hall and most recently used as a bed and breakfast, in Gardiner. Thanks to support from the Gardiner Area Resort District and very generous donors, we are preparing to start renovations, with the goal of housing two teachers by the end of 2021.
Where does NYEF’s money come from?
NYEF’s funding comes from grants and individual donations. Notable grant funders have included: AMB West Philanthropies, Park County Community Foundation, and the Gardiner Area Resort District.
I see that Connect! Grants have been awarded to other schools and groups. Why is that?
Our mission is to support Gardiner Public Schools, and the majority of Connect! Grants applications come directly from GPS teachers and staff. NYEF also considers applications from local educational institutions, extracurricular groups, and organizations that are not directly affiliated with Gardiner School, if the project can be shown to benefit Gardiner Public Schools and the Gardiner community.
For example, we believe that by supporting pre-primary and elementary “feeder” schools, we bolster the educational ecosystem of our community, thereby supporting Gardiner Public Schools long term. Furthermore, there are also some instances when a program is stronger because small rural schools band together.
Ultimately, it is the job of our Grant Selection Teams to determine if the spirit of a project aligns with our mission. Recommendations made by our Grant Selection Team are then further evaluated by the NYEF board to ensure that Connect! Grant funds are used in accordance with our goals. Some auxiliary groups that have received funding include Arrowhead School, Little People’s Learning Center, Snoopy School, and the Gardiner XC Ski Team.
Do you collaborate with other groups in the Gardiner Community?
Our primary partner is, and will always be, Gardiner Public Schools (GPS). Supporting GPS is the cornerstone of our mission and focus. Everything we do comes back to this.
In terms of housing, there are two other organizations dedicated to affordable housing in Gardiner - Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) and the Gardiner Housing Cooperative. We are in talks with both organizations to determine how we might best strive toward our mutual goals. Although the exact nature of our coordination with these entities is still evolving, we have established open communications and an intention to work together.
Specifics of the Teacher Housing Initiative
I thought you were developing land that the school owns. What happened to that?
Between 2018-2020, Gardiner Public Schools worked in collaboration with NYEF to identify, survey, commission plans, and formalize legal documents in order to develop GPS property, adjacent to the school itself, for affordable teacher housing. This parcel of land is owned by the school, with a section of it governed by Park County, and bordered by land owned by the federal government. This made the logistics of developing the property difficult to overcome. Additionally, the cost of this development was estimated to be more than $3 million.
In the fall of 2020, NYEF was extended a kind offer to affordably purchase a former bed and breakfast property located at 506 S 4th Street in Gardiner. A generous supporter provided us with a low interest loan to make this acquisition. With the support of both the school administration and the granting organizations who had helped to fund the school development, we made the decision to pivot the direction of the housing project.
The surveys, plans, and legal documents generated for the development of the school property are still viable and can be used at any point in the future when the need arises. However, at this time, the project is on hold.
I heard you purchased land on Jardiner Road. What is happening with that property?
NYEF did not purchase the property (formerly owned by Yellowstone Forever) on Jardiner Rd. This land (and the one existing structure) were bought by the Human Resources and Development Council (HRDC) based out of Bozeman, MT. They are committed to using this property for affordable housing in the Gardiner community.
We have been in discussions with both HRDC and the Gardiner Housing Cooperative to help determine the best practices for the development of this property. At this time, however, NYEF does not have the resources to take this project on.
What are your short-term and long-term goals with this project?
Our immediate goal is to complete the renovations on our 4th Street property and to house two teachers by the end of 2021. All of our focus and funding is dedicated toward the completion of this ambitious goal.
Phase 2 possibilities are being explored at present and a couple of options are being considered. Ideas include resuming the work on the Gardiner School property, finding a way to partner with HRDC (and potentially a commercial developer) to work on the Jardiner Rd. property, building additional units on our 4th St, property, or pursuing non-property modes of support (such as connecting teachers to local landlords and/or providing housing subsidies). None of these options are being acted upon at this point and these are being considered as possible ideas. We will be determining the next steps in this project once our short term goals are complete and additional information is gathered.
How will you determine which teachers deserve housing?
Our current goal is to have two units available for teachers by the end of 2021. These two units have already been spoken for based on the needs identified by Gardiner School. We are in the process of designing a metric to evaluate who will be placed in future units, in close collaboration with the school.
What do you mean by affordable housing?
The federal government typically defines housing as affordable when it consumes no more than 30 percent of a household’s income. Also, it’s referenced in the “We Will Park County” report on Housing and Affordability.
What will you charge for rent?
We are committed to providing year-round affordable housing, targeting an amount no higher than 30% of a renter’s salary. The NYEF board of directors has determined a monthly rent of $700 for the two units that will be available this year. This amount includes propane, which is a significant expense, and the total percentage of rent vs. salary is roughly 27% of a starting teacher’s salary which is below the standard amount of 30%.
Is NYEF paying property taxes on the property?
Yes, NYEF paid full property taxes in 2020-2021 but will be requesting tax-exempt status going forward.
Will you allow pets?
Yes. We consider pets to be part of the family. There will be an additional deposit required for renters with pets and only one pet per unit is allowed.
What will you do if you cannot find GPS teachers to fill these units?
In the event that we cannot find GPS teachers to fill these units, we will extend the offer to GPS staff and administration. After this, we will consider teachers from our local pre-primary schools (Snoopy School and Little People’s Learning Center).
How can I get involved with NYEF?
At this time, we are seeking members for our board of directors. We are also seeking volunteers for our events committee, specifically to help for the Festival of Trees coming in December 2021. We are always looking for folks to join our Grants Selection Team to help determine which Connect! Grants applications get funded. You are always welcome to provide direct feedback by email to info@gardinerNYEF.org. To make a financial contribution, see below.
How can I make a donation?
Go to https://www.gardinernyef.org/donate or you can mail a check to P.O. Box 166, Gardiner, MT 59030
Where can I learn more?