Tuesday, May 6, 2014

BFREF: If you don't have one, start one.

Dear Friends,

You may not be blessed to live in a small enough community to be so interconnected as we are in the Intermountain Area. But you may still have a local organization that has committed itself to addressing the widening gap between public and legislative expectations and executive budgeting for our public schools. And if you don’t have such an organization, as you’ll see below: there’s a chance you could start one!

The friend who first introduced me to the Burney-Fall River Education Foundation (BFREF), when he was a member of their board of directors, was unable to attend the annual fund-raising dinner and auction this past Saturday night. He asked how it went. This is what I wrote in reply. I’ve redacted the local names. Folks up here in the Intermountain Area will know who’s who, probably. But maybe if you have to fill in with your own local personnel, restaurant, newspaper, etc., you’ll still find it interesting, and perhaps even more inspiring toward how you might support what is, or could be true in your community, for your schools, serving your children.

Regarding BFREF:
Saturday was a blast, even being as painfully ill as I was. Attendance was said to be outstanding. (I haven’t tracked the numbers like others have.) One of the most fascinating activities, for me, is to look at the various expressions of gratitude for the grants provided during the past year. It still strikes me a strange that so often, when I talk about the great work being done toward enhancing the education of our children, the conversation turns to how awful it is that someone isn’t already paying for most of these things. Whether it’s supposed to be budgeted by the district, sent to the schools by the parents, or included as part of a teacher’s personal contribution to their employers’ business (that’s the concept that strikes me as most odd—especially shortly after tax time when I’m forced to look at how expensive it is to have a public school teacher for a wife!), so many imagine that there is some technology fairy, or publishing gnome, or maybe laminating and binding elves who are supposed to make it all magically appear. Of course, with some of the photo-essays, there’s the challenge of determining who it is that is thanking the foundation for what—not every teacher is skilled at communicating via display-board.

But even when I can’t quite figure out which item in the photos it is that some teacher and class  are grateful for (they’re recognizable, I’m sure, to their fellow district personnel), I am absolutely convinced of the value and necessity of the work being done, and the effectiveness of the support provided. I was even more convinced Saturday night when two folks from Cedarville were introduced. They were in attendance in order to explore further how BFREF operates, in preparation for establishing their own version of a foundation for their schools.

Still, having followed the primary fund-raising work of the foundation for several years (i.e., the dinner/auction), I will say that there seemed to be a number of items missing from the various auctions and raffles. Some were sadly missing (i.e., [recently deceased, much-beloved teacher’s] consistent fiber-arts contributions), and some were, well, conspicuously and oddly absent. Just from memory, I think we’ve had two to six yards of crushed gravel, a tool chest or two, rustic benches, tickets to a Giants game, and a bit wider range of artwork in just about each of the prior years I’ve attended, along with a selection of unique one-time-only contributions (e.g., the FFA picnic table that went somewhere in the $2000s, as I recall). In the live auction there were two different lots that were essentially accessorized greens fees (although one included one of those outrageously oversized drivers), two more that were each fly-fishing excursions, and another that was an opportunity to go shoot ground squirrels on someone’s ranch. That’s five lots out of a total of eighteen in the live auction. But we did have fun. As I was told by those with better vantage points, it was [district administrator] and [district administrator] who most enjoyed running [notoriously supportive retiree – who has purchased the pine needle basket at each auction, forever] up on [outstanding local artist’s] pine needle basket (sometimes a dollar at a time—to the minor annoyance of our auctioneer, [area newspaper publisher/reporter/photographer]), and I think they were joined by one other bidder in the early stages of [talented, self-taught watercolor artist’s] painting ending up at $1000 (and, in case you were wondering, also ending up at my house).

Unusually, the dinner itself drew mixed reviews. Well, what’s most remarkable, I guess, is that I heard one criticism. (I wasn’t in any shape to put something in my stomach, even a bottle of water, and still be sure to hold out through the end of the live auction—my favorite item was listed last, of course.) But it looked very nice. Not sure what some of the expectations may have been, or what range of variables there may have been in what arrived at various tables. Of course, I do know [eponymously incorporated local restaurateurs’] skills. And I also know the eccentricities and peccadilloes of some of the assembled connoisseurs. So, I’m willing to say it was as wonderful as usual.

Okay, well, that’s probably more words than I spoke to anyone Saturday night, actually. But writing it out gave me more of an opportunity, I think, to reflect on my role as an annual supporter and occasional grant-writer, and to be thankful for those who commit to ensuring that the business of supplementing the declining material and capital investment available for our children’s education continues to grow and thrive. So, I am glad you asked.

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