Get Schooled On Your Business – Giving Back To Your Community

I’ve been pretty humorous with a dash of seriousness in my previous posts, but this post is slightly leaning more to the serious side. So if you’re looking for something more humorous, feel free to take the exit now.

What I plan to talk about your business giving back to the community, and I’ll focus mostly on our local education, Kindergarten through 12th grade. I understand there are a variety of choices out there for students and families. Some families choose to send their children to private schools or to charter schools, but I won’t be talking about that. I’m talking about public schools.

I believe in the public school system. I grew up partly in the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS), but mostly in the public school system. My brother attended public schools, my children attend public schools. No, my children don’t attend schools in Alexandria, VA (rated #1 high school by US News); my children attend Lake Rim Elementary School in Cumberland County, NC.

Cumberland County, NC is host to the Military installation, Fort Bragg. Cumberland County’s demographics include 52% white, 34.9% black, and 6.9% Hispanic. The median household income is $40,834.

Some information about our school district:
• 4th largest school district in North Carolina (out of 115)
• 78th largest school district in the United States (out of 14, 470)
• A total enrollment of 52,187
• 54.42% students receive free or reduced lunch
• A total annual budget of $426 million

I say all that to note that the school district my children attend is not Candy Land. I don’t live in the land of plenty. And our schools are struggling despite still providing quality education for our children.

More importantly, let’s take a look at the last piece of information I provided, a total annual budget of $426 million. Keeping that in mind, North Carolina (like many states) will face a school funding cut by 5-10 percent. That may not sound like much, but let me put it into perspective of what a 5-10 percent budget cut equates to:

A loss or elimination of:
• 186 classroom teachers
• 29 instructional support positions
• 136 assistant principals
• 182 career and technical education instructors
• 13,404 teacher assistants

And that’s just the positions. Think of what else the school no longer has funding for. Instructional equipment, field trips, athletics, extra-curricular activities, arts, supplies, text books, school construction/improvement, technology, etc. The list just goes on and on.

Changing gears just a little bit, have you ever been a teacher? I have. 8th grade business technology. If you’ve ever been a teacher, then you’ll understand that a portion of your own money goes to your own job. You spend your own money for some supplies. You might spend your own money to help a student that forgot (or his parent’s can’t even afford) his/her lunch money. You spend your own leave time to attend professional development. You spend your own money for classroom incentives like prizes for class competitions. Believe it or not, educators end up spending their own money to put it back into their jobs.

So here’s what I’m getting to, give back to your community. The community, schools in particular, do much for your community and the community’s children. These educators spend hours outside of the workday for tutoring, mentoring, and PTA meetings. Their work goes home with them, scheduling next week’s curriculum, grading tests, coaching athletics. They are sometimes the under-appreciated heroes in the community while we revere actors, athletes and reality tv stars, and they are paid nowhere near what their worth. Let’s do the math, babysitters get paid more by the hour than teachers.

If you really want to do the math:
• Assume a babysitter gets paid 3.00 dollars an hour per child.
• Teachers spend about five hours a day with students in class.
• That’s 15.00 dollars a day per child. (How much to we pay for childcare? $15 a day is highway robbery)
• Assume a teacher has 30 students at a time. That's $450 a day.
• Teachers work 180 days a year.
• Yearly salary: $81,000
• What’s the average salary of a teacher today? $47,602

How can local business help? My children’s teachers (mind you, I have 4 children in school) usually have a wish list during Christmas time. These wish lists usually include, dry erase markers, dry erase erasers, crayons, markers, pens, glue sticks, any kind of craft supplies. And they usually have the amount they need. If every parent in the classroom supplied 1 or 2 for the classroom, that classroom will have all the supplies they were asking for. That’s IF every parent supplied a little bit, some families simply can’t afford it. The All-American Fencing Academy regularly donates everything on the teacher’s wish lists. Add that to whatever another parent might donate, it helps the teacher immensely.

Can your business partner with the school? Parent/teacher organizations provide money to schools for smart boards, textbooks, supplies, furniture and more. Is $100 too much for your organization? Our school district holds annual Reading Rocks Walk-A-Thon, and proceeds go to purchase new books for the library. One business’s $100 organization goes a long way for one teacher. Imagine if a few businesses did it. Teachers spend their own money to educate your child…have you attended a PTA lately (seeing your child perform at the Christmas Performance doesn’t count).

It’s a tough economy! The schools budget is suffering…what about my budget! I can’t give away money like that! Then volunteer. Partnerships with schools doesn’t just mean giving them money, it could mean providing your time, expertise and knowledge. Schools need test proctors, tutors, mentors, guest speakers and more. Show your support for your child’s school and at the same time, wear your business polo or shirt – there you go, free advertising.

I focus on the schools because that’s my background. There are other parts of the community, of course, that you can contribute to. Churches, birth to age 5 child development organizations, Military, etc. They can all use your help.

So ‘tis the season. Happy Holidays from the All-American Fencing Academy in Fayetteville, NC.

About the author

Gerhard Guevarra is the owner of All-American Fencing Academy. With his impressive enthusiasm for teaching and training new and competitive fencers, he instantly grabbed the hearts of our regulars and won the 9th Idea Cafe Small Business Grant.


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