Vancouver donor's failure to pay threatens Ore. arts program

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BEAVERTON, Ore. (AP) -- A Vancouver businessman who pledged $400,000 to a Beaverton School District arts program failed to make his scheduled payment this year.

The Oregonian reports that the district might have to scramble to find additional private money for the five-year Arts for Learning Program, a collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington and Young Audiences Arts for Learning of Oregon/SW Washington to infuse art into literacy in grades three through five.

The donor, John Wolosek, told district staff in August and September he would reschedule his payments, but he hasn't so far, said Jon Bridges, Beaverton School District administrator of accountability.

The 48-year-old stepped forward in September 2010, as the district rushed to find private donors to help meet an $800,000 match within five weeks to secure a $4 million federal education grant for the program. Beaverton was among only 49 education groups chosen from 1,700 grant applicants in the U.S. for the Investing in Innovation Fund, known as the i3 grant.

Wolosek and The Giving Stream were relatively unheard of at the time, but he pledged more than several other well-known donors, including Intel and Meyer Memorial Trust. He signed an agreement to pay the pledge in increasingly larger increments every April until he paid it off with $150,000 in 2015. Wolosek made good on the first payment of $25,000 in 2011, but didn't make a promised $50,000 donation for 2012.

Washington state court records list Wolosek as a debtor in a civil case filed in Clark County in November 2010 in which he owes $249,000 on a line of credit agreement. And in Wisconsin, where his business American Bark is located, Wolosek's company was ordered to pay Associated Bank about $350,000.

After multiple attempts, the district reached Wolosek over the summer. Bridges said he and Wolosek discussed a revised payment schedule for years 2013-15, which the district needed in writing by Oct. 10.

Wolosek hadn't contacted the district as of Friday. The Oregonian said it was unable to contact him.

The situation puts the school district in an awkward position of trying to politely pressure a donor to come through on his promise. It also threatens the final year of the five-year Arts for Learning Program.

"If this doesn't come through, we will be below the match," Bridges said. "We can't wait until the end of year three and say, `Uh oh.' At the first of the year, that would be a good time to say we need a backup plan here."

The district exceeded the required private match by $212,000, which means Wolosek would need to come up with about $188,000 between now and 2015, Bridges said. That is far less than the $375,000 remaining of Wolosek's promised donation.

"We know we've got extra right now," Bridges said. "It's not panic time, but going into the next year or two, we're going to have to go back to the funders ... to come up with the private match to complete the project."

If private donations fall short, Bridges said the district might be able to use its own funds to finish the project or cut it short by a year. The fifth year is when the program spreads from 16 elementary schools to all 33.

The Giving Stream website no longer exists, but Wolosek is now connected to a similar fundraising company called BRICKSTR. He is listed as chief executive officer and founder on the organization's website. It is not a registered corporation in either Washington or Oregon.

As for the federal grant, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education said officials are waiting for the district and donor to work it out.