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PIE's big donor benefits

Original post made by PALY Parent, Community Center, on Jan 19, 2010

Whoa! OK, I think this is pretty powerful blog about Palo Alto PIE, and our fundraising efforts. Why are we publishing all the names of the "high donors"?

I think this an important take on PIE and how we recognize ALL our donors, not simply those who donate more.


Here is the link:
Web Link

Comments (98)

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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Thanks PALY Parent for pointing out that excellent article to us.

I find the PA PiE methods described in the article completely appalling. I was not aware of them. First of all, tt's as much in bad taste as all those auction fundraisers our elementary school used to have. However, more seriously, it's much worse than those school fundraisers because of the access this PiE scheme buys for those with the means to pay.

I have to say that I am glad I don't give to PiE given the circumstances.


Shocking.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2010 at 9:07 pm



I'm pretty sure the PIE school tours are open to anyone because I've seen them advertised openly, and haven't heard of anyone being rejected from attending.

I would not mind the special treatment of big donors if PIE would be more of a voice for parents, the way PTA is, but would that then make it like private school?





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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2010 at 9:27 pm

mom:

The article does not say otherwise about the tours. What is says is that big donors get priority notification.

"$2,500 and you get priority notification about middle and high school tours along with an invitation to a cocktail party with other wealthy donors to the district."



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Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Let's stigmatize giving to PIE and drive down donations. That'll really help the kids. Perhaps we can drive out those evil "wealthy" people that give $2500 so their kids AND your kids get some art instruction and music instruction. We can drive them right to a private school. Give me a break.

Do you really think that a cocktail party with the superintendent is going to result in some unfair advantage for the kids of those parents?

Relax and thank the people that are willing to write those checks. Check your jealousy at the door.


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Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

No, George, you are just wrong. Our superintendent must have agreed to these one on one discussions or Pie would not advertise them, and I have heard several rumors from reliable sources who say he does, indeed, ask for special favors for people he knows. If one of the ways he knows them is that they donate bunches of money to the district so they can curry favor (if that's not why they do it, let's not have the practice and they'll donate anyway) then that is not ok at all. This is NOT a private school where one can expect that kind of hierarchical favoritism. Public school attention, privileges and special treatment based on wealth and donations (read:bribes) are unseemly and unacceptable. I too know many very, VERY wealthy people who are humble and go out of their way not to ask for special favors -- their donations come from a sense of obligation to give back, not a sense of entitlement, and are often anonymous. PiE needs to rethink these "best practices" in this context. And Skelly needs to think a little more about the appearance of impartiality that he, much like an appointed judge, should have in this position.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 19, 2010 at 9:52 pm

No, George -- let's not stigmatize PAPiE. Let's appreciate what they do but not assume that their decisions are beyond reproach. Let's celebrate people able to give $2,500 or $10,000 (and hurray for them) EQUALLY with those able to give much, much less (and hurray for them too, no?). And let's not sell access to public officials.


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Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Have you ever run a decent sized fundraiser as a VOLUNTEER? Do you really think that the people that run PIE are there to ask for special favors? Get real with your conspiracy theory line of reasoning. Do you really think that the talented people running PiE fundraisers are doing it for personal gain. It's a thankless job. The people that do it have the guts to hit up their friends, acquaintances, and people that they don't know for money. There's NOTHING in it for them. If you want to do it then sign up for the job. I would guess that PiE has to beg for someone to take that job every year.

When you get someone to write a $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000 check you have to offer them some sense of importance. It's pretty basic fundraising marketing. Do you really think that priority notification is a real advantage??? Don't you think the people that write these checks basically know each other already. Fundraisers always rely on their friends to write the big checks. Do you REALLY think someone needs to write a $10,000 check to sit down with Skelly??? Go to a PAUSD board meeting and wait till the end. I bet you can find Skelly and have the same 1-on-1 time with him if you want. Call his office and make an appointment as a concerned parent. I bet he'd see you.

There just isn't a controversy here. Nice try, but you're making stuff up. Again, thank the people that are stroking these checks. I know that I'm not going to get sucked into writing a check of that size, but I appreciate the people that do it.


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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:10 pm

What special favors has Skelly granted? I, for one, would like to know specifics. I know some of the big donors and have never heard of them getting special favors. Their only reason for donating to PiE is to improve the education experience for ALL children. They could very easily spend that money on just their kids or give that money to the PTA to buy the latest and greatest stuff for just their school. No, they give the money to where they think it can do the most for ALL our kids. That includes the kids of the parents who decide not to donate based on rumors. If you are so concerned about the special favors these high donors get, please make sure you make a big statement by pulling your kids out of any PiE funded programs. That'll serve them right.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I'm with George on this one. Tempest in a teapot. I'm shocked, shocked to find that big donors are invited to cocktail parties! With the superintendent no less!! And for those who think these don't work - they are working. Let's chill on this and just focus on doing what we can to help.


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Posted by PALY Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:20 pm

I think we are missing the big picture here. I don't the author is opposed to Palo Alto residents supporting PIE. I think he objects to the way that big donors are listed and invited to "private" events. This just sends the WRONG message to our community.

I understand that these funds are necessary! I thank the LARGE and SMALL donors. I understand that funds go to a great place and help ALL our children. Hooray for anyone who donates.

I just think the PIE team needs to take a big step BACK and think about they way that they give "special treatment" to the large donors.

I would like to think (yes, in a perfect world), that money is given to this cause and that ALL donations remain anonymous.

By the way - I found it INCREDIBLY obnoxious the way parents rallied for PIE donations at our school. They SHAMED families in to donating. Kids were holding signs and asking parents as they walked in to donate. Actually, the word obnoxious is an understatement. It actually turned me OFF to donating (and I have donated most years, when I could).


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:22 pm

George:

Maybe Mr. Skelly will sit down with any parent who requests it. However, are you telling us that an organization's head won't pay more attention to someone who gave his organization $10,000 than to someone who wrote only a $100 check? Hard to believe.

PAUSD is a public school as mentioned before. It would be just fine by me for the big donors to go to private schools if they did not get the current perks. Of course they won't because at $10,000 it's still a bargain to be in PAUSD. But that does not make the donation right. And if they did leave, fine. There was someone in another thread many months ago who used to work as an administrator in PAUSD. That person explained to the thread all the waste there is in the district.

The way the district is run and the antics of type A parents are both just too much..


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Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Perhaps you're missing the big picture.

Nobody said your donation doesn't matter except you! Every donation matters, there's no question about that. I would imagine that's why they had the kids asking everyone to donate.

I didn't feel shamed. I gave what I wanted and that was that. It's no big deal. It's unfortunate that you felt the way that you did. Perhaps you should become a part of the PiE fundraising team next year to change the message for the better.

