It was only the second day of school when the materials came home: the first of three scheduled band fund raisers.
My first thought to all fund raising is inevitably the same: ugh. But I try to keep an open mind, and I wanted to know what it was for. Our son explained that it was for the band field trip to Washington, D.C., in March of next year.
By the second week of school, the music directors invited parents to an informational meeting to explain the trip. In great detail, Steve Rice and Patty Meyers walked all of us through the timing (Thursday through Sunday, with Friday being an early release day), the accommodations (near Dulles Airport, four to a room), the performances (on Saturday), the tourism opportunities (endless but with limited time) ....
The cost, they said, would likely be around $520 per child.
Wow. I started to calculate the total, but they had-of course-already done that: $64,245 -- subject to change, but hopefully not increase.
Another wow passed across my brain, followed closely by another thought: "These folks are very ambitious!"
But then I was reminded that they have done this sort of thing before -- indeed, they do it every year. I have been involved with the fund raising at the elementary schools since the first request. I figure it is part of my duty as a parent to support the efforts of bringing opportunities to all children, and incumbent upon me to buck up and do my part -- no matter how much I might dislike the selling of items.
I was part of a sea of change that Academy School instituted about six years ago, going from each classroom having one (or more) fund raiser(s) to having (mostly) one school-wide raffle sale. (Sixth graders, due to their larger field trip expectations, have an additional one, and winter sports still has to raise their own funds. The parent group’s funding comes from two Scholastic Book Fairs.)
Part of my personal frustration with fund raising is expecting kids to sell (do we want to make little people into little sale people?) ... watching some kids get really excited and sell a lot ... and dealing with inequities of what is raised by a few, but used for the good of all.
I was delighted to hear how the high school music department has dealt with this. First, in order to decide if it is something that they should even do, they ask the kids to commit to going. After all, if there are not enough kids that want to participate, and the musicality of the group is compromised, then they just won’t go. Why bother singing with, say, no bass line in the ensemble?
Second, the music department has already decided which fund raisers they will do. In this case -- be prepared when they come -- there are three chances for money raising by the student: a "normal" gift wrapping/assorted items/magazine subscription renewals/etc. sale that started immediately and ends very soon after school started ... a citrus fruit sale in November/December ... and their annual "Merry Mulch" program, where Christmas trees are picked up and mulched for a small fee.
Third, the student and his/her family discusses the reality of the $520 expense. They talk it over and decide what the family’s expectations are of the participant: will he use his birthday and holiday potential gifts towards this cost? Will he sell the fund raising items? Will the family just pay it all, with no expectations? As they pointed out, every family is different, and every family should have this conversation amongst themselves.
Then, the student and the family -- together -- completes a short form. First, of course, you can opt out of the trip entirely; you don’t have to go. But if you do want to go, you can opt to say, "I am going and I will pay for all of it with my fund raising ... any shortfall from fund raising will be paid by my family." Or, you can choose to ask for a scholarship -- which comes out of any "extra" funds raised by other students -- for a specific amount.
Here is where it got very interesting. The onus is back on the student to still participate in raising funds. You can ask for a scholarship -- but it comes in a 1 to 3 ratio back for what you raise yourself. For example, you can ask for $300 of it. But you must raise $100 in order to receive the other $200, to total to the $300. This seemed infinitely fair to me: a way to balance the efforts of all.
It also seemed like a decent idea to our son. Watch for a call from him in November asking if you want to buy some citrus!
Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools-now at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels! She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment, the Brattleboro Town School Board and the Early Education Services policy council.