Wheelock to lead schools nonprofit

Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools makes pick

By Susan Parrish, Columbian Education Reporter

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After the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools conducted a nationwide search for a new leader, interim executive director Nada Wheelock emerged at the top.

“We had several outstanding candidates vying for the position, and at each turn, Nada’s keen understanding and commitment to the foundation’s mission caused her to stand out as the key candidate,” said Vanessa McLaughlin, president of the foundation, a nonprofit group that supports the mission of Vancouver Public Schools.

Wheelock says change is looming as the foundation shifts to doing more fundraising and the school-based Family Community Resource Center coordinators do more program management. Years ago, the foundation made sure students had shoes to wear. Now the school-based resource centers manage those outreach programs and other basic needs. The change is something the foundation has been contemplating for a long time. Wheelock said it will take four or five years to go through transition.

She explained that a large portion of her job “is educating people about what the community schools model is. Let the teachers get back to teaching, but make sure the children are cared for by people who can help them address their needs. It’s fantastic that for almost 28 years this community and the foundation have emptied their pocketbooks to support the work. We’re removing barriers so that all the kids have access to our public school system. There’s no reason every single child shouldn’t be able to come to school healthy, happy and ready to learn.”

Wheelock works closely with the district’s 16 school-based Family Community Resource Centers and one mobile unit.

“Nada is a champion of the district’s community school strategy,” said Tamara Shoup, the district’s director of family-community resource centers and family engagement. “She has streamlined processes and procedures so that services supported by the foundation are delivered without interruption, even making inroads for new partnerships to meet the changing needs of our students and families.”

As Vancouver’s population has increased, so has the poverty rate. For more than 12,000 district students living in poverty, the reality is that the adults in their lives can’t consistently provide basic needs — stable housing, food, clothing, medical and dental care, school supplies, sports and other after-school activities. That’s where the school-based Family Community Resource Centers step in, with help from the foundation and countless community partners.

“The philanthropy, the investment the community has made in the schools is incredible,” Wheelock said. “How can we more effectively use the resources we have to meet the needs of the students? To be able to help that child at the moment with what they need is very powerful to have that flexibility.”

The foundation’s successful Lunch Buddy mentoring program joins others aimed at elementary, middle and high school students. The foundation also pays for enrichment activities, such as buying books for each child to take home for a school’s literacy night or pizza for a family math night, and field trips such as VSAA’s recent Day of Caring.

Interim role since July

Wheelock has served as the interim executive director since July. She replaced Rhona Sen Hoss. Wheelock previously served on the board of directors of the foundation and also of Vancouver Public Schools.

She holds a master’s degree in business administration from Dartmouth College and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago. In her work she has applied private-sector skills to education and human services organizations in leadership roles, volunteer roles and consulting projects.

Wheelock’s full-time position is funded by the foundation. McLaughlin would not reveal Wheelock’s salary.

The Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools is an independent educational nonprofit corporation established in 1988 to support Vancouver Public Schools. The foundation receives money from individual donors, organizations and grants.