I have nothing to do with running PiE, but I have run other VOLUNTEER fundraising efforts in the past. No message is going to work equally well for everyone. Some people will be offended and some people won't feel compelled to give. The key is to find a happy medium and raise the right amount of money for your program. If the message is weak, you won't raise much. If it's too strong you may offend people and raise less.


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Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Sure, Skelly may pay some attention to you if you write a $10,000 check and you let him know that. Yep, he may think you're great. BUT, what is he going to DO for you? WHAT has any administrator done for a PiE donor of $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000? Is there some allegation?

What kind of favor could someone ask for? Everything in this community is under a microscope. Is something really going to slip by everyone else?

The level of suspicion of wrongdoing here is a joke.


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Posted by boardwatcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2010 at 1:38 am

George, I think you missed my point. I have, in fact, raised funds for PiE in other years. Not a fun job. I have also donated in a couple of those categories in much flusher years. As far as I knew, nobody but me knew what I gave, as I was the one collecting checks. And yes, some of the people who were throwing cash around at the school definitely let everyone know that they had done so and that they expected special favors for it. I am not in the least suggesting that the people running PiE are in it for some personal gain -- I know firsthand what a long, tiring, thankless job it is (though I was gratified to be able to participate as a cheerleader and donor in supporting the schools). I am suggesting that the appearance of impropriety created by making this into a donation-based reward system is not worth it. This district does, in fact, have longstanding problems with special favors and cronyism from the DO on down to many schools. It is inappropriate for any member of the district or school administration to behave in a way that gives the appearance of special favors and cronyism. Skelly is a nice guy who is trying very hard. From observation, I think the subtleties of this sort of thing can elude him, and I think the PiE people should rethink this particular policy. It's not a conspiracy for heaven's sake. It's just an inappropriate fundraising method for a public school. Oh, and George, I DO as a matter of fact think that people will donate because they care about the schools, whether or not they get a special one on one meeting with Skelly out of it. They will do so because they are invested in their kids' education. And on a final, separate note, I think the DO and Board should figure out ways to cut the waste (of all years to pick Everyday Math ...) so that all the hard work that PiE puts in will not be wasted and the money it raises will not be squandered.


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Posted by Give thanks
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:30 am

I agree with George.

Check your jealousy at the door and celebrate, with gratitude, those willing to pony up so much money in donations for our kids.

PiE money is evenly distributed..per student..to each school.

Honestly, so what if a big donor gets a party invitation? If you really feel that way, you should object to our entire political process even more. At least these donors' money goes back to each kid, and the donor gets a party. Big deal!!

Versus in politics the donors' money goes to a particular candidate for a particular interest. Look at the list of donors to the last Presdent's race..and then look at the legislation trying to be passed and who it benefits.. and "govt loans and grants" being handed out. With YOUR money, not the money from the pot of donors ( which I wouldn't care about in that case)

Chill out, Palo Alto and give thanks we have generous people in money and time.




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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jan 20, 2010 at 7:58 am

Channeling Claude Rains
I'm shocked, shocked that they would treat large donors differently.

Like 'Give Thanks' says, large donors to anything are treated differently and I dont see the harm in what they are offering. Frankly I dont see the incentive either, I mean its not like a night in the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House or anything. Wish that deal was still available, I might take that. ;-)


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Posted by PALY Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:34 am

Here is the link to exactly what the "large" PIE donors receive.

Web Link


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Posted by WH
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:45 am

George,

"Do you really think that a cocktail party with the superintendent is going to result in some unfair advantage for the kids of those parents? ... BUT, what is he going to DO for you? WHAT has any administrator done for a PiE donor of $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000?"

These remarks are very naive--of course this money buys favorable treatment (in some cases). This district is run on favors, which any connected parent or teacher can tell you.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:50 am

PiE is a fundraising organization. Their mission is to raise money. It is working. We should be thankful to all the donors, and yes, more thankful to those who choose to give more. They could choose to give to many other organizations instead.

PTA fundraising can actually be even more unfair - not to the parents but to the students. The school PTA auctions often have lunch with a teacher or being assistant principal for the day as one of the items. Guess what, they go to the parents who pay the most. That is actually MUCH more of a special privilege "bought" by parents since it directly affects a student.

The "special favors" Simon is so worried about include an email invite to school tours a few days before everyone else learns about them and a cocktail party where you can say hello to Dr. Skelly. Just a nice thank you.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2010 at 9:26 am

Any public list of donors is discriminatory. I have seen lists in newsletters with a thank you to all PIE contributors and then listing them! A thank you is nice, but by listing the names of who has and therefore knowing who has not contributed, is just as bad as saying what size the donation happens to be. This stigmatizes those who would like to be able to contribute but can't. It is a subtle form of blackmail. It gives rise to subtle favoritism when dealing with students even without realisation of doing so.

Any list of donors is wrong. A true donation is given anonymously without any thought of public gratitude or reward. Any other type of donation hints at payback.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 9:52 am

Again - the point is to raise money for our district. If a public thank you helps (which is the norm in most fundraising organizations) than it is the right thing to do. As far as being stigmatized for not giving, there are very few families who can't afford to donate $25 to PiE. Every donation is welcome and every donation helps.




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Posted by p.a. mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 11:48 am

Isn't it illegal to sell access to public officials?????


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 11:51 am

If you're upset with PIE donor benefits - then don't look at any public university up the food chain...bigger tickets and bigger benefits. This is SOP - standard operating procedure.

The PIE directors came up with the benefits, the donors didn't demand it. The socials/parties are most common with every school fund raising program in any community, anywhere.

The reality is there needs to be some sort of benefit to draw in some of the big donations. I would be interested in those who are complaining to suggest alternatives to the current perks.

And yes, it would be nice if everyone would donate out of the goodness of their heart or good fortune. But sometimes you need to bait the hook.

And BTW - there are big PIE donors who request animosity. Not everyone is interested in the limelight...




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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 11:53 am

oops. Typo! "anonymity"


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2010 at 11:55 am

A public thank you to all is different from a thank you with a list of names.

I should have said those that would like to contribute and can't or choose not to contribute for any reason (many contribute to sports or theatre boosters rather than PIE or did not like the library bond, etc.), but the stigma of not having your name on a list of donors should not be the deciding factor when making a decision to contribute.


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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2010 at 12:08 pm

None of these "privileges" need to be bought. You can meet with superintendent anytime. Just make an appointment, and save yourself 10,000 if you want.


