Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Schools Tools makes Charlotte cool

One of the things I like about Charlotte is the way people mobilize to make sure all kids have the supplies they need for the start of school.

The School Tools drive got started in 1996, a year after a public housing project lost its sponsor for a back-to-school festival. The organizers of that small event put out a call for donations, and it seemed like half of Charlotte came by with book bags, notebooks and crayons.

I was covering children's issues at the time, and wanted to seize that momentum by giving readers a roundup of places to donate the following summer. Trouble was, no one was doing a big collection.

Enter Cynthia Marshall, director of Cities In Schools (it's now Communities In Schools, and Marshall has retired). She saw the spark of potential and whipped it to a blaze, teaming up with Hands On Charlotte to launch a regional collection drive for needy students.

In the last 13 years, School Tools has given literally tons of back-to-school goodies to children of poverty. The recession took a bite out of donations last year, and need continues to grow.

This year's drive is in full swing, sponsored by WSOC-TV, Communities in Schools and Classroom Central. It covers 22 counties, with collection points at BB&T branches, Subaru dealerships, WSOC-TV at 1901 N. Tryon St. or Classroom Central at 2116 Wilkinson Blvd. Easiest of all, put supplies at your mailbox on Saturday and your postal carrier will pick them up (click "Postal Collection Day" at the link above for a list of participating zip codes).

I know some online commenters see this as a handout to irresponsible parents, who will spend their money unwisely while others do their children's back-to-school shopping. They're free not to donate. I figure those of us born to loving parents and stable families have already won life's biggest lottery; it's a privilege to share a little joy with kids who didn't fare as well.

And I think it says something pretty amazing about a community to see such a tangible tribute to the value we put on learning.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Students and teachers REALLY appreciate the support. Thanks to all that donate!

wiley coyote said...


I have a suggestion.

Why don't you do a story on how wonderful the 50% of us who are getting hosed having to put up $100.00 for the "pay to play sports" scheme Gorman has come up with.

We don't have money for magnet transportation but we sure do to transport athletes all over the area for sports.

Sports are EXTRACURRICULAR activities. Getting to school on a bus for a magnet program is not.

Gorman in his infinite ignorance of reality stated 50% of the student athletes get FRL and yet he also states it would take 85% compliance to make it work.

Perhaps Gorman needs some remedial math.

Mike said...

I know everyone feels good by doing these noble efforts but maybe we are creating a dependent class of people as bad as if they are addicted to crack. We are really robbing them of learning their own capabilities and never really developing as persons.

philip said...

A great way to buy pencils to donate to Classroom Central: Search for "700 pencils" on eBay and buy 700 pencils for $25.

Anonymous said...

I love Classroom Central because teachers are the ones accessing it. However, I would have to somewhat agree with Mike. Think about what you said, Ann--that in the last 13 years School Tools has given "tons of back to school goodies to children of poverty". And then there are all the other programs and organizations that do that as well. Yet every year we have the same situation--too many kids without proper supplies, or at least that's what we hear. So has all this generosity really made a difference--is it helping poor kids to do better in school so they can lift themselves out of poverty? If it is, why haven't we seen a difference over the years? I'm not trying to be a scrooge, but it makes you wonder. I think an Observer compilation of all the agencies and organizations providing supplies and "goodies" to high poverty kids could make for interesting discussion.

Anonymous said...

Ann have you heard anything on how CMS is going to inform parents about AP and IB Exam costs? Curious if that train has left the downtown station.

wiley coyote said...

Anonymous said...

August 19, 2010 1:55 PM

Yet every year we have the same situation--too many kids without proper supplies, or at least that's what we hear.

Add FRL and now the Pay to Play fee of $100.00 that will be assessed to those who can pay, which is probably in the neighborhood of about 25 to 30% of us. The rest will get to play for free, just as they get free lunch and school supplies.

That's not being harsh, that's reality.

As long as we as a society do not separate the truly needy in this country, no matter how many there are and stop enabling everyone who "claims to need entitlements", we will never get out of the muck we're in.

Clinton and the Republicans passed sweeping welfare reform in the 90's, only to have the Democratically controlled Congress in 2007 gut it. People actually had to go to work and try to get off welfare.

Bill Clinton in a NY Times article in 2006:

In the past decade, welfare rolls have dropped substantially, from 12.2 million in 1996 to 4.5 million today. At the same time, caseloads declined by 54 percent. Sixty percent of mothers who left welfare found work, far surpassing predictions of experts. Through the Welfare to Work Partnership, which my administration started to speed the transition to employment, more than 20,000 businesses hired 1.1 million former welfare recipients. Welfare reform has proved a great success, and I am grateful to the Democrats and Republicans who had the courage to work together to take bold action.

