Friends of Fishweir

Friends of Fishweir
Fishweir Elementary School Principal Kimberly Dennis stands with teacher and Friends of Fishweir committee member Dawn Jansson and Fishweir SAC Chair Katie Wisner.

New nonprofit organization launched for Fishweir Elementary School

Friends, parents, alumni and community members now have a new way to show their support for Fishweir Elementary School.

The Friends of Fishweir organization is a recently-launched nonprofit organization with a mission to support the school, its students and staff by raising funds to fulfill the school’s needs beyond what the school district or other organizations like the Fishweir Elementary Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and School Advisory Council (SAC) already provides.

The idea for launching the Friends of Fishweir began back in 2018 but were temporarily derailed during the COVID-19 pandemic, explained Fishweir Principal Kimberly Dennis. When the campus reopened, discussions for the nonprofit group resumed with renewed fervor and excitement.

Dennis explained the difference between Friends of Fishweir versus PTA and SAC: While SAC can “build partnerships,” it cannot actually raise funds; PTA is able to raise funds, however, there are “parameters on what they can spend their funds on, so there are restrictions.”

For the Friends of Fishweir, on the other hand, “the funds are sort of discretionary and they can sort of be used any way the school needs,” Dennis said. These needs include funding new technology, equipment, compensating teachers for time they currently volunteer or even funding new positions on the school staff.

“Of course we’ve studied other friends organizations at schools and I believe some of them fund positions, like media positions or part-time, but it would be amazing to get to a point where you could fund a full-time band teacher,” said Dawn Jansson, a teacher at Fishweir Elementary and committee member of Friends of Fishweir. “Things like that – just areas where we need additional beefing up.”

Fishweir parent and SAC chair Katie Wisner added, “When you think about Friends of Fishweir, I think it really does make it limitless in how we can support…I feel like there’s so much that can be expanded and worked on.”

Jansson explained the leadership structure Friends of Fishweir currently consists of a secretary, treasurer — a position it is currently seeking to fill — a chairperson, as well as committee members.

“It’s very small right now and that was the recommendation,” Jansson said.

Eventually, she said, the organization hopes to begin forming various committees once it gains momentum and support.

Built in 1917, Fishweir Elementary is a school with deep roots in its community, with many families sending several generations’ of children to the school. Its visual performing arts magnate program draws students from across Duval County and all students attending the school participate in that program.

Wisner said that sense of tight-knit community helped put her at ease when her first child began attending the school.

“It truly is a feeling that I don’t think we have everywhere, where you know —  I watch them going to the door, if it’s not Miss Dennis, it’s someone else standing there at the door, they say good morning, they get a little pat on the back…” she said. “I think it’s so important with our community to see who we are and really we can do to advocate.”

A Friends of Fishweir website is currently being built, however Jansson encouraged those interested in getting involved or learning more information about the organization to reach out to her or Dennis at the school.

By Michele Leivas
Resident Community News

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