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Posted by p.a. mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm

ALL of these posts prove one thing: selling access & special privileges is divisive. This is why it shouldn't be done. Sure, as some posters have pointed out, special privileges cause some people to give money. Does that make it worthwhile if it causes controversy and creates disharmony? I could make money prostituting myself, but i don't. Why? Money isn't everything.
Frankly, i think the good people of Palo Alto (most residents)will support the public schools without all the nonsense of cocktail parties and special stuff.


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Posted by silly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2010 at 12:31 pm


looming cuts, recession, bigger schools, and we are biting the hands that are raise money for staff and programs in Palo Alto schools for the benefit of all students?

what's more public school spirited than that?

THANK YOU big and small donors, who give regardless of any stigma associated with giving too much or too little,

I may not be a high roller but I give proudly and feel no problems about being or not being on any list.

I can't imagine any favors that could be bestowed by the Superintendent, I hope it's nothing kinky.




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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Most of the local Ed Foundations publish donors names and have levels of donors. As far as there being a "stigma" to not donating, since many people make anonymous donations, you could be a donor and no one would know... Perhaps the people who complain about the"stigma" of not giving just feel guilty.

Some info from other schools:

Menlo Park: Has donor levels (with lots of perks) and publishes names of donors Web Link

San Carlos: " Benefits for generous contributors that donate at the Heritage Circle level include our annual Major Donor Reception, invitations to meet with community and education leaders, and more." Donor info is online by level

San Mateo – publishes list of donors by dollar donation

Saratoga – list donors by level in the Annual Report


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Posted by p.a. mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 1:04 pm

To the last comment - it's not OK just because other "kids" do it.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm

PA Mom -

I don't think PiE is "selling access & special privileges", I think the Board and the District official are gracious and thankful and want to thank their donors in person. The Board,, etc. also attend PTA events and PTA meetings, so their "access" is not just limited to major PiE donors.

And yes, raising millions of dollars to benefit ALL our students is worth annoying a tiny handful of people.


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Posted by p.a. mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Of course they're selling it; why else list it as a benefit of donation?I'm going to call to see how fast i can get that appointment and then ask one of my donor friends how quickly he got the appointment - will let you know if there is parity. The attitude that it's OK to do something so long as there's money in it is scary. We are a community and we should behave like one. This involves considering the feelings of all, and to be sure, it's NOT "tiny handful". Read the posts.


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Posted by WH
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I'm with p.a. mom: selling access & privileges is divisive. It's also morally wrong, particularly in an American public school. (In a private school, everyone knows that the biggest donors will get privileges.) It shows a great disrespect to all taxpayers.

We should have the courage to ask for funds in a morally responsible way.

Palo Alto Mom,

"If a public thank you helps (which is the norm in most fundraising organizations) than it is the right thing to do"

You seem to be saying that anything goes, as long as it brings in money. The moral flaw there is obvious.

Crescent Park Dad,

"If you're upset with PIE donor benefits - then don't look at any public university up the food chain"

You seem to be saying that if others do it, then it's OK for us to do it. The moral flaw there is obvious.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I'm gonna split the difference here. I don't have a problem with a party for big donors. I don't have a problem with giving big donors a big public thank-you by name. I don't think, however, there should be a promise of a one-on-one meeting with Skelley. As Old Palo Alto points out, any one should be able to make an appointment with him--it shouldn't be considered a perk of a large donation.

I can't give much to PiE this year--I am all the more grateful to those who did because, yes, my family benefits from Spectra arts and other benefits that make school a richer experience. It makes a difference. I like PiE--I like the fact that we don't have huge economic disparities between the schools as a result. And, yes, being a PiE parent seems like a thankless job. Ugh.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm

pa mom - the majority of the posts on this topic have been in support of PiE, so yep, tiny handful of people who this bothers. It may take you longer to get an appointment than a huge PiE donor, but an avid school volunteer will probably get to see the superintendent more quickly too. Is that wrong?

WH - no one is selling favors and to say that having access to chat with the Superintendent is morally irresponsible is actually pretty comical. No one is denying you access to Dr. Skelly because they donate to PiE.




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Posted by concerned parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Come on people. Before you get everyone hot under the collar, please provide some proof of the "favors" big donors get. Otherwise, stop spreading the rumors. It's childish and divisive.

To the writer of the blog, where is your proof that people take advantage of donating?


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm

If you think this is over the top, this year's graduation committee at Paly floated the idea that seats closest to the stage would be auctioned off to raise money for the grad party. So families that couldn't pay, would be relegated to the "back forty" to see their kids graduate with binoculars. It's always been first come, first served. Strikes me that a call for donations to pay for the party would be more democratic, but then this is Palo Alto and subject to the money buys access philosophy.


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Posted by perspective
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 20, 2010 at 3:24 pm

" Why are we publishing all the names of the "high donors"? "

PiE has two publications: annualReport_2009.pdf & annualReport_2009_nodonor.pdf

The former lists all donors bucketed by the amount donated:
Highest Honors: $10,000 and up
High Honors: $5,000 - $9,999
Honors: $2,500 - $4,999
Misc donors (these buckets aren't named in the report):
$1,300 - $2,499
$650 - $1,299
$325 - $649
$100 - $324
$1 - $99

Every donor is listed in these categories, which was available in the previously published PiE report: annualReport_2009.pdf. This "open" report has now been replaced with annualReport_2009_nodonor.pdf on the PiE website. The original version is only available via search engine caching online.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 20, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Concerned parent and others -- do we have to wait for someone to get a specific favor to argue that the 'perk' PAPiE is offering only to people of wealth is totally inappropriate? I don't think so.

Does the fact that other organizations are doing something similar make it okay? Like many others here, I think that's obviously not the case.

Could PAPiE offer more appropriate perks to generous donors -- absolutely, if it really feels donors won't give without receiving something more than a letter of heartfelt thanks. How about a nice plaque? I happen to think that PAPiE would achieve its targets without promising any perks. Just about everyone in Palo Alto supports education to the best of their ability.

Would PAPiE fail to raise as much money if it didn't differentiate how it thanks people by the amount given? I don't think it would -- and treating all donors equally would embody the PAPiE's contention (which is contradicted by its creation of a 'leadership circle') that we're all in this together.

Should people who give more be thanked more? I don't think so, because for some families $5 is a stretch right now and for some $10,000 is rounding error. We should thank everyone equally and assume that everyone has given to the best of their ability. Who are we (or PAPiE) to judge differently?

Should PAPiE distribute lists of donors, listing people's names by amount given -- I don't think it needs to and I think it reflects a culture of competitiveness between donors (and schools) that borders on shaming that I've seen and not admired in PAPiE drives of the past. But the naming of donors is not what got me writing the blog post.

