Donations pouring in for Bainbridge teachers

JoEllen and Declan O’Reilly joined fellow supporters of the Save Our Teachers campaign on the corner of Winslow Way and Olympic Drive Wednesday. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
JoEllen and Declan O’Reilly joined fellow supporters of the Save Our Teachers campaign on the corner of Winslow Way and Olympic Drive Wednesday.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Campaign raises $75,000 in 23 days.

When it comes to funding education, Bainbridge Islanders are stepping up where the state fell short.

With just over two weeks before its deadline for contributions, Bainbridge Schools Foundation’s “Save Our Teachers” campaign has raked in more than $75,000. The money will be used to support the replacement of teaching positions which would be lost through budget cuts at Bainbridge Island School District this year.

Vicky Marsing, who directs the nonprofit group, said donations are rolling in from a mass mailing sent to island homes, but also from bake sales, lemonade stands and barbecues. The campaign will ramp up another level Saturday, with a series of benefit events (see box on A4).

“People are donating like crazy,” Marsing said. “It’s really exciting.”

While BISD’s budget won’t be finalized until August, the outlook for teachers is already brightening.

Of the 17 teachers issued reduction-in-force notices in May, the school district is already in the process of recalling nine, based in part on contributions from the Save Our Teachers campaign. More definitive state revenue figures and several retirements have also contributed to the re-hiring, district Assistant Supt. Bruce Colley said.

“We’re still hoping to improve on that number,” Colley said. “But we’re definitely in better shape than we were on May 15.”

Bainbridge School District is facing an overall budget deficit of roughly $2.1 million this year. Especially damaging for teachers was a loss in Initiative 728 money, which was dedicated to supporting small class sizes. The Legislature drastically reduced funding for the program.

After federal funds backfill some of the loss, BISD will receive $560,000 from I-728, compared to $1.8 million last year.

Save Our Teachers money received at the end of June will go toward replacing some of that loss. On top of whatever the campaign’s final figure is, BSF is pledging another $150,000 from its coffers.

All of it will go into staffing.

“We understand that the whole focus of the campaign is to have the smallest reductions possible to teaching to reduce the impact on classrooms,” BISD Supt. Faith Chapel said.

After the fundraisers have finished and a budget is approved, a lingering question will remain: What will happen next year?

It’s a question no one has a solid answer for.

“It’s possible we’ll have to do it again,” Marsing said. “My guess is things next year are going to be as bad or worse. The exciting thing right now is that we have people’s attention.”

Dozens of volunteers have contributed to boosting the profile of the campaign. On Wednesday and Friday afternoons this month, a crowd of parents and students has been gathering at the intersection of Winslow Way and Olympic Drive to wave signs and drum up support as commuter ferry runs offload.

Handing out flyers on the corner Wednesday, parent Kerry Lavigne said she hopes to see support from all corners of the island, not just those with kids in schools.

“We’ve been divided over so many issues,” Lavigne said as cars whizzed by on Winslow. “To me this seems like a no-brainer. It’s an issue we can all come together on.”

The campaign rolls on...

June 12: A car wash will be held at the Chevron station on High School Road from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Garage sale items will be accepted at Wilkes Elementary School after 4:30 p.m.

June 13: A march will begin at the High School Road roundabout at 9:30 a.m. and end in a rally at Waterfront Park. A garage sale will be held at Wilkes from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (High school graduation begins at 4 p.m.)

June 30: Deadline for contributions. BSF will deliver proceeds to the district to be included in the 2009/2010 budget.

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