Education foundations have historically been groups that assist students with scholarships. However, last year’s revelations about Southwestern College’s foundation and recent exposés on Sweetwater Education Foundation raise the question, who are these organizations serving?
The Sweetwater Education Foundation’s 2010 tax document declares its mission is “to provide literacy activities and college scholarships for students in the Sweetwater Unified School District.” The CEO, Edward Lopez receives $118,450 total compensation annually; Scott Alevy, as chairman of the board, has held a volunteer position.
In a recent Union-Tribune story Lopez said he was “unaware that Alevy was being compensated by the legal firm for work with the foundation.” Lopez went on to say, “Our expectation is that [board members are] doing this as civic service or volunteers…”
Alevy was hired by the school district’s attorney, Bonifacio Garcia, to do public relations work pertaining to labor negotiations. But Alevy billed the district for attending the foundation’s gala ($750), having discussions with Lopez ($250 an hour), and other questionable functions.
In July of 2010, the Reader reported that Alevy's PR firm Trilogy was hired by Southwestern College “to ease community pressure during a critical period with a successful crisis management plan implemented by Scott Alevy.”
Last week it was learned that Sweetwater had hired public relations firm Focuscom to do “crisis communications.” The president of Focuscom is Dan Hom.
Like Alevy, Hom is listed on the Sweetwater Education Foundation’s website as a board member. His name is also found on foundation tax documents going back at least three years.
Hom served on Southwestern College’s Foundation, too. In 2008 he stepped down from the foundation when it donated $75,000 to “Friends of Prop R,” a group that then hired Hom to do public relations work for Prop R.
After the proposition was passed, in 2008, Hom and Focuscom were given a $100,000 contract to do public relations for Southwestern. Focuscom’s contract with Southwestern, obtained through a public records request, stated that the firm would work to “isolate and expose extremists.”
Pictured: sweetwatereducationfoundation.org home page