Is criticizing a decision made by the PAPiE leadership 'biting the hands that feeds our children'? No. Working for a good cause can't make PAPiE beyond reproach. If something it does towards its laudable aims is divisive and unethical, shouldn't we be able (and obliged, even) to call them to account?

Does PAPiE do more good on balance than whatever harm is caused to the community, the school district by the particulars of its fundraising methodology? -- of course it does. Again, that doesn't make every action of PAPiE beyond reproach.

Aren't there much bigger issues facing the world and Palo Alto's school district? Of course. But does that mean that, where we are bothered by a decision that we think could be very easily resolved (i.e. by simply ending the perks-for-money scheme currently offered or at least getting rid of the appearance of selling access to public officials along the lines that OhlonePar suggests above) we should just shut up? I can't see why.


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Posted by WH
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Palo Alto Mom,

"It may take you longer to get an appointment than a huge PiE donor, but an avid school volunteer will probably get to see the superintendent more quickly too. Is that wrong?"

Only someone without a moral compass would need to ask.

"no one is selling favors" Of course they are. You are naive and uninformed if you think access doesn't equal favors in this district. Selling access and favors is morally wrong, even if this moral wrongness strikes you as comical.

Concerned,

"please provide some proof of the "favors" big donors get." Well, that's the thing about selling access. Once the sale is discovered, the onus is on you to prove no favors were done. Again, you are naive to think access does not yield favors in this district. I can only assume you do not have children in the schools.


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Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I support what PIE does just not the way they do it. I know they need the money, but it is run the way private schools are. It really turns most people I know off, they may donate but do not really see those who run PIE in a positive light.


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Posted by p.a. mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm

"It may take you longer to get an appointment than a huge Pie donor, but an avid school volunteer will probably get to see the superintendent more quickly too. Is that wrong?"

YES! The same way some people don't have as much money to give, others don't have as much time (work, disability, language barriers, etc.) and yet their kids and their concerns are equally important. Once we start down the slippery slope of giving more privileges and access to some, others feel devalued and discounted. Why is that difficult to understand and empathize with? If we want everyone to support our schools, we must treat everyone with equal respect. It surprises me that some people are unable or unwilling to understand how it feels to be treated, however subtly, as second class, EVEN (especially?) at a public institution. Guess in Palo Alto some of us are "more equal than others".


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Many newcomers to our schools feel that the parents are cliqueish, unfriendly and snobbish. I haven't actually experienced this myself but heard it expressed in this forum and also face to face. This may be part of the reason.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Honestly - this thread is just another case of "guilty before proven innocent" if you ask me. I know, no one is asking.

If you don't like the current environment, step up to the plate, get involved and facilitate change. Don't have the time or the resources? Then find an ally who does.

This city has too many people who would rather whine and complain than get involved and provide positive solutions to perceived problems.


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Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I'm blown away at the paranoia being uncovered here.

The educators at our schools go out of their way to make everyone feel important in our schools. Don't you see that?

I have kids in school. No one's asked to see my W-2. No one knows how much money I make.


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Selling the illusion of access is one of the oldest fund-raising tricks in the book. But the joke's on the elite donors because Skelly is about the most accessible and omnipresent Superintendent I've ever seen in a school district. And I'm sure the donors get the joke.

This is a tempest in a teapot. PIE has become an indispensable part of the district's budget and, if the hardworking volunteer organizers of it have to offer up an illusion in order to get large donors to shell out, so be it. That's cheaper than buying them silly trinkets to recognize their gifts.


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Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 20, 2010 at 7:15 pm

As Simon Firth, the original blog post writer, commented above: "Working for a good cause can't make PAPiE beyond reproach."

The way PiE works its donors is smarmy -- from having kids come home and talk to parents about the importance of giving to PiE to knocking on car windows at drop-off in late-fall asking for money (or more money) three days in a row. I believe that they would get just as much if not more participation if they dropped the antics. They'd get more from me, at least.

But what I find exceptionally unaccetable myself is that, in a year of a significant budget shortfall, PiE still plans to fund aides and art instead of giving the money to offset the shortfall. When class size goes from 22 (presently) to 28 (possible, some say likely), that will affect kids' educational experience much more than not having a special art program (and that doesn't mean art can't still be offered in-class). I'd like to hear a statement from PiE about their choices in this tight economy.


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 7:32 pm

A few years ago when I was working with PiE, they didn't have any influence over how the money was spent aside from designating whether it was going to elementary schools or secondary schools. The total pot of money is turned over to the district, which then "gives" it to the schools on a per capita basis. At each school, the principal - possibly with input from the local site council makes all decisions about how to spend the money. I suspect this basic formula is still in effect.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:07 pm

EcoMama

Don't worry so much about the impact of increasing class size from 22 to 28.

I had a child in PAUSD when classes had 28 students in elementary school. Then, my family lived through class size reduction and my last child went through elementary school with 22 kids per class.

There was no difference whatsoever in the children's educational experience. It's hogwash. Schools were just as good before as after.

The only difference is that before class size cuts there were more parents helping in the classroom than after. That's it.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Well said EcoMama. Class size is not relevant. It's how individual students are taught. Some teachers have the skills, experience, wisdom and plain old grounded common sense to teach kids regardless of learning style or class size. Give my children a stong teacher and large class size over inexperienced and rigid instructors anytime !

Unfortunately, for many of you with young school age children, you are getting a lot of inexperienced teachers with little common sense or grounding since the stars of the system have opted for retirement in the last few years.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 20, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Hey, "ballet and opera fundraisers" have more taste than this!!

What we are discussing is about children and public school and and this current PiE awards system has NO CLASS!


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2010 at 9:51 pm

In re: Class size

It probably doesn't make much difference to average and above students. It definitely does make a difference to students with learning disabilities who would have been warehoused in the old days. It makes a difference to teachers who have such such students in their classrooms, and, their parents.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2010 at 12:19 am

On how PIE gifts are used - I believe that the principals and site councils determine how money is spent at their school, not PIE itself. The gift is unrestricted except by whatever regulations govern these kind of activities.

On the original post - I guess this one goes under "no good deed goes unpunished." Simon and others can be the gadflies, and pitch more utopian approaches (cocktail parties by lottery perhaps?), that's their choice - but hopefully they don't besmirch the good works of the PIE folks, the donors, and district leadership.


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Posted by huh?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2010 at 8:02 am

Gadflies? For calling out PiE and PAUSD for providing access and preferential treatment based on money? Are you for real?


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Posted by perspective
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:05 am

Highest Honors: $10,000 and up: 22 families
High Honors: $5,000 - $9,999: 15 families
Honors: $2,500 - $4,999: 122 families

Assuming 2 attend per family, the cocktail party is for over 300 people without including the boondogglers.
Can't find a link to PiE's audit report. Wonder how much this little cocktail party costs...


