Lake Havasu Unified School District grapples with social media donations

July 17, 2018 GMT

Teachers are increasingly turning to social media seeking donations for their classrooms.

A glance at the website Donors Choose shows current fundraising efforts by Lake Havasu Unified teachers seeking things like ball chairs, science kits and book sets – things not necessarily provided by the school district.

Lake Havasu Unified officials hope to discuss the trend at a future meeting. At the center of the debate is a focus on how teachers are using sites like Go Fund Me and Donors Choose – also known as crowdsourcing websites – to solicit donations of money or materials for individual classrooms.

Currently, LHUSD teachers – including Starline Elementary School’s first-grade teacher Christina Musselman and fourth-grade teacher Martha Petersen, joined by Jamaica Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher Amy Parrish – have solicited donations for classroom material not provided by the district.

Although there is a policy in place that set rules for accepting donations, some district officials say that it is a vague and porous direction that could be abused.

“We have a generous community and I won’t be the one who will stand in the way of this,” Board President John Masden said. “But, I think the process needs to be more thought out. When I show our superintendent what teachers are out there crowdsourcing for, items that she has not been aware of, I think we have a policy in place that nobody is following.”

School board member Nichole Cohen said she has reservations what message the solicitations are sending to Havasu’s residents who recently approved a $49 million school bond and 15 percent budget override.

“My concern is the constant (argument) that our teachers don’t have the supplies that they need,” Cohen said. “I have a concern with this funding mechanism. I think we are providing the supplies our teachers need … but that is not the message that is landing in our community.”

Corey Triassi, Starline Elementary School principal, says she believes crowdsourcing – especially for technology – is critical for teachers to meet state testing deadlines.

Triassi said the move by the Arizona Department of Education this year to reduce the AzMERIT testing period from five to four weeks placed an undue burden on her school that without crowdsourced Chromebooks would not have been possible to meet.

“We had to use our Chromebooks this year because we had 641 students,” Triassi said. “We had an upstairs (computer) lab and one in the art room to rotate all of the students through for AzMERIT testing and finish it within the four week time period.”

The Chromebooks, Triassi said, were invaluable to meeting the testing schedule.

“Without the Chromebooks, to process all of our students through the computer labs would have been impossible,” Triassi added.

The discussion moving forward, district officials say, will center on what the district can afford to put