“A tireless defender of public education:” AEF president Raifie Bass passes the torch
Raifie Bass has always been there for children.
“Children are the best ambassadors of their success,” said the president of the Aspen Education Foundation. “It’s not for me to sit down or go on stage and say how awesome robotics is. Talk to a kid (for whom) it changed his life trajectory or he’s going to college to study robotics. That’s the proof.
For the past decade, Bass has championed school programs supported by the nonprofit organization – offerings such as robotics, outdoor education and mental health support – and campaigned for them. School district funding sources such as bond measures, taxes and donations.
“There are so many great nonprofits here, there are so many worthy causes, but I think it’s important, at least for me, to find a place where you can make changes,” said Bass.
He ends a 10-year term as the organization’s longest-serving chairman and board member on June 3, when he passes the baton to his successor, Paul Sohn, at the annual meeting of the organization. foundation.
And he’s certainly made changes, according to his colleagues and friends across the organization.
“AEF – it wouldn’t be what it is without Raifie,” said Cynthia Chase, executive director of the organization. He has led the organization through several periods of transition, always ready to pick up the phone to say thank you to a donor or to show up at an event; Bass’s consistency of leadership has helped bring the organization to where it is today, said Chase.
“As a result, I think AEF is in the strongest position it has ever been. I think that at the community level we have earned the respect of our parent organization, our larger community of people. ‘Aspen, Board of Education, School District, Superintendent, “Chase said.” And I think that really put us in the place that we are today because of his leadership, and the place that we are today allows us to truly make an impact on student experiences. “
His passion and commitment to public education also had an impact. The bass is “a spitfire” – the kind of leader who “goes 150% all day, all the time,” according to fellow board member Michelle Stiller.
“He’s unapologetically a tireless advocate for public education,” said Stiller, who has known Bass since 2012 and considers him a friend and mentor.
“When things are going and things need to be done to take care of families in Aspen, he’s the first there, and he’s there in the food line (drive), unpacking the food. cartons, ”Stiller said.
“It’s all the little things” – the phone calls, the volunteering, the consistency – that make the difference, Chase said. But by most metrics, Bass has covered the big things as well: he pleaded for a $ 94 million bond for upgrading facilities and housing for teachers, with local taxes providing nearly $ 2 million a year. in District Funding, an endowment to fund robotics at Aspen High School.
Bass, for his part, thanks just about everyone – parents, teachers, community members, students, alumni, other board members and foundation leaders – for making these goals a reality. .
“How grateful I am to work with so many amazing people and to have this opportunity. It really is an organization. It’s a team of individuals, but it’s a team, ”Bass said. “Each person is committed… We have so many people who focus, want to take something and run with it. It’s about empowering these people and seeing them succeed and then they are thrilled and involve other people.
Community collaboration for the greater good is a common thread in his work, said Chase.
“Raifie always brings to the conversation the utmost responsibility and awareness of, ‘How can we play a role in our larger community and not just function in this school vacuum? ” she said.
These are ongoing conversations – ones that involve not only advocating for the value of well-funded public education, but also explaining that the need for that funding exists in Aspen. The school community is a much larger sect than the “People Magazine version of Aspen,” Bass said.
“There are needs in Aspen as in all other communities,” he said. “Our job is to make people aware of this and engage them on how they can help. …. It is not over, it is not resolved, the issues we face – teacher housing, affordable housing for families and seasonal job stability.
“All the issues our community faces are facing our kids and their parents, so I don’t know if there is a magic pill or a magic number that we can do, but I feel like all the things that we work on with the school district and their leadership are eroding (to these issues. “
That message – that “tireless” advocacy for education – made a difference, according to Stiller and Chase.
“The city of Aspen benefits – everyone benefits from a strong public school, and he has spread this message to dozens and dozens of influencers who have made a pretty generous donation to AEF, and we are incredibly grateful and fortunate to have him on our team, ”said Stiller.
For Bass, well, it’s all about the kids.
“I think the city is a better place for it. Of course, schools are. Most importantly, the kids, ”Bass said. “As long as this is still paramount, the mission will never change.”