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Posted by Dave Charleson
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:07 am

When PiE was formed there was a great concern that wealthy donors would not support district wide fundraising if the money would not directly flow to their kids' schools. Those who gave $2500 to Addison, it was feared, would stop or lower their contributions if the money was to be shared among all the schools.

Those fears have not been realized. The generous people who give have continued to give. I believe they do so because they've seen the need and the good uses to which the money is put. I was on the PiE board and don't recall anyone giving (or being on the board) in order to push some agenda at the district level.

If you have complaints or suggestions about the district, the best way to be heard is to get involved. The PiE people and the PTA people are a pretty diverse group from all over the district. Effort and time counts for more than money.

For those annoyed at the fundraising efforts, I find it more annoying to be constantly bombarded with gift wrap, coupon books, paper script and the like which have a low yield to effort ratio. I was involved at Hoover and we made a real effort to cut down on the number of fundraising events so as not to annoy parents. Write a check to PiE and be done with the fundraising. Their administrative expenses are less than 10% which is extremely low. That's because all those people annoying you are doing it as volunteers.


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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:12 am

I agree that the way PiE presented the member benefits is tacky and Busch league. But, if you consider that if a person wanted to have an influence on a school, they wouldn't donate to PiE for a meeting! They'd give the money directly, and secretly, with strings attached. Look at the names on Stanford Buildings, I don't see those names on some Highest Donor with sprinkles on top corny awards list! They do their deals privately. The people who are involved with boards of organizations like PiE are largely wannabes and not real players (with a few exceptions). They see these organizations as a means to social ladder climbing. Hence, the corny nouveau riche "perks" and false elitism.


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Posted by leadership circle member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:31 am

We are one of those families who are "paying for access". The reality is that the access is a cocktail party at the end of the school year to thank the donors. Everyone has a few minutes to say hello to Dr. Skelly, some board members, some principals, etc. Just the amount of time you would spend chatting at any cocktail party. In total, including PAUSD staff and BOE, I think there were maybe 75 people and the majority of those non-PAUSD people were PiE volunteers. So not many people are taking advantage of this "preferential treatment". As far as I know, most of the cost of the party is covered by donations. Since PiE only has one full time employee, they are not an extravagant organization by any means.

Dr. Skelly and members of the BOE also attend the Town Fair - sponsored by PiE and open to all. So ALL the donors (and non-donors) have access.


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Posted by Dave Charleson
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:38 am

We now live in Basking Ridge, NJ - great schools, very nice homes, etc. Moving has given me some perspective on Palo Alto.

After reading Old Palo Alto's comments, I have to say that Palo Alto is unique. And I don't mean that as a compliment. There is a nasty, "find a way to tear people down" element in Palo Alto which infects so much public life there. It's shameful and disheartening.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:39 am

Dear Anon -

If the child with learning or social issues stays with PAUSD through high school, they are going to be "warehoused" anyway. The high schools in this district are ill unprepared and unwilling to accomodate the student who is struggling. This type of student will additional support outside the classroom to succeed, not only academically but socially especially when confronted with the highly competitive nature of students who are "making it".


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Posted by Joelle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:52 am

I have to agree with George! Who cares if the people who donate more have a cocktail with Mr. Skelly. Most donation situations give perks to higher donation amounts. Nothing new. It's called an incentive. I donated last week and received a gift certificate for donating a larger amount. Be thankful that our school district has the funds to provide a good education for our kids.

To PA Parent - "I have to say that I am glad I don't give to PiE given the circumstances." What a horrible statement. And you don't think that this statement sends the wrong message to our community? Sounds like you were basing your post on your fears of discrimination.


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Posted by Alternate solution
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:56 am

Re: Me Too's comment 4 before this one

In general, PiE does a great job at raising money. Perceptual motor, junior museum science, and spectra art are all fabulous programs that deserve support and the kids really benefit from having on a regular basis.

What I see as a major issue is the lack of accountability in the structure of how these donated funds are allocated by each principal--not just with PiE funds but with PTA funds as well. PTAs distribute a survey to determine parental priorities for programs.

Principals receive funds from PiE and PTA to "partner" and address at least some of the top issues. Yet, there is no structural way to hold principals accountable for using at least some of these funds for the parent-identified programming needs. That is why parents are becoming resentful. If the option existed to donate restricted funds for each programatic area: spectra art, perceptual motor, junior museum science, differentiation, reading specialist, lice checks--many parents would gladly pay not to be harassed to "volunteer" to check the heads of students several times a year, etc--I'm sure PiE and the PTA would have even greater success in meeting their fundraising goals.

This is the level of "partnership" parents are asked to "participate" in at the school...volunteer--in the classroom, at the school, on committees, drive for field trips, provide outside private tutoring and/or acceleration, go to "training" on your own time so you can check students for lice--and write checks amounting for over $1,000 per child in addition to signing up for auction parties, etc--without knowing those funds will be used for the areas of most importance to parents at the school, just that they cover either "stuff" or "staff." Trust that each principal will do the right thing for their students and teachers. Meanwhile, the number of spectra art sessions, junior museum sessions per grade level has decreased while the number of paid sub days where teachers are outside of the classroom *not* providing instruction has increased. Partnership? Not really.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2010 at 10:11 am



it is funny to see people talking about "class", attacking a volunteer organization that raises money for all students.

if I were the schools, I would call a meeting, and ask parents to please be specific about any of the accusations that are being lodged here, take it seriously as they do everything, this is basically an attack on school administrators,




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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2010 at 10:21 am



Alternate solution,

I referred to attacks regarding the idea of special favors,

but what you are referring to is entirely different, the lack of parent involvement in how the money is distributed among the programs, if there were specifics I agree that more money could be raised, and people would be even more supportive. This is something PIE could be smarter about.


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Posted by EcoMama
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 21, 2010 at 10:58 am

Oh, please, nothing about this is an attack on school administrators; it's a question about tactics and, in my opinion, ethics. Acknowledging big donors with special perks for PUBLIC school donations appears improper -- and if it appears improper, it might as well be improper, for both PiE and the involved administrators.


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Posted by concern parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2010 at 11:09 am

It's so easy to complain about not knowing how the money is spent. It's a little harder to get yourself to a PTA meeting so you can talk and vote about how the money is spent. Read your newsletters. They are full of information. Read the PiE emails that go out. Check their website (papie.org). Communicate with your PTA board before the money is spent. Unfortunately it takes so much more effort to be involved that most don't do it, yet they feel free to complain vociferously.


