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A Foundation for Success: HSEF Celebrates 30th Anniversary

  • HSEF
A Foundation for Success: HSEF Celebrates 30th Anniversary

For 30 years, the Howard-Suamico Education Foundation (HSEF) has been making a positive impact on Howard-Suamico School District (HSSD) students, staff, and community.

Since its inception, HSEF has served as a kickstarter for teachers and schools to create new and unique learning opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist. To date, HSEF has provided nearly $2 million in funding a variety of student-centered projects and initiatives.

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, we are pleased to share more about HSEF’s history, its support of HSSD’s caring learning community and innovative programming, and its dedication to HSSD students and staff.

In this first article of a series, learn more about HSEF’s humble beginnings and how it evolved into the strategic organization it is today.

Kids by little library

Suamico students showed appreciation for HSEF
and its $500 donation to their Little Library in 2017.


The Early Years

A trendsetting idea, HSEF was born as part of HSSD’s first strategic plan, led by Fred Stieg, former HSSD Superintendent (1985-2002) and current HSEF Emeritus member.

“Out of that strategic plan, community members shared that they wanted the opportunity to participate in the events of the school district,” said Stieg. In turn, a focus group came up with the idea with HSEF as a district-wide fundraising platform.

Shortly thereafter, the revenue cap was enacted in 1993, causing HSSD to be a low-funded district. Stieg continued, “The district has really taken a hit since 1993.”

Because the revenue cap has forced HSSD to be creative in its funding, Stieg believes the HSSD Board of Education has been an excellent steward of the tax dollars from 1993 to today.

Comprised of an all-volunteer board, HSEF turned out to be one of the creative solutions available to HSSD in the early 1990s. It raised funds through penny jars and family donations. Further, it relied on teacher research regarding what should be funded to benefit the district’s then 3,000 students.


The Snowball to Success

Ten years later, when Stieg retired in 2002, he created an endowment fund which afforded the opportunity to provide scholarships to graduates pursuing a career in education. This endowment was the first significant transition and boost since HSEF’s creation.

Stieg said, “Creating that endowment made a difference and people noticed. Since then, HSEF has continued to grow.”

People saw the difference HSEF was making and they became more enthusiastic about being involved in HSEF. As the endowment began to snowball, HSEF started awarding Educator Grants to HSSD teachers and planning fundraising events such as the Wine & Cheese Event.

HSEF arrived at its next turning point when it started to fund technology, specifically the district’s first cart of iPads in 2011. This was the first moment that HSEF realized its impact on the future.

This cart of iPads, awarded to Eve Wozniak’s 6th grade classroom via an Educator Grant, showcased the immense opportunities students could achieve through technology. The district witnessed this impact and now, more than 10 years later, HSSD's nearly 6,000 students are one-to-one with technology K-12, meaning each student has a district-provided device.

“When we received the cart of iPads in 2011, such technology was seen as a significant shift in the way we help students learn and allow them to demonstrate their knowledge. Now, technology is part of our everyday instruction,” said Wozniak. “I am grateful for HSEF’s contribution and commend HSEF for being forward-thinking and taking risks that benefit students and support teachers throughout the process.”

Jeff Puissant, HSEF financial adviser, said, “HSEF funds are being used to get students exposure to something that, in many cases, is not mainstream today but will be in five plus years. I look at some of the opportunities our students are exposed to, such as the first cart of iPads, and am impressed by how it has shaped learning for the future.”

Kids holding check

In 2017, Lineville students thanked HSEF for its gift to the robotics program, the first of its kind in the district. 


A Strategic Vision

As HSEF recognized its potential to fund the future, newly-elected board members Greg Klimek and Jayne McQuillan, HSEF board member (2012-2022), along with the existing HSEF board decided to focus on an updated and more definitive vision. McQuillan said, “Greg and I sought to grow the organization through focusing on vision and honoring legacy board members. From 2015-2017, the focus was recruitment of board members.”

From there, the volunteer board was seeking consistency, which led to the hiring of Nicole Smith as the HSEF executive director.

“To me, the most transformational moment during my HSEF tenure was hiring Nicole in 2018, which gave HSEF incredible direction,” McQuillan said.

She continued, “It’s been a significant evolution, especially in the past six to seven years. It has positioned HSEF with momentum to move the ship at a rapid rate.”

Puissant echoed, “HSEF’s impact grew when we switched from being solely focused on scholarships to funding innovative activities that touch every student in the district.”

As a result of this shift and in order to see potential areas for impact, HSEF board members are enabled and encouraged to be connected within the schools. The HSEF board prides itself on discussing innovation, new opportunities, and spreading funding to support all aspects of the school district, from e-sports to athletics to fine arts and beyond.

Smith said, “Our board members serve as district ambassadors in the community. My job is to ensure that they are equipped, have organizational knowledge, and invite conversations between the school district and the community.”

Further, McQuillan concluded, “HSEF has built something that most public school districts throughout the country don’t have, a funding mechanism that supports students, teachers, and community of today and the future. The momentum can continue with your support.”

To learn more about HSEF and for information on how you can help support HSEF’s mission, visit the HSEF website at or contact Nicole Smith at

Kids working in solutionist studio

Thanks to the Craig and Karen Dickman Family, the Solutionist Studios in all five elementary schools will provide a student-focused atmosphere with access to digital and physical resources for all elementary students and staff. 

  • HSEF