About Us

The Partnership for Educational Excellence is an IRS-chartered, 501(c)3 not-for-profit education foundation established in 1992.  For more than twenty years, our objective has been to invest donor dollars into our most valuable asset: our children. 
Our premier program is classroom mini-grants from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade in the three schools of Macoupin County’s Community Unit School District 7 (CUSD7).  The schools are: Ben-Gil Elementary School (BGES), Gillespie Middle School (GMS), and Gillespie High School (GHS). These schools serve residents of Gillespie, Benld, Eagarville, Sawyerville, Wilsonville, Dorchester, East Gillespie, Mt. Clare, and Hornsby.

In addition we provide academic tuition scholarships to graduating seniors of GHS who enroll in post-secondary educational institutions.

Click here to learn more about our process for using funds.

About You

Generous donations – both small and large – from alumni, local residents, local businesses, corporations, and foundations are our only source of funds.  

Click here for profiles of our major donors and a complete list of gifts and memorials for 2014 and learn more abut Becoming a Donor  Become a Donor 

You have another chance to participate too!  Once a year we hold a single fund raising event: “For the Love of Education” Trivia Night.  It allows our supporters to mingle with their beneficiaries – teachers, scholars and their families – have some fun, shop the silent auction, and share the positive energy of supporting a good thing!  Join us! Click here for more information and to register for “The Love of Education” Trivia Night on January 31, 2015.  And if you’d like to donate to the silent auction, please contact us at info@thepartnership7.org

Our Mission Statement

"To benefit the students, improve the quality of education & strengthen community involvement in education in CUSD #7 by supporting academic programs for which funding is not readily available with resources obtained from individuals, corporations, foundations, and other sources."


Current Board of Directors

Our board is dedicated to the mission of The Partnership. Learn about the current and past directors below.

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     Front row (left to right):  Nikki Katich (treasurer); Shawna Heddinghaus (vice president); John Fassero, Jr. (President) ; Judy Cordum (secretary).  Back row:  Donna Prevedell, Brandi Bunn, Rose Marie Tebbe, Carole Scheller, Patty DeMartini, Katie Ronald, Don Throne.  Not pictured:  Nanci Grandone and Scott Mock.

Front row (left to right): Nikki Katich (treasurer); Shawna Heddinghaus (vice president); John Fassero, Jr. (President) ; Judy Cordum (secretary). Back row: Donna Prevedell, Brandi Bunn, Rose Marie Tebbe, Carole Scheller, Patty DeMartini, Katie Ronald, Don Throne. Not pictured: Nanci Grandone and Scott Mock.

John Fassero, President
John Fassero, Jr., our current president, is one of three founding members who have served on the board for 22 years.  He is a lifelong resident who graduated from S.S. Simon and Jude Catholic School before graduating from Gillespie High School.  After earning a B.A. in Marketing from St. Louis University, he attended the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School.  He served three times in Vietnam from 1969 through 1971, and then came home to join the family petroleum wholesale business, also serving as treasurer of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association until the family business was sold.  He is currently a sales representative with Aladdin Steel in Gillespie.  He is a Paul Harris Fellow in Rotary International, president of the local philanthropic Bertetti Foundation, and is a 30-year volunteer at St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield, where he is currently on the board of directors.  He also plays in the municipal band. His two adult sons and one adult daughter all graduated from CUSD7 schools.

John is the second President since The Partnership was founded.

Shawna Heddinghaus, Vice-President 
Shawna Heddinghaus, our current vice president, was born and raised in Moberly, Missouri.  She graduated with a B.S. in Life Sciences/Pre-Optometry from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, and obtained a Doctorate of Optometry at the University of Missouri School of Optometry in St. Louis.  Her professional life has taken her to Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and London, England.  A practicing optometrist at Fireside Eye Care, P.C., in Benld, Shawna lived in the area from 1999 to 2008 and currently resides in Edwardsville.  She is also on the ancillary staff of Community Memorial Hospital in Staunton.  Her volunteer activities include long-time membership and presidency of Benld Rotary Club, membership in the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce, board membership with CCVHOA, and long-time chairmanship of the Run for Bonifest 5K.  She has two daughters who attend school in Edwardsville.

