How a nonprofit is helping teachers in Sonoma County not to self-fund their classrooms

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It was a still sleepy morning in Meaghan King’s special education class at Herbert Slater Middle School, but in a corner, Seth Smith and his classmates were looking into portable black boxes and chatting enthusiastically.

Smith, 13, moved his head back and forth and up and down, apparently sweeping his gaze across the room. But through the Google Expeditions viewer he held in front of his eyes, he actually saw a shady glade, filled with lions – a scene captured thousands of miles away.

For the King class, the technology was transporting. With all the complications of field trips, especially now in the midst of a lingering pandemic, the virtual experiences offered by the Google glasses allow students to travel anywhere – from the Serengeti to the bottom of the ocean to the Louvre – are far from a shoddy alternative, King said.

“We will be dealing with a subject like the history of the United States,” she said. “And… we’ll read about it all week, and then at the end of the week we’ll go on a field trip to where the Constitution is.”

“These just open the door to a lot more (places),” King said.

That’s what she had in mind when she raised $ 2,637 to purchase the kits in 2019 through DonorsChoose, a non-profit crowdfunding site who help school staff obtain supplies and materials for their students.

The website, launched in 2000, is a vehicle for voluntary donors, from community members to multi-million dollar corporations, to support educators in public schools across the country, including Santa Rosa. Over the past five years, staff at Sonoma County’s largest school district have raised a total of $ 522,663 to fund 770 projects.

DonorsChoose, whose popularity has grown in popularity over the years, has helped ease the pressure on public school staff to bridge the gap between their schools’ budgets and the needs of their students with their own funds, and enabled schools to acquire technology and equipment at high costs.

“In a perfect world, it would be nice if we could come to school knowing that we have an archery unit and we know we won’t have any problems getting that equipment,” Nikki said. Kumasaka, physical education teacher at Herbert Slater Middle. School, which also coaches girls in football at Santa Rosa High School. “Unfortunately, this is not the world we live in.”

Kumasaka has previously used DonorsChoose to secure three sets of portable Bluetooth speakers that students at his school can use during class and team training.

On a recent Friday, one of his physical education classes played ‘pedometer games’ on the asphalt, which included a ‘red light, green light’ style activity in which students ran while the music played. through the loudspeaker and stop when it stops. .

“We want to promote exercise, fun and sportsmanship,” Kumasaka wrote in her fundraiser. “Enough equipment for all of our students would increase participation. The students would have healthier bodies and minds.

In total, it took six donors to fully fund the $ 838 request, aided by an anonymous donor match on Tuesday Giving, which is the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

One of those donors, however, was Kumasaka herself. When the project approached the deadline before it expired, she contributed the remaining cost so as not to lose the funding she had already raised.

Donations to projects that expire are either returned to the donor or, if they are considered a friend or family member of the teacher, they are credited to the educator for use in future projects.

Kumasaka has another project this year: she’s trying to raise $ 3,783 for new cardio training equipment for the Herbert Slater campus. She launched the project in early October, and it still needs $ 499 to be fully funded.

“If I get close to my date I’m going to put this in because it’s a huge project and I’m not going to waste this money,” she said.

It has long been an open secret that teachers in public schools pay out of pocket to ensure their classrooms are equipped with supplies such as paper, writing and art materials, or even furniture.

The educator expense deduction allows qualified educators to claim up to $ 250 in tax deductions each year. But for some educators, that only covers a small fraction of the personal funds they spend each year on their own classrooms.

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