Site that solicits support for classroom projects spurs 'citizen philanthropy'
Most Portland Public Schools teachers are given a small stipend by their principal for classroom supplies throughout the year.
At Boise-Eliot Elementary in North Portland, fourth-grade teacher Kylene Kilgore runs through her $75 quickly for art supplies and other projects.
'The school provides only construction paper and glue,' she said. 'We wouldn't have a classroom library if I didn't provide it.'
So when Kilgore wants additional supplies for projects, like blank writing tablets for students' memoirs, she usually taps her own pocketbook.
Other teachers boost their resources with their school foundation, PTA or the Portland-based nonprofit Schoolhouse Supplies, a free store of donated goods that allows teachers to shop for their own supplies.
Now Portland teachers have another resource at their fingertips.
A national Web site called Donorschoose.org just made its debut in Oregon this fall, and it's quickly becoming a hit.
Teachers simply write a brief description of the project and supplies they want to fund, along with a specific cost that includes shipping.
Anyone in the world can log on, search by region or key words such as 'science' or 'Shakespeare,' and find a project to fund.
After a donor funds a project, the classroom teacher sends photographs of the students at work, along with thank-you notes.
The organization now serves public schools in all 50 states and has been lauded for its 'citizen philanthropy' approach.
'It's a great way to get more parents and other community members involved in the schools,' said John Branam, the district's director of development. 'It's such a strategic way to directly contribute to the classroom.'
So far about a quarter of the schools in the district have received funding. Of the 176 teachers who registered, requesting money for 55 separate proposals, 38 have been funded to the tune of $12,269.
The most money by far has gone to Vernon Elementary in outer Northeast, Clark Elementary in outer Southeast, and Faubion in Northeast.
Among them are a Vernon kindergarten teacher's request for $816 in hands-on materials such as an aquarium, sand and water tubs, plants and butterflies for exploring, since the school's 'living lab' was cut.
A Cleveland High School global studies teacher is tired of pulling down old maps several times a day that show the U.S.S.R. and wants some current globes for the classroom at a total cost of $570.
And at Vestal School in outer Northeast, a teacher wants to decorate the chain-link fence around the playground with a colorful mosaic mural, to keep it from looking like a 'poorly maintained prison ground,' in the teacher's words.
Kilgore's request for $282 to fund her writing project, titled 'We Have Stories to Tell,' just came in the mail a few weeks ago.
It will buy a writing tablet for each student, in which they'll display their finished stories, edited and illustrated, to take home to their families or donate to the classroom to serve as examples for younger students.
It also will buy a thesaurus for each of the students, to fine-tune their writing and broaden their limited vocabularies.
'They do have stories to tell,' said Kilgore, a second-year teacher at the school, which implemented a uniform dress code this fall. 'We're just trying to build their confidence in writing.'
One of her students, 9-year-old Annie Glidden, is excited to be a 'published' writer.
She's written extensively about her favorite playmate, her cat, Scratchy, a white short-haired minx whom she adopted three years ago from the school lunch lady.
'On Saturday sunny mornings after Legos I get out a rope or string or something long and dangly,' she wrote in her story draft, 'so I always I repeat I always have something to play with.'