Nicole Katich, Treasurer 
Nikki Katich, our treasurer, is spearheading a major review of Partnership accounting procedures.  A lifelong resident, Nikki attended S.S. Simon and Jude Catholic School and finished at Gillespie High School.  Her B.A. in marketing is from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  Currently a stay-at-home mom, she is also a T-ball volunteer coach and a member of the Strategic Planning Committee for CUSD7.  She has one young son enrolled in CUSD7.  One of her goals for The Partnership is to “gain more exposure with the younger members and families that have children ... they are supporting their own child’s education.”

Judy Cordum, Secretary 
Judy Cordum, our secretary, was raised in both Missouri and Illinois.  Her B.A. in Education (English and social studies) from the University of Missouri-Columbia, led to her career as a CUSD7 teacher from 1978 through 2001, including stints with the gifted program, remedial math, and her final years as a fourth grade teacher.  As a former classroom mini-grant recipient, she brings a valuable perspective as she now helps award those grants.  Her other volunteer work is with the United Methodist Women and Harvest Feast program and the Zion Lutheran Willing Workers.  She has a grown son and daughter who graduated from CUSD7 schools.

Brandi Bunn, Board Member
Brandi Bunn, one of our newest members, was raised in Gillespie, graduated from CUSD7 schools, and then earned a B.A. in Business Administration with a Marketing Specialization from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.  Brandi earned an MBA from Missouri Baptist University and now works in Springfield for the Illinois Department of Transportation as the systems control and project review unit manager.  She is a member of The Partnership’s finance committee and is spearheading development of its new web site and social media presence.

Patty DeMartini, Board Member
Patty DeMartini moved from Livingston to Gillespie after second grade.  She then attended CUSD7 public schools, graduating in 1987 from Gillespie High School.  In 1996 she graduated with Highest Honors from Elmhurst College with a major in elementary education (K-9).  She taught in Burr Ridge until the birth of her first son.  She has been a Partnership director for three years because “I have two children in CUSD7 schools.  By working with The Partnership I am able to help raise funds that go directly to their teachers’ classrooms by way of mini-grants.”  Patty writes the thank you responses to all donations.  Patty has two sons.

Nanci Grandone, Board Member
Nanci Grandone, our founder and first president, was raised in Decatur.  She earned a B.S. in Education (Speech/Theater with an English minor) and an M.S. in Education (Guidance Counseling) from Illinois State University.  In addition, she holds an M.S. in Educational Administration from Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.  She has taught in Decatur and Lebanon; San Antonio; and for 21 years has been a guidance counselor at the Alton School District.  As part of her studies at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville she parlayed an assignment researching a school district-community partnership into the founding in 1992 of The Partnership for Educational Excellence which remains “a source of pride and joy.”  Nanci’s volunteer activities have included community theater in Decatur and Lebanon, Illinois; the founding of the Gillespie Lyric Theater; directorship of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School; Region 5 representative to the Illinois School Counselor Association; and sponsor of LifeSavers, a student peer group in the Alton schools.   She has three grown daughters who graduated from CUSD7 schools.

Nanci was the first and founding President of The Partnership.

Scott Mock, Board Member
Scott Mock was born and raised in Miami, Florida.  He holds a B.A. in Human Resources from University of Maryland.  From 1981 to 2004 he served in the U.S. Air Force at San Antonio and Wichita Falls in Texas; Vandenberg, California; Myrtle Beach; and Wright-Patterson in Ohio.  He also served in Diyarbakir, Turkey; Zaragoza, Spain; and Ruppersweiler and Baumholder in Germany.  When he retired he was Chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Operations and Training at Baumholder.  He has lived in CUSD7 for ten years, currently works for the U.S. Postal Service, is a liturgist at the United Methodist Church, and is a“roadie”/sound tech for its praise band, “Fireproof”.  He has an adult daughter and a son in college.

