Friday, Jan. 30, 2009 | 7:55 p.m.
C.T. Sewell Elementary School has two individuals who are not school parents, yet attend every school event and have donated $100,000 to the institution.
For their efforts Duncan and Irene Lee have been named as one of 24 finalists for the Nevada Volunteers Governor's Point of Light Award.
Sewell Principal Carrie Larson refers to them as advocate angels.
"They're very much part of our culture and vision," she said.
"Although their children go to private school, they're very much a part of our family," Renee Fairless, Sewell's site coordinator/counselor, said.
The Lees are Empowerment Partners of the school — a title often held not by individuals but by companies. The designation through the Public Education Foundation affords Sewell a greater measure of autonomy as well as a shift to a more business-minded approach. Duncan Lee is apprised of school goings-on each Thursday during a conference call.
"He wants to go over budget items," Larson said. "He wants to know about student performance. He comes up with all these brilliant ideas."
Often, he leads them to other schools to glean ideas.
"It's really been insightful in how efficiently the business world runs," Larson said.
The Lees have also donated money so the school can hire interventionists at each grade level to aid struggling students, Fairless said.
"It's provided intensive intervention that a lot of schools lack because they don't have the funds to have another staff person there," Larson said. "It really is making a difference."
Other funds have brought in motivational speakers and have been used for student and teacher incentives aimed at enhancing the school's culture.
Meanwhile, Irene Lee has spearheaded efforts to procure a new book for each of the school's 772 students each month. She is a board member of Kids-to-Kids, which seeks to improve childhood literacy.
"That's a lot of books," Larson said.
Larson said she is grateful to the Lees.
"They are always out there advocating for the school," she said. "They are improving everything that we are doing."
Dave Clark can be reached at 990-2677 or firstname.lastname@example.org.