Everyday Orinda – March 2020


School Fundraising: A Pain in the Ask

    A long time ago, in my mental galaxy far, far away, Orindan Mindy Becker and I boldly went where no comfort zone had gone before: We committed to a three-year term as co-presidents of the Glorietta Parents Club. That’s where the sci-fi ends and the Laverne & Shirley begins.
    Becker was the perfect mate, often using the words “I agree.” And it made me realize how, with three young daughters, I so rarely (as in, never) heard those two harmonious words that can transform a harried, young-ish mother from feeling under appreciated to brilliant. We had a beautiful leadership marriage. And, like a lot of newlyweds, we were both scared of what we committed to, frequently questioning our wisdom in so doing.
    The transformation of our local parents’ clubs into financial lithium batteries can best be explained with Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As our public school state funding rapidly deteriorated, the financial obligations of our six Orinda parents’ clubs mushroomed.
    At this point, we should all give a curtsey, a tip of the hat, or whatever that honorary yoga position is, when you bow and say “namaste” to each other, to acknowledge all the parents in this town who have stepped up – past, present and future – to the task of leading our parents’ clubs and, of equal importance, EFO (Educational Foundation of Orinda, in case you’ve been living under a rock.) The endless fundraising, the motivation and creativity for said fundraising; the continuous effort to fill the bathtub without it’s drain plug.
    Given that leaky bathtub metaphor, I was not surprised to learn that the One Orinda campaign is on the table. For historical reference, the concept of joint fundraising has been entertained since before the Paleolithic era of my involvement.
    Every year that concept is broached, tiptoed around, and somehow, conveniently ditched by the punch bowl, to be dealt with “in the future.” Are we are finally saying “The Future is Now?”
    On one hand, One Orinda makes financial sense. Consolidate effort. Pool resources. On the other hand, the fundraising momentum at the individual schools, especially at the elementary level, when, let’s face it, our passion is at its peak, is an exquisite beast. Donors have an understandable desire to see their significant contributions fund issues that directly impact their child. Unfortunately, there exists a perception that instead it will fund some high school kid whose parents have concluded they are now on the home stretch and can quit donating.
    I get it. I have lived it. There is a marked difference in attitude, dutifully forking over all that money the first few years, versus the finish line, when one can almost hear “Song of the Volga Boatmen” echoing sadly in the background. Despite this, I feel that most parents try to do the right thing.
    What if we could install a couple of cameras at the downtown intersection of Camino Pablo and Brookwood Road, then photograph and ticket every license plate in the freaking constant stream of vehicles that insist upon completing an illegal left-hand turn, long after the turn arrow has disappeared, halting oncoming traffic from Moraga Way.
    Seriously, is this small area some sort of hot spot where the laws governing traffic are suspended and I just don’t know about it? Is it a portal to an alternate universe? Yes, turn lanes are annoying, but since when does that give anyone the right to just do whatever they want? We’ll provide the means to document and ticket these folks, in exchange for a share of the revenue.
    Plus, nothing would bring me more joy than to imagine these constant offenders having to pay me and my school district a fat fine. Mere coincidence that the EFO fundraising thermometer is located right at this very spot?

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