Maggie Makes Four!

This journal started off documenting the adoption of our youngest daughter. It now follows the twist and turns of our lives as we raise these two amazing little creatures into the best women they can become.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The "Right" Thing

Last fall, I heard about a great opportunity for my school. A local company was offering grants to teachers for their classrooms. The grants were for Science, Math, Education and Technology for up to $2000 per classroom. So, I helped my teacher complete her grant, then I went to the staff meeting at my school and explained the process to the other teachers. I made myself available to answer questions, I provided my grant request and I even submitted a grant or two on behalf of teachers.

The reason I did this is that the schools need the money but also there was an opportunity for a larger grant. If teacher's filled out their grant request correctly, then their grant could earn their school a $25,000 grant. In hard times, $25,000 goes a long ways at a school and what school doesn't need the money? I wanted my school to win that grant.

About 5 teachers received grants at my school and 1 of those grants became a semi-finalist for the school wide grant for $25,000. I was so excited. May be this could happen for our school, I thought. These bigger grants were to be awarded in only two counties, and the schools in our city are among the wealthiest in the area. But, our school has more than 25% of its students on the federal lunch program and receives Title 1 funding, so we were classified as having moderate poverty. In the grant world, this was huge. I crossed my fingers and sent all my good vibes to the grant selection committee. $25,000 would do so much for my school.

When the announcements came out great news: one of the grants from our school was selected as a winner and our school won $25,000.

Then, odd things started happening. I heard a rumor at school that the teacher who wrote the grant told everyone she wrote a grant for $25,000. The money was hers. This wasn't true. The grant she wrote was for $800. It was honored as a great idea and the school was awarded $25,000 because of her idea. She was NOT given $25,000. Then, I saw a congratulations sign the parents of her class had made. And noticeably absent was any real excitement around the school. What was going on? Then a friend, with a child in the class came by and when I asked him about the grant, he told me all about how the teacher was spending all the money in their class. When I told him the story of the grant, he was shocked and told me he'd keep his ears open.

I decided at that time to send a note of congratulations to the principal as well as a copy of the rules. Surely, he would see the light. Surely, he would reign in this teacher. Surely, "logic" would prevail. Time went on. And still no real news on the grant. Then, this week, there was news, big news.

The teacher had spent $15,000 in her classroom to create a "Smart Classroom", only $10,000 would go to the school. WHAT THE F***? I think literally those were my words (without the stars). This meant only 25 kids would benefit from something that could have touched 700. If you want a smart class, why not put it in the science room where every kid could take advantage of it? Why would you send $600 per child on 25 kids and less than $15 a child on everyone else? Do first graders really need a smart classroom when they are only learning to read? Was I missing something?

Terrified I was too late, I sent an email to the principal Tuesday night and asked for confirmation of the rumor. I also sent a note to the person who runs the grant program to find out exactly the rules.

It took two days for the principal to respond. But I heard from the company first. The company had decided school's could decide to spend the money in whatever way it chose. They were steadfast that they wouldn't get involved. If the school wanted to put the money in one classroom, it was at the principal's discretion. They would not get involved. (Rats!) And at the end of the second day, I heard from the principal that he fully supported the teacher's plan. I was sick. Truly sick.

I was depressed all Thursday night. How could one person manipulate a system so thoroughly to the detriment of so many kids? I thought teachers were supposed to care about kids. If she felt the need to be rewarded for her idea, I wouldn't have complained about $2,500 (10% of the total), but 60%? I was back to cussing when I thought about it. What a waste. I mean, really a senseless waste.

I went to breakfast with my friends yesterday morning and told them the story. They were shocked. Here we were, 4 parents who are involved in our school and I was the only one who knew anything about the grant and its misappropriation. One of these friends encouraged me to call the School District Office, but I was so sick I wasn't sure I could do it.

I came home and the Dad started in on me. "You've got to call. Just see if it helps," he said. So, I placed the call. I spoke to someone who is very high up at the district. He graduated from high school a few years a head of me, so we're acquaintances...at best. Anyway, he knew nothing of the grant. (This is $25,000, isn't odd no one knows about this?) and he was quite surprised when I told him about the distribution scheme. He said he would look into it and get back to me.

I hung up and have heard nothing else. I may not. I was probably too late in my final hail mary phone call and I probably should have inserted myself into the process when the silence was so deafening. But I just kept thinking, the school would do the "right" thing. Unfortunately, sometimes when money is involved, people forget the "right" thing and greed takes over. I know this. I've learned this many times, and I don't know why I'm still caught off guard.

I've hung up my crusader guns for now. My kids still have 3 years at this school. A teacher who would manipulate a grant to her own benefit, is certainly capable of manipulating something else and making things miserable for my kids. So, I'm not making any more calls, and this blog post is the last I'll even mention of this incident publicly. But let me tell you, I'll never give another dime to the school's general fund. From now on, my contributions go to my kids' classrooms. I'll never again trust the school administration. And forget my vote for the property tax. There is no way. If a school can't be trusted with $25,000, how can I trust a school district with millions?

Note to readers: This entry has received a great deal of attention around school. I wrote it when I was extremely frustrated and have modified slightly to remove a portion that I felt uncomfortable having in the public forum. I never intended for this entry to be a character attack. However, an issue of character is at the heart of this matter and it needed to be addressed.

7 Comments:

  • At 11:55 PM , Blogger Marci said...

    Wow. I just can't imagine anyone thinking that is an acceptable plan. Our Pleasanton Principal is extreme in her need for equality across the school. I can tell that scenario would have never happened at the school.

     
  • At 7:40 AM , Blogger erin said...

    I had never heard any of this. That SUCKS!

     
  • At 8:30 AM , Blogger One Lucky Mom said...

    Erin: Here's a link to the grant web site: www.fuelyourshool.com.

    The problem is that you haven't heard of it. They kept it quiet for a reason.

    Marci: I doubt this would have happened anywhere but Valley View. I like to think most principals would have stopped this insanity.

     
  • At 10:22 AM , Blogger One Crazy Mom said...

    hey Julie let's talk. I think you might be missing some key information.

    How's your hubby doing? Can I do anything to help you?

     
  • At 2:41 PM , Blogger erin said...

    Ok, ladies: Now you've both got me going. I'd love to hear more. In light of some experiences I went through last year, this story is NOT digesting well at all.

     
  • At 5:13 PM , Blogger stefkatz said...

    Julie,
    So sorry to hear about your experience, and thanks for sharing becausee I, for one, had not heard about the $25,000 grant and am as sick about as you. I have also brought issues up to this Principal that should have been addressed but went no where, so I feel your pain.

     
  • At 1:25 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

    This is the reason I don't want to vote for school taxes to be increased. I've always voted for every damn bond, extra tax etc. even though I don't have any kids in the system. I have a much better idea if you are interested...

     

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