You’ve seen the yard signs, but how much do you really know about Wild for Cats? By the time you finish this column — which includes answers to my questions about the program from those involved — you should be able to pass the quiz.

What is Wild for Cats? Who knows?

(David Wood, AP English Teacher at Lake Highlands High School, answers):

“About ten years ago, when Dr. Bob Iden was principal, I told him, we have a really successful Wildcat Club [athletic boosters], and band boosters, and choir boosters — we need an academic booster club. We talked about it for a year or so, and then we started Wild for Cats.”

So, Wild for Cats raises money for academics. Why does the school need that money?

Wood: “With the vagaries of Robin Hood, we’ve lost about a million dollars every year from this building alone.”

You’re saying that ten years ago, public schools funding was tight. And today it’s even tighter, with the economic downturn. Not to mention the state of Texas’ decision to raid school funds to balance its budget — but don’t get me started.

Okay, back to Wild for Cats. How does the money get allocated?

Wood: “At first, we gave wish lists to the faculty. Some asked for school supplies, which wasn’t exactly our vision. Others thought more globally and asked for conferences or trainings. There was some equipment in the special education department — high-dollar, cutting-edge machines [Kurzweil education systems] for students who need things transliterated, or if they’re incredibly disgraphic, or students who are mute.

“Everybody who submitted something had to provide the research for it and present it to the Local School Council. The first year, fund raising was very successful, and everything was approved.”

Wow, what a success story. So what has been the latest project?

(Kathy Stewart — co-owner of Highlands Café who, along with husband Robb, heads the fund-raising committee for Wild for Cats — answers):

“The primary thrust of our fundraising has been to support the College and Career Center at the high school, located in the library. Basically to pay Dr. Brenda Prine’s salary. That’s been the focus for the past 4 to 5 years.”

But, don’t all RISD high schools have a college and career counselor?

(Tim Clark, Director of Communications at RISD, answers):

“The College and Career Coordinator positions were added to each of our four high schools toward the end of last semester. The decision to add them came as part of the district’s ongoing commitment to college and career readiness for all students.”

Kathy, you want to add something?

Stewart: “We saw that as an affirmation of what we had been doing in Lake Highlands, that was getting more kids into college than ever before. The district finally saw the benefits there, and wanted to spread that to all the four high schools.”

Is she right, Tim?

Clark: “The situation with LHHS funding a similar position in recent years through Wild for Cats gave the district an opportunity to see how the concept could be successful.”

Okay, so Lake Highlands did it first, and they did it well. Do we get to keep Dr. Prine at LHHS?

Wood: “Wild for Cats will take care of her salary again next year. Beyond that, I hope Dr. Prine will remain here so she can teach a college and career readiness course. Ms. Dillon [LHHS principal Peggy] and I, and many others, see this as on-going, because of a new state law that says this year’s 8th graders – by the time they’re sophomores or juniors – will have to stay in class seven periods. So this means more electives, and we can put in a new class — a semester-long course, for credit.”

It sounds like Wild for Cats is more important than ever. When is their main fund-raising thrust?

Stewart: “Spring.”

Yep, right now. Thanks Kathy. Isn’t it inspiring that our school leaders had a vision, they put forth the vision, and got something done working with the community?

Stewart: “This is why I like to live in Lake Highlands. People are really willing to work together, whatever the issue is.”

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