In the Charlotte Observer today, Gorman's own words show the contradictions in the pay to play scheme, stating he needs 85% compliance to break even, yet states 50% get FRL and won't have to pay the fee. Better yet, he enables another group to get it free by saying if you have hardships but don't get FRL, you play free.

Speaking of FRL, the USDA made CMS stop auditing applicants after they found 60% of the sample audits did not qualify for FRL. Today these people still get the benefit and don't qualify.

We stop magnet transportation because of budget shortfalls but God forbid we keep Johnny from playing basketball or baseball or Susie from playing soccer. We'll transport them all over creation to play a sport.

When I see more people become outraged over the waste and ineptness of educators in this country, call me.

Otherwise, I could care less a teacher or a student gets a pencil from Classroom Central.

Ann Doss Helms said...

I had almost forgotten about the AP/IB fees. Those exams are all in the spring, right? I'd guess that's when the push to notify families will happen.

Anonymous said...

Ann, rumor has it that parents have to pay all AP / IB exam costs by Sept. 25th, yet no info has gone out. CHECK IT OUT! I think some parents are gonna be in financial shock about the costs for both.

Anonymous said...

AP fees can add up, depending on how many AP classes a student is taking. However, very few systems in the country pay the AP fees for their students. So although it will be a shock to many, it's really just bringing CMS into the norm. Really, why should Mecklenburg County taxpayers be paying for my child to earn college credits while in high school? (I say this as a parent who paid for all of the first two children's AP exams--lots of them--in a different school system. We were very surprised to learn that we didn't have to pay for our third child's exams when we moved here. He took almost all AP courses junior and senior years, as well as one or two his sophomore year--I figure his AP bill probably cost the system over $1000.)

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. This policy should have been implemented 10 years ago. It just seems that if CMS "enabled" parents and students financially by paying for these exams for the last 15 years, they should let parents know the costs and when those fees are due prior to the school year. I would think many parents and students might re-think enrollment in these courses once financial cost is disclosed. I am pretty sure I know the definition of transparency.

wiley coyote said...

Let me see a show of hands of all the parents chomping at the bit to pay for school books in high school like they do in college.

It's coming, all under the guise of "we have no money".

I would also be interested in knowing just how many kids in AP classes who qualify for FRL have their AP test fees paid for them.

Anyone know?

Anonymous said...

I believe the state covers the cost of AP exams for FRL kids.
If I'm not mistaken CMS justified paying for the tests for everyone regardless of income by saying that they required everyone who took the course to take the test. (This is not the case in most districts)

Anonymous said...

Checking online I found that the College Board reduces the $87 fee per AP exam to $56 for low income students. The state of North Carolina then pays for the rest: (from NCDPI website) The state of North Carolina will pay $56 per AP Exam for public school students qualifying for the College Board fee reduction.
Final AP Exam fee for qualifying students: $0

wiley coyote said...

I was cusrious, as today I was told by the school counselor my son would have to pay for his AP tests.

Ironic that 73.4% of the kids at my son's school qualify for FRL.

Mike said...

Hey wiley, the rest of the kids not having to pay for their exams are laughing at you and your son for being suckers.

wiley coyote said...

Mike said...
Hey wiley, the rest of the kids not having to pay for their exams are laughing at you and your son for being suckers.

Hey Mike? Don't you think that with all of the entitlements floating around - Food Stamps, free health care, WIC, government subsidized housing, etc, that they are also laughing at you for helping fund those?

Unless you're one of the 49% of Americans who pay no Federal taxes or you're a recipient of one or more of those entitlements I just mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

Wiley and Mike, lets not turn this into a typical comment section. Although 73.4 % of the kids that attend a certain school are FRL does not mean they are all taking AP and IB Exams. Lets focus more on the point that CMS needs to let ALL parents, especially the ones who ARE NOT FRL when the money is due. Try not to digress EVERY comment / post section into a whining session about how hard you work and how other people take advantage of the system. It gets old for those of us who want to actually dialogue about our concerns related to the topic.

wiley coyote said...

Anonymous said...
Wiley and Mike, lets not turn this into a typical comment section.

I believe if you go back and read my posts I have put forth valid arguments regarding the topic at hand.

I did not solicit a response from Mike but he gave his opinion, which is just that - his opinion, no more or no less valid than mine or yours.

Just as I am doing with you, I gave him a rebuttal.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarity. Duly noted.