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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

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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. 

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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. 

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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 1.8 million dollars to support Gardiner Public Schools and associated programs. 

  • NYEF founded the Connect! Grants classroom grants program. By the end of this school year (2022-2023), we will have allocated $100,000 in grant funds. 

  • In November 2020, NYEF acquired property in Gardiner, Montana, which was formerly used as a Bed and Breakfast. In 2021, NYEF completed $300K in renovations. In August of 2021 three Gardiner School teachers moved in.

  • 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 a full-time Director to focus on fundraising.


NYEF Today

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Our current board of directors consists of community members, business owners, teachers, and parents. Our current board members are as follows: Miriam Watson (interim chair), LLoyd Kruger (treasurer),Erin Stahler (secretary), Hali Kirby (teacher representative), Laura White (board member), Jess Warren (board member), and Katy Guengerich (board member), Susan Emrick (board member). We are currently seeking additional board members that share in our passion and mission of supporting Gardiner Public School.

 

Our board members meet bi-monthly. 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.

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Our advisory council is made up of 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. 

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We have one full-time paid staff member. This is our Director, Laura Chastain. Laura 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 Laura at admin@gardinernyef.org.

 

We also have one independent contractor, Katie Getz. Katie's areas of expertise are grant writing, social media,  and communication, so her efforts are focused in those areas. She also supports Laura on multiple fronts and you can reach Katie at info@gardinerNYEF.org.


2022-2023 Programming

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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 2023 programs are Connect! Grants, Teacher Housing Initiative, and Mental Health.

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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. 

 

In 2018-2019 we allocated $10,000. In 2019-2020, this number grew to $16,000. In 2020-2021 and in 2021-2022 we allocated an average of $20,000 per year.  In 2022-2023 we awarded $21,000 and held a bonus round for an additional $29,050 to be used over the summer and during the first semester. That's $50K of funding for 2023!

 

To learn more about specific projects funded through our Connect! Grants click here

 

See below under "Community Partnerships" for more info on who Connect! Grants serve. 

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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.

 

In July 2020, NYEF took on the role of fiscal sponsor for Park County Rural Schools 360 (now known as Rural Resilience), a coalition dedicated to addressing mental and behavioral health concerns in rural Park County. Thanks to our support, Rural Resilience received a generous grant of $350,000 over three years from AMB West Philanthropies. This funding has enabled RR to hire a full-time behavior analyst to serve five rural school districts, introduce yoga programs in elementary schools, and initiate other forms of assistance for students, staff, and families.

NYEF is now continuing to support Mental Health through our Connect! Grant program by dedicating $10,000 annually to these efforts. This past year NYEF supported sending 3 teachers to the national Character Strong Conference, supported Social Optics, revived the Gardiner School nurses' office, and provided medical kits to Arrowhead School classrooms.

Learn more about mental health programming by clicking here.

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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 $440K. In Park County, the cost rises to $714k. In Gardiner, the average home costs $990k, if one can be found for sale at all.

This situation has impacted the Gardiner Public School's ability to hire and retain teachers with a starting salary of $35,777. NYEF is working to alleviate this problem through our Teacher Housing Initiative.

In 2020, NYEF was approached by a local property owner who wanted to see their housing used for teachers. A generous donor offered us a personal loan for the $500,000 asking price. Although we did not have the money upfront, we felt it was crucial to act fast, as this property would sell for well over $1 million dollars. As of  May of 2023, we have completed $300,000 worth of renovations on the property and paid down our loan to $85,000. 

We currently provide subsidized housing to three Gardiner Public School teachers and one preschool teacher.

 

Phase Two of this initiative will be to provide housing for three additional teachers by 2027. 

By providing affordable housing to teachers, we are reinforcing the stability of our school, setting a positive example for the entire community, and restoring Gardiner to its roots. The most tangible outcome of this project is the ability to recruit and retain teachers for our school by offering comfortable, affordable housing. We believe that the successful acquisition of this property will create positive lasting change, encouraging more vacation rental owners to house long-term residents. 

Learn more about our Teacher Housing Initiative by clicking here.


Funding Sources

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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.

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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

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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. 

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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. 

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In 2021 we completed renovations and were able to house three Gardiner School teachers. To complete Phase 1 we plan to continue to pay down the mortgage. In 2022, in addition to $300k in renovations we were able to pay down the mortgage and currently owe $85,000. Our goal is to complete this payment by the end of 2023.  

 

Phase 2 - identify 2 - 3 more units for teachers within the next 5 years. 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.

To learn more about our phases click here

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At this time we have three units that are used for affordable teacher housing. We work with Gardiner School to determine the best use of these units.

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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. We are committed to providing year-round affordable housing, targeting an amount no higher than 30% of a renter’s salary.

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Yes, NYEF pays full property taxes. We requested exemption status but were denied due to local regulations.

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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.

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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). 


Community Involvement

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At this time, we are seeking members for our board of directors. We are also seeking volunteers to assist with different projects that present throughout the year. Volunteers to help with communication efforts and multiple fundraising efforts. . We are always looking for folks to join our Grants Selection Team to help determine which Connect! Grants applications get funded. Please visit our Get Involved page to become a volunteer. You are also always welcome to provide direct feedback by email to admin@gardinerNYEF.org. To make a financial contribution, see below. 

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Go to https://www.gardinernyef.org/donate or you can mail a check to P.O. Box 166, Gardiner, MT 59030

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