Volume 14, Issue 3
In a gesture of solidarity with their hard-hit community and the families they teach, members of the Vallejo Education Association in the Vallejo City Unified School District spent four nights after school in October distributing $12,000 in school supplies that they had donated to help the city's students.
The successful Solano County event by the 800-member VEA provided bags of vital school supplies to 2,000 students in grades K-8.
"We just wanted to stand up for our schools and our students in a way that reminds them how much we care," said Christal Watts, president of the Vallejo Education Association. "We want to give back to our community, which has been hit so hard by the economy and the foreclosure crisis. Times are hard, people are hurting, and these school supplies could help our students succeed in the classroom and at home."
From Oct. 19 to 22, the teachers distributed to students bags of pens, pencils, notebooks, coloring pencils, crayons and pencil sharpeners at four locations in town. In addition, Watts said, students got free books to take home and enjoy, thanks to the donation of 50 boxes of books from the Friends of the Vallejo Public Libraries.
"We're going to build on this event," said Watts. "We want to build alliances with the community that are ongoing."
The Vallejo Times-Herald newspaper even discounted VEA ads about the locations for donations, and reported on the event in an Oct. 20 story with the headline "Teachers get ‘A' for sharing."
"I think the teachers are doing great," Vallejo resident Albert Cusseaux told the paper on the first night of the giveaway, held at a library where he brought his 8-year-old neighbor. The boy, a third-grader at Grace Patterson Elementary, thanked teachers as he accepted the free supplies and looked for his favorite adventure books amid the stacks of donated editions.
The newspaper also printed a letter to the editor from VEA activist Ron West, a teacher at Steffan Manor Elementary and co-chair of the union's action committee, who wrote about the hard economic times affecting the classroom.
"This year, Vallejo's teachers have seen more children than ever come to school without many of the basic supplies that families normally send their children to school with. During these difficult economic times, many families just don't have the money for things like pencils, paper and colored markers," wrote West. "So why are Vallejo's teachers doing this? Because it is in their nature, and it is what teachers do."
Educators also spent time speaking with parents during the handing out of materials about the future of the school district, which has been hit hard by state education cuts — and where about 70 teachers laid off earlier this year still can't find jobs.
Donations were handed out in Vallejo at the John F. Kennedy Library, the Continental of Omega Boys and Girls Club, Greater Vallejo Recreation District Children's Wonderland Park, and Springtstowne Library.
Watts posted photos of the event on CTA's social networking site, www.standupforschools.org, where members can share stories about the cuts to public education, create and publicize events, and connect with other members.
"The parents who came by were so excited," Watts said. "They kept looking in the bags to see all the supplies, and they spent a lot of time with their children picking out free books to take home and enjoy."