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Posted by perspective
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 21, 2010 at 11:15 am

CP, I can get all the PTA information. No problem there.
The PiE information, on the other hand, is a little harder to come by. Their site only provides minimal details and most of it is old. Since you sound like you're "in the know", can you post a link to PiE's audit reports?


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2010 at 11:32 am



EcoMama,

They could say thank you to everyone in alphabetical order, but given that everyone wants it all to be transparent and public, shouldn't they also list who gave, and how much? - this is accounting and accountability. Somewhere, this info should be publicly available. It's actually more elegant, the way they do it now, and though it would not be necessarily better, maybe they could do it with a PIE chart - no punt intended, where they could say that for example 10 families gave 30% of the money, 30% of the families gave nothing, and so forth. You need to know where and how your money is coming in, to be accountable, and to plan.

For the families that give over tens of thousands of dollars, does a cocktail party amongst them really bother you? Or that the PIE volunteers want to do something to thank the big donors, or their job would be that much harder? How about the thank you many volunteers get in Newsletters for stepping up, it helps, it's nice, it's polite, it makes a difference.

how do you propose thanking big donors? what would be proper?







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Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2010 at 1:16 pm

PIE was created to make sure the schools had evenly distributed funding for aides, art, etc (which before its creation wasn't the case). The sad but true fact is Palo Alto parents do not pay their fair share per their number of children in the district (it's sometimes a hidden figure , but something like $250-300 per kid). So, those big donors keep these programs afloat. I'm not saying every family can afford the per kid amount, but that's the cost and there are MANY families who simply ignore their obligation to pay. I always paid my kids' share plus a bit extra for those who couldn't pay.


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Posted by parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Moira -

Our "fair share" has been redirected to cover the parcel tax as I imagine many families are doing.


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Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 21, 2010 at 3:26 pm

"After reading Old Palo Alto's comments, I have to say that Palo Alto is unique. And I don't mean that as a compliment. There is a nasty, "find a way to tear people down" element in Palo Alto which infects so much public life there. It's shameful and disheartening."

I've donated much more than the amount needed to be on the high donors list. And not just to PAUSD. I'm approach frequently for philanthropy, and I don't appreciate it when organizations begin to use social leverage to encourage donations (ie who's who lists etc). What this really does is "tear down" people who can't give as much as others. I see this in lots of organizations who's intentions are good, but turns into a clique. Which is what's really "shameful."


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Posted by WH
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Moira,

Fair share has nothing to do with the number of children in the district. Schools are funded by property tax, and "fair share" means paying your property. Unless, of course, you meant to point out that Prop. 13 ensures that some pay way more than their fair share and others way less....

Maybe the district will set up a cocktail party for taxpayers paying more than their fair share....


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2010 at 3:42 pm

I agree with the gentleman from Basking Ridge. I moved here 5 years ago from a similar town back east and have been consistently taken aback at the level of strident opposition to - just about everything! I had thought the northeast was brusque and the west coast laid-back - not so in Palo Alto! I'm not sure what the nay-sayers get out of it, but for those who are just trying hard to do good, it is a ever-present source of friction and worry. Objecting to a cocktail party and a donor list - wow. Personally I thank the PIE people for all their good work, and hope someday I can give enough hit the cocktail party level ;-)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Giving is just that. Giving something of yours to another. Many at the moment are giving to Haiti relief. Volunteering is also just giving, but giving time and effort rather than money. Many volunteer at various organizations and schools just happen to be one of them.

Personally, I feel that a gift should be given without expecting anything in return and whether I give to the Haiti relief, to PIE or to something else, and whether it be done financially or by time and effort, it is up to me to decide where to spend my money or my time. I would rather give anonymously because a gift without expecting any type of reward is the only real way to give, in my opinion.

The parcel tax, school bonds, library bonds, are not gifts, they are something forced on me. I don't get a feel good feeling about those - particularly as I may not agree with them, but I pay them just like I pay taxes to Uncle Sam.

At least with my discretionary giving, I can be discreet and choose which cause is most deserving. At present, I feel that many may choose Haiti relief rather than PIE. When the library bond appears and we have to pay that, I feel that many will call that their PIE giving since the PTAs were so keen that we all vote yes.


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Posted by JSD
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I'm left wondering if Mr. Firth has talked to either the PiE Chairs at his kids' (kid's) school(s) or the PiE board or executive director about his concerns.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

JSD -- if you read the original blog post you'll see that I did contact PiE. I quote their responses and respond to them in turn.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Perspective - the info on where schools spend their PiE dollars is on the PiE website under school campaigns. Web Link As an example, Terman uses their PiE money for Creative Writing, Journalism and Video electives
– Multiple sections of Focus on Success
– Part of counseling costs to ensure consistent counseling throughout middle school
– Part of IT TOSA costs

Simon - all your article said regarding PiE was that they said "all donors and donations are very important" and they are using a fundraising "best practice" both positive and appropriate answers. I suspect what you really wanted to hear was that they agreed with you about publishing the names and donor levels. Since they didn't agree, you chose to whine on your blog instead.


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Posted by huh?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2010 at 5:41 pm

"and the like which have a low yield to effort ratio."

You can just see the disdain dripping as he wrote this. Thanks for showing us how PiE memmbers really do look down on PTA activities!


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Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 21, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Huh?

Best Practices? Please tell me how it is "best practices" to list donors of PUBLIC SCHOOLS - where all our children attend (both weatlthy and struggling).

I thank both the large and small donors. I thank anyone who can give. But let's try and be honest.

Do we really think that the large donors are giving, just so they can have their name listed and invited to a cocktail party? I think not.

My hope is that donors give because they can. They have access to funds and give because they know it WILL benefit OUR community.

Listing the large donors is divisive. Why do it at all? Really, this is a PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM - not the Ballet, Opera, Art Museum or PRIVATE school. This is a place for ALL our children.

Thank the donors large or small. Thank the organizations who do grant matching. Then move on.

You have only created a divisive and competative environment, where it APPEARS that you want families "one up" eachother. Something about this feels so wrong.

I hope because of this thread and Simon's post, you consider changing the way you list and "thank" donors. Maybe next year, you will have BETTER practices.

Just my two cents, because I really do care about this community and our children.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Yes, Palo Alto Parent, I do think that some people increase the amount they give because they are aware, directly or indirectly, that the amount (in a range) will be published on some list. If the lists weren't there, some would certainly give less. That's why just about any group that relies on community-based donations publishes tiered lists of donors and provides perks for bigger donors. Hence the term - "best practices."

Luckily, those who think such things are unimportant can simply ignore them (I certainly do). In the unlikely event that someone looks down on you (or me) for giving a smaller amount than they did - oh well, probably not someone I'd want to spend time with anyway. It's only divisive if you choose to make it so. Let them have their thrill of recognition, while all our kids enjoy the benefit of the extra money.


