Dear Mr. Trump,

million-dollars-2

Dear Mr. Trump,

Recently I started to put together my school’s budget for the FY17 school year. Ironically, while doing so I was listening to CNN and a report came on discussing how you had announced that, starting in the New Year, you would start spending $2 million dollars a week on political ads. I wonder, would you consider just spending $1.9 million instead and donating the other $100,000 to my school?

I’ve been thinking about writing this letter to you since I first saw that news story over vacation. I am struck by the disparity that exists between the haves and have nots in this country. I am also struck by how much money is spent needlessly in this country each and every day while so many children struggle to get their needs met. How is that possible? I’m wondering if your campaign would notice the difference between $2 million and $1.9 million? How would that impact your advertising campaign? Would it impact it at all? I assure you, $100,000 a week, for even just four weeks, would have a significant impact on the children and staff at my school as our struggles are real and felt each and every day.

What I could do with $100,000 a week…even just for a month! Here’s my spending plan in case you are even considering this question:

Week 1: This week I would like to hire two additional teachers to reduce class size in kindergarten and grade 5. Currently these class sizes average 28 due to budget cuts last year. Have you ever tried to teach 27 five-year-olds at a time? It’s not easy and it isn’t much easier with 11 year olds – trust me. You are welcome to come and visit if you’d like to give it a try! We usually budget $63,000 for a teacher but, since it’s January, I would need $37,800 for six months so I could hire two more teachers for $75,600 leaving $24,400 for this week. I would like to bank that for now.

Week 2: This week I would like to hire two more teachers; this time to reduce class sizes in grade 3 and grade 6. These grades have class sizes that range from 26 to 32 again due to a budget shortfall last year. The additional staffing will be greatly appreciated by the children (and the teachers)! Again, let’s bank the $24,400.

Week 3: This week I would like to hire a social worker. Currently, with a school of 402, we only have one guidance counselor. We are lucky to partner with a fabulous organization who comes in to provide counseling to children 4 days a week, but we need more people to be able to support the mental health needs of our children. Along the same lines, I would like to provide the Responsive Classroom I course to all of my teachers – I have been trying to figure out where that $30,000 would come from since I started this position last year! This leaves $32,200 for the bank this week.

Week 4: Wow, now that we have the staffing we need, there are some projects I would love to fund so we don’t have to do fundraisers. We are looking to provide more activities for kids to do at recess and would love to build a gaga pit and a lego wall. We were going to do a fundraiser to buy the materials and build our own pit, but we can buy one for $4000 which will reduce the burden to our already financially strapped community, not to mention it will get the kids playing quicker! The Lego Wall, I am sure we could do for $1000 if not less! We are starting a school garden and $1000 should also cover our expenses there. Recently I have heard a lot of people talking about getting Spheros and drones in the hands of their kids – we could get a fleet of both for $4000. That brings this week to $10,000 leaving $90,000 for the bank.

What to do with the $170,800 that now sits in the bank? I am sure I could find a way to spend it but the fiscally responsible thing to do would be to invest much of this money so that we can continue to hire the above staff members in future years. It will be great to have them for the next six months but to truly make a long-term impact, we need them in future years as well. I would also like to set up a fund so that families who are struggling can reach out to us for support in terms of gift cards for clothes and food. Our community could really use this support.

What do you think? Can we make it happen?

Sincerely,

A Principal with Dreams for Her Kids

If School Was More Like Summer Camp

As the school year comes to a close, my mind can’t help but wander to the shores of Pleasant Lake where I spent 17 summers at Camp Arcadia, a traditional  sleep-away camp for girls ages 7-17 in Casco, Maine. May 1st was the beginning of my count down – only 50 more days to go! I would trek to the attic and get out my camp trunk and lug it back to my room. I can still vividly remember the feeling when I opened it up for the first time after being hidden away for the winter as I unleashed the excitement, possibilities, blissful happiness, friendships and laughter that were to come. With this small gesture, the countdown was on for returning to my summer ‘home’! Can you imagine if this was the attitude that school children had about going to school each year?

As a child, I was excited to return to camp each summer because it was, in a word, fun! I mean really; who wouldn’t want to spend seven weeks living with their closest friends doing the things they loved each and every day? It was an amazing gift I was blessed to receive. Reflecting back on my experiences at camp as an adult learner and elementary school principal however, I also marvel at the intangible life-lessons I learned there without even realizing it! It has often caused me to wonder, why can’t schools be more like summer camp?

What would a school look like if it were more like summer camp? Below, in italics are my take-aways from my camp experience. In bold is how I hope to replicate that in the school environment.

  • Counselors at Arcadia were people I trusted, looked up to and wanted to be like. Personal connections are built with adults who are excited about the craft of teaching and about young people.
  • Like other Arcadians, I believe it is my goal to make the world a better place because I have been in it. Core values shape the culture and are intangible life-long lessons.
  • Canoeing, swimming and campcraft were required. My passions were sailing, tennis, trips and canoeing. Outside of the core curriculum, students would be given the freedom to choose what they wanted to learn.
  • In the spring, I talked with my parents about my summer program. This was communicated to the camp and used to create my schedule. Learning is shaped by personal goals developed among parents, teachers and the student.
  • At weekly campfires, the camp community celebrated children who reached their goals. Milestones along the road to the goal are celebrated by the community.
  • I paddled the rapids of the St. Croix River and climbed to the top of Mt. Washington. Risk taking is encouraged in a safe environment.
  • Closing Candlelight, pictured above, is one of many traditions that campers across 96 years of history share. Traditions connect participants to past and future community members.
  • This past summer, at our 95th reunion, alumna old and young returned home to celebrate together! Members feel ownership in the community.
  • At Arcadia, even on rainy days, I knew a world of possibilities awaited me each day! Children would wake up every day excited to go to school.

Though I recognize that teaching children to read and to multiply is different than teaching a child how to sail or to paddle a canoe, I strongly believe that we can replicate the feeling of summer camps in our schools by building relationships and a strong school culture. We owe it to our children to provide the type of environment that will cause them to spend their summers counting down to opening day!