On the heels of its best financial year ever, the Billings Catholic Schools Foundation will hold its annual Mayfair fundraising event on May 4 at the Radisson Hotel and Convention Center.
The Foundation supports the Billings Catholic Schools K-12 system, which includes St. Francis School and Billings Central Catholic High School.
The group was the primary fundraiser for the new St. Francis building, and offers dozens of scholarships each year. But Mayfair raises money for additional projects.
"They enable us to do more things," said school system president Shaun Harrington.
Last year's haul — a record $571,000 — purchased new English textbooks and curriculum materials, plus ongoing training for teachers for grades K-12.
This year, the schools hope to buy a similar overhaul for math and some new religion materials.
"Our teachers are having to take the time to go out and match (math) lessons to standards and then teach lessons to kids," Harrington said. "It won't require as much time for our teachers to put all of that together. ... They can put more time into instruction."
At this year's gala dinner and auction, the foundation's featured items will be a drift boat and a motorcycle, both donations.
A controversy ahead of last year's Mayfair event didn't dampen donations. A Great Falls priest objected to the fundraiser because two of the volunteer event chairs are a gay couple. Fundraiser officials, and many church members, were quick to state their support of the two men and their work on the committee.
Harrington said that sort of support is emblematic of the school community.
"It's a community, and that community comes together and they support each other," he said. "We have families who put such a priority on education. ... They really believe in the system."
Perhaps the best thing that students and teachers could say about textbooks at Billings Senior High is that they rarely get stuffed into a backpack.