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Posted by Focus on Gratitude else kill the Goose
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 22, 2010 at 6:28 am

Wow..I am glad to see it isn't just me. Reading comments from others who are new here and who have moved elsewhere confirms what took me several years to figure out..

I moved here from out of State ( and plan to move back out of State soon)... It took me a few years to figure out why I felt insane, but I eventually figured out the underlying level of viciousness and obstructionism to "get 'er done" was what was getting in the way of our progress here.

The constant and unending attacks on our volunteer leaders, our donors, our Admin, etc are exhausting. Usually by those who don't volunteer and don't donate.

Gratitude is lacking here, obstructionism thrives, and is driving away volunteers.


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Posted by alternativePerpective
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 22, 2010 at 8:53 am

PiE first published this report Web Link followed by this report Web Link PiE made two mistakes just there.

If you look at the first report, you will find the OP didn't donate the "ask". However, a simple internet search will show the OP also donated to EPA community groups as well as several volunteering acknowledgments. Compare that to the vast majority listed in the "leadership circle" who just wrote a check. I know who I'd prefer to be in my school community. BTW, I don't know the OP.

You claim that the OP is part of "constant and unending attacks on our volunteer leaders, our donors, our Admin". However PiE needs to provide better than"form replies" to requests for clarification. To hide behind "best practices" is extremely poor.

Don't shoot the messenger.

Now, having said that, what PiE could have done is referred the OP to
other similar organizations such as Lake Oswego School District: Web Link and numerous others with similar "rewards". In addition, they could have been more constructive and offered suggestions for other incentives to raise funds (or requested them) and tried to get motivated people with a following involved instead of shut out.

Kill the Goose, your "holier than thou" and "PiE can do no wrong" attitude just drives people away.


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Posted by Moira
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2010 at 10:13 am

Let's keep my point clear, property taxes, parcel taxes etc have nothing to do with PIE. You can agree or disagree that those costs are too high or too low. PIE is set-up to fund staffing for aides and staff for certain programs the schools have chosen and then returned to the schools on a per child basis. There is nothing hidden about this. My point is those "services" cost X amount per child (more in elementary, much less in upper grades) and I've never understood the weird way PIE does its donation letters. They never seem to show the true figures of what they take in, what the cost is per child so people realize that when they don't give, those costs are borne by someone else. They usually ask for way more than the per child amount (because the participation is around 50% districtwide and by "participation" that could mean a $15 donation) which turns people off. I'm just trying to relay information. What has happened is most Palo Alto parents view PIE as optional and so a system of big donors, real estate and business interests make up the difference to keep the school system afloat. If you think PIE services don't matter, don't donate. If you want your kids to have aides etc, pay your fair share or as much as you reasonably can. There is still enough money in this town for a much higher % paying the true amount.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2010 at 10:25 am

Alternative perspective:

More the 50% of the Highest level donors are MAJOR volunteers both in the schools and with PiE. The give not only their money, but also their time. Many of them are also big supporters of other charitable organizations.

The links you published are not on the PiE website (probably on purpose) so you would really have to search for them, the PiE website has the annual report with no donors.

I suspect the PiE response to the original poster (I assume thats what OP means) was more then it the best practice and we value all donations - that is just what he chose to include in his blog. And as you pointed out, it is common practice in public schools foundations all over the country to have donation levels and to thank the donors. Most of our local schools do the same thing.

If someone has constructive alternative best practice ideas to posting donor levels that they are SURE will not lower the donation amount, they should speak up. If not, following the best practices of a business (and fundraising is PiE's business) seems to make sense.



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Posted by agree with Goose
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2010 at 11:16 am

AMEN


"Wow..I am glad to see it isn't just me. Reading comments from others who are new here and who have moved elsewhere confirms what took me several years to figure out..

I moved here from out of State ( and plan to move back out of State soon)... It took me a few years to figure out why I felt insane, but I eventually figured out the underlying level of viciousness and obstructionism to "get 'er done" was what was getting in the way of our progress here.

The constant and unending attacks on our volunteer leaders, our donors, our Admin, etc are exhausting. Usually by those who don't volunteer and don't donate.

Gratitude is lacking here, obstructionism thrives, and is driving away volunteers."


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2010 at 11:31 am

Original Poster,

Is your issue A) impropriety of some kind, or B) that those that give less feel it's offensive to them to be in what THEY see themselves is a second class category,

why is this a problem for a public school? How is this hurting student achievement??

parents are asking a "we all need a trophy" treatment of parents?

They (PIE or any fundraising organization like it) could say thank you to everyone in alphabetical order, but given that it should be transparent and public, shouldn't they also list who gave, and how much? - this is accounting and accountability. Somewhere, this info should be publicly available. It's actually more elegant, the way they do it now, and though it would not be necessarily better, maybe they could do it with a PIE chart - no punt intended, where they could say that for example 10 families gave 30% of the money, 30% of the families gave nothing, and so forth. You need to know where and how your money is coming in, to be accountable, and to plan.

For the families that give over tens of thousands of dollars, does a cocktail party amongst them really bother you? Or that the PIE volunteers want to do something to thank the big donors, or their job would be that much harder? How about the thank you many volunteers get in Newsletters for stepping up, it helps, it's nice, it's polite, it makes a difference.

how do YOU propose thanking big donors? what would be proper?

To everyone who has so far only objected, where are your alternatives? Pretend you would be the volunteer in charge of raising the money to pay aides, and programs for ALL kids in ALL schools

the only "alternative" of any use so far I've heard is that PIE could raise more money if they involved all parents in sending the schools a message of what matters,

PAUSD sent a survey on our input for cuts, PIE could certainly send a survey on input on how to spend PIE money, or the Principals themselves could send a survey.









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Posted by webinfo
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2010 at 11:58 am

There were some requests for additional information in the discussion thread. Hope these 3 are helpful:

1) Annual report (called "PiE report to the Community" under News and Info section of website):
Web Link

2) Funding per school at: Web Link
o Readers can click on a particular school to see the details

3) Home page: www.papie.org. Chart shows the 3 target funding areas for each school level.


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Posted by atlernativePerspective
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm

PA Mom, there were loads of other ideas in just the third link I posted:

Endowments: Web Link

"Sustained and stable school funding has become a necessary goal in today's education environment. Any forward thinking Oregon school district must look beyond budget cycles and pressures of State funding and establish an independent financial base. This issue can be addressed through planned giving to an endowment program or charitable bequest"

Naming Opportunities: Web Link
"Naming opportunities are a unique, and heartfelt way for donors to recognize, honor or memorialize a loved one. The funds raised will be used to establish an unrestricted endowment; the income generated annually will be used to restore as well as to sustain teaching positions within the Lake Oswego School District. The goal is to attain the desired student teacher classroom ratios for the elementary, middle and high school programs."