Donna Prevedell, Board Member
Donna Prevedell was born in California and grew up in the Chicago suburbs. She attended DePauw University before graduating from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a B.A. in American Literature and an M.A. in the Teaching of English.  Teaching and journalism have been alternate career foci.  Teaching has included Parkland College; the USIA Language Center, Taiwan; and Prevedell & Associates business communications courses in corporations, including at the World Food Programme of the United Nations in Rome.  Journalism began as farm editor for the Champaign-Urbana Courier and continued as a floor reporter for an international finance and commodity news wire at the Chicago Board of Trade.  Next she freelanced as a contributing editor for magazines and newsletters; an editor/writer for corn, soybean, and pork national trade associations; and an editor/community relations liaison for Viacom and Exxon Mobil at a Superfund site.  Most recently she worked as an Emergency Medical Specialist at Memorial Hospital in Springfield and now designs and handcrafts purses, baby quilts, scarves, and photo greeting cards.  As a volunteer she has served as chair or co-chair of two statewide advisory committees under Gov. Jim Edgar and chaired the International Ag Advisory Committee of the University of Illinois.  Other volunteer outlets include: EMT with local ambulance; St. Francis Hospital hospice volunteer and member of three hospital committees; member of the Ag Advisory committee at Lewis and Clark Community College; reading volunteer for adult literacy and in CUSD7; senior high Sunday school teacher for 20 years at United Methodist Church; alumni president and board member of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Foundation; founder and past leader of 4x4 4-H Club; and founding member and spokesperson for the Cahokia Watershed Preservation Committee.  She has been public, press, and community relations specialist with The Partnership for 22 years.  She has two adult daughters who graduated from CUSD7 schools.

Katie Ronald, Board Member
Katie Ronald, a lifelong resident and graduate of CUSD7 schools, has a Doctorate of Pharmacy from St. Louis college of Pharmacy.  After a residency in Wisconsin, she joined Southern Illinois University Edwardsville School of Pharmacy (SIU SOP) and is currently Clinical Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice and adjunct faculty with Southern Illinois University School of Medicine (SIU SOM) in Springfield.  Her clinical practice site with SIU SOM is in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield.  She serves on a number of committees at both SIU SOP and SIU SOM.  She also coaches her older son’s Minor Soccer Association, volunteers with a local charity called H.E.I.D.I., and is on the Strategic Planning Committee for CUSD7.  She has two young sons, one in CUSD7.

Carole Scheller, Board Member
Carole Scheller brings an educator’s perspective to The Partnership.  After attending CUSD7 schools, she also studied at Eastern Illinois University and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, earning a B.A. in education (K-9).  After a brief stint working for the State of Illinois, Carole taught (mostly first grade) for 38 years in Gillespie, Arlington Heights, Mt. Olive, and again in Gillespie.  She volunteers as a Sunday school and youth group teacher at the Christian Church, as a teacher’s helper at Ben-Gil Elementary School, as secretary-treasurer for the Gillespie City Cemetery, and as a member of the Macoupin Military Support Group.  Carole is an active member of Delta Kappa Gamma Teachers’ Society.  She has two grown daughters who graduated from CUSD7.

Rose Marie Tebbe, Board Member
Rose Marie Tebbe is The Partnership’s financial secretary, collecting and posting all donations mailed or presented to the foundation.  A graduate of Benld High School, Rose has lived in the area her entire life.  She continued her education with a two-year banking short course at Illinois Wesleyan University.  Rose worked 30 years for Peoples State Bank (now United Community Bank), finishing her career as assistant branch manager.  Her other community activities: volunteer at St. Francis Hospital gift shop; secretary-treasurer for Benld Cemetery Association; board member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Altar and Rosary Society.  She is involved with the Tebbe Family Foundation founded by her son Mark.  Rose has three adult sons and one daughter, all of them educated in CUSD7.

Don Throne, Board Member
Don Throne, born and raised in Gillespie, earned a B.A. in Elementary Education and an M.A. in Counselor Education from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.  During his 34 years of service in CUSD#7, Don taught 5th, 3rd, and 1st grades at Gillespie and Benld Elementary School.  In addition, he was an elementary counselor for the district.  Don has been active since joining The Partnership upon his recent retirement managing mini-grant recipients’ reports.  His goal is “to help make our school district the best it can be”.  He is also currently working for a 1-cent sales tax increase in Macoupin County to help area schools.


The Partnership would not be what it is today without the help of our past board members, thank you!

Julie McCormack Bright                 
Gail Cavallo
JoAnn Daley
Brian Engelke
Mag Fisher
Renee Katich
Ken Largio
Gina Gucciardo

Barbara Madden
Charles McGrady
Jim Masterson
Robin Niemeyer
Buck Obertino
Jim Pickett
Carolyn Plovich
JoAnn Plovich

Emmlee Robinson
Richard Russell
Della Kay Sullivan
Marilyn Taylor
Jackie Van Doren
Fr. Paul Waters