Education Unit trusts: Web Link
"You may ask, is it possible to be philanthropic and still fulfill a personal goal such as saving for a college fund at the same time? Happily, the answer is a resounding yes! While your children are still in the Lake Oswego School District schools, set up a Charitable Remainder Unitrust account with the Lake Oswego School District Foundation. This trust will expire four years after the student's projected start date for college."

Tribute Certificates: Web Link

"Tribute Certificates are the perfect way to honor the memory of a loved one or just to say "Thank You". They can be purchased in any amount but we ask for a minimum donation of $10 for each certificate."

From the comments you're seeing here, it looks like most of the issues lie with PiE. It's been around a while and the school population has changed. $675 per pupil is a big ask with only 50% donating.

It's time for PiE to reach out once more, educate the public and do a better PR job.

Comments saying it's "best practice" regardless of how it is qualified should never be used in response to a question from the public. It's the same as asking your son a question about the computer and him responding in technobabble. "Yeah, thanks for making me feel small, now just answer the question".
There was a similar thread on the SVM's about PTA being too exclusive before it was deleted. PiE, with no school presence, is even more susceptible.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Alternative perspective - those are all great suggestions! If you or another volunteer was willing to lead one of those drives, I suspect PiE would be receptive.

A few comments:
The idea of naming opportunities would probably cause a lot more complaint than the donor list does.

I think we would need to be at a higher total donation level to start an endowment, kind of like paying your bills before starting a saving account, but I could be wrong about that.

Love the idea of Education Unitrusts, if there was someone willing to spearhead that idea.

Suggestions for better PR would I'm sure be appreciated.


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Posted by mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2010 at 12:55 pm



All the ideas sound like more menu options on how to stand out, will this make the parents who feel second class any better?

If I buy a $1000 tribute certificate, and my neighbor a $10 one, will a new thread start?








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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2010 at 1:21 pm

These sound like interesting ideas and I agree, PiE I'm sure would appreciate the help in researching and implementing them. I don't see anything in conflict between those ideas and what is done now - they seem complementary. Let's channel the energy that goes into tearing down and griping into to efforts to build up and support our community organizations.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Guys, we don't all need a damn trophy.

Yes, we're a public-school system, but let's be honest, we're a public school system with a lot more money than most of the ones in the state because we pass parcel taxes and parents raise a lot of money.

Yeah, and some can and do give way more than others. Pretending that this isn't true doesn't change that. Thanking them with a party and naming them is, in fact, a gracious gesture. There are similar gestures made to those who volunteer lots of time.

And, you know something, as a volunteer, it's nice to be thanked. If I were able to give a large sum, I'd think it be nice to have a party.

Yeah, not all of us are rich, so I appreciate the fact that A) rich people actually care enough about our public schools to send their kids to them and B) give the kind of money that makes our schools the kind rich people who can go private send their kids to.

My not rich-kid (and me) benefit. Hell, I'll pour the champagne.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Give praise and glory to wealthy parents who give lots to PiE and the PA schools.

We prefer to remain anonymous in our gifts and all donors have that choice.

We do not understand what the problem is.

At the Stanford Board of Trustees the problem is that donors want their names on buildings rather than funding academic programs, there is nothing wrong with vanity and fame, but it helps to have these drives directed at education programs as well as buildings.
The SU donors argue that apart from science, engineering, medicine and business the academic programs have problems, whatever, it is their money.

In Palo Alto lets give credit for generosity, there are plenty of private school options in the area that do not have such PC opinions.


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Posted by Midtown anon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2010 at 10:49 pm

That's it Sharon, there is a difference between public and private schools. Last I heard, Stanford is a PRIVATE university, and PAUSD a PUBLIC school district. That's the difference.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2010 at 9:20 am


Here is a public school example---

Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley.

Named in donor Hubert Howe Bancroft's honor and started with his collection.


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Posted by Midtown Mommy
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2010 at 9:53 am

In general I have respect for Simon Firth, if for no other reason than that he uses his name on this forum Braver than I, you can see.

But this is simply ridiculous.

Thank you PiE volunteers for the work you do on behalf of all our students. Thank you PiE donors of all size, for seeing beyond yourself to and your own children to the larger picture that quality education for all students benefits every part of our society. Visionaries, all.

Let me take some of the speculation out of the game and say right up front that I am not a big donor to PiE. I wish we were in the position to be that, but we're just not.

I'm also not a volunteer in our schools. My job precludes that privilege. I'm grateful to all of the parents who make our schools deeper and wider communities for my children.

Do I think (or worry, as seems to be implied here) that because others offer more time or treasure, that they therefore, have greater access to Dr. Skelly or school board members?

Here is the extent of my access to superintendent Skelly: it feels limitless. I have sent notes to him to praise teachers, to suggest ideas, to offer opinions and perspectives. I have approached him at school events -- and how nice is it to see the superintendent at pancake breakfasts and international dinners -- to tell him what I'm liking and disliking. He has responded to every single email and letter I've ever sent him -- personal responses that indicate he has read the communique and given it some thought, not automated "robo-responses". He has listened to my comments in person, giving authentic responses, sometimes telling me I how I was mistaken or giving me another perspective, sometimes admitting that the District needs to do better.

I have met every single school board member for the purpose of outlining me expectations for the District. How did I achieve this political coup? Not through big donations or working side-by-side with them at an elementary school bagel sale. I called each one and asked them to sit down with me to discuss my concerns, my hopes, and my expectations of them. Each one of them agreed, and we had productive, if occasionally heated, exchanges.

The implication that somehow a cocktail party gives some people greater access to our public servants than the rest of us have, is, in my experience, wholly inaccurate and terribly petty. Please stop.

If you want time with your kids' teachers, principal, your superintendent, or your school board, just ask.

And I'm sure any one of them would appreciate it if you packed in your own cocktails to share. Especially on a Friday.


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Posted by Geez
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 23, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Anyone who feels "second class" because they give less in time or money really needs to get over it.

I have been able to give tons in time and money at some times in my life, and nothing in others.

That's life.

I don't feel "second class" when I can't, nor do I feel "first class" when I can. I feel grateful both ways..grateful when I am able to give that my life is going well enough for me to share..and grateful to others who give when my life isn't as good.

You guys who don't practice gratitude may want to rethink your perspective on life.


geez


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Posted by Geez
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm

BTW, I agree about Simon, or anyone who uses their real names on these forums (obviously I am not one of the brave ones!)

I appreciate them greatly, whether or not I agree with them.


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