Together we make a profound difference

April is Public Schools Month

BEST PRACTICE: Supporting public schools

HOW-TO: Partner with local public schools

Making a good investment better

Resources

Question of the month

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April is Public Schools Month

For as long as California has been a state, its Masons have advocated for public education. In 1920, as schools struggled with crippling teacher shortages, California Masons declared the first Public Schools Week – of any state in our country.

Today, public school support is among the fraternity’s strategic priorities, and our Public Schools Month tradition lives on.

This April, renew your commitment to California public education. Support Raising A Reader. Meet with principals and teachers in your community, and ask what their schools need most. Fund classroom supplies, volunteer at after-school programs, or help with school renovations.

The theme for Public Schools Month is: Together we make a profound difference for public education.

Join fellow Masons from throughout California in supporting public schools this April. Let’s see the profound difference our efforts will achieve.

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BEST PRACTICE: Supporting public schools

A past master of San Diego Lodge No. 35 has a favorite story about getting involved with local schools. He was among several brothers who volunteered to read to students at a nearby elementary school. The first visit, he was paired with a third-grade student. He spent the session helping her with reading techniques and word pronunciation. The next time he volunteered, the teacher pulled him aside to share what an impression he’d made. As it turned out the student had never heard someone read out loud before.

In 2010, the lodge decided to adopt a school year-round.

Master Dick Bullard explains:

Background

One of our past masters has a sister who’s an assistant administrator at Dewey Elementary. She told us about the school’s many needs, and eventually, we decided to adopt it year-round. It’s been a lot of fun. Whatever the school asks for – whether it’s a thermometer or a boom box – we research the item and try to go above and beyond.

The relationship

  • The ambassadors: Twice a year, the master and senior warden visit the school to meet administrators. The principal arranges for students to meet us at the door and welcome us. We talk about what the school needs, and what we can provide.
  • The ladies: The wives of the master and senior warden usually attend the meetings, too. They ask about ways for the lodge ladies to help out, often by assisting in the back office.
  • The membership: We report the school’s needs back to the lodge, and every time, the lodge responds. For example, the school wanted to build a fence around its playground. We couldn’t do it ourselves, but we announced that we wanted to fund the project. Without any hesitation, brothers sat down and wrote checks.
  • The individuals: Several of our members have forged a close relationship with the school administrators, and they volunteer individually as well.
  • Behind the scenes: Our lodge’s executive committee meets regularly to discuss our goals and involvement.

The support

  • Back-to-school supplies: A number of students show up each year without backpacks or supplies. We collect backpacks and fill them with paper, pencils, rulers, and the like. We present them to the principal just before the fall semester every year.
  • Nurse’s aids: We have provided funds and also purchased supplies for the nurse’s office, from band-aids to thermometers.
  • School spirit: Most of the students are from military families, and move around a lot. The school has a few programs to help integrate new students and build a sense of belonging. They asked for a rubber bracelet, like the purple By Your Side bracelets distributed to Masons in 2010-11. We ordered 1,000 imprinted with Dewey Dolphins.
  • Office assistants: The lodge ladies cut out stars for the school and help with back office work, such as filing. They do most of this after stated meeting dinners, while lodge is in session.
  • Special requests: Last year the school needed a boom box for assemblies and weekly dance contests. We found a nice model with wheels and a microphone, and gave it as a gift with several iTunes gift cards. This year the nursing station needs a new refrigerator, so we’re getting the specs. The special education teacher could really use an iPad for her class, and we’d like to provide that, too.
  • At the fair: We set up a Child ID booth at the school’s fall festival.
  • Monthly collections: We put donation jars out at stated meeting dinners. All the master has to do is mention the jars and hands start reaching for wallets and purses. We collect on average $50 per month. We also collect bottle caps and Kellogg’s box tops, which the school turns in for money.

Program impact

  • The school knows the Masons are looking out for them. If their students or teachers need something that the school can’t afford, they have someone to ask.
  • It’s a buzz around the lodge: “What are we doing with Dewey?” Members are always asking if the school would like this or could use that. I think it does all of us good.
  • As Masons, we don’t do these things for recognition. We just want to know that kids have what they need.

Final tips

If you’re thinking of adopting a school, my advice is to stop thinking and do it.

We were lucky; we had a contact at Dewey Elementary who could vouch for us. If you have any sort of connection with your local school, work on that. If not, just get an introduction with the administrator. Say ‘this is who we are this, this is what we’d like to do, and we want to ask you about what you need.’ Once you ask that question, it’s likely you won’t be able to stop the conversation.

For more information, contact: Dick Bullard, SD35Master.2013@gmail.com.

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HOW-TO: Partner with local public schools

Supporting Raising A Reader is the most effective way to help California’s public education system at a statewide level. But how about the schools right in your neighborhood? Here are 26 ideas for getting involved.

Volunteer

  • Offer to paint a playground or classroom, plant a garden, or help with time-consuming tasks such as stuffing envelopes
  • Assemble a lodge team to tutor students or read to young children
  • Assist in a school computer lab or library
  • Provide lodge space for special student-parent meetings, such as ESL classes
  • Participate in a Principal for a Day program
  • TIP: Talk with school administrators first about the best way to help out

Support school programs

  • Ask the school librarian to provide a list of desired books, and donate or raise money to purchase them
  • Donate money for a teacher's “wish list” of classroom supplies
  • At the beginning of the school year, give students backpacks filled with supplies
  • Distribute dictionaries
  • Supply U.S. Constitution booklets for classrooms (middle school and above)
  • Purchase advertising space in school yearbooks
  • Donate money for a school field trip to the state capitol
  • Donate money to buy instruments and supplies for the school’s music program
  • Fund an after-school program

Sponsor contests

  • Science fair
  • Writing contest
  • Spelling bee
  • Speech contest
  • U.S. Constitution tournament
  • Poster contest

Award excellence

  • Fund college scholarships
  • Reward “most improved” students at a lodge dinner for families
  • Give citizenship awards to students who exhibit good classroom behavior
  • Present U.S. Savings Bonds to student leaders
  • Work with principals or school district leaders honor a Teacher of the Year

No matter how you choose to help, meet at least once a year with the principal or another school administrator. This will keep the lodge current on the school’s needs, and the face-time will strengthen the partnership.

Have we forgotten something? Email suggestions to communications@freemason.org with How-To: Partner with local public schools in the subject line.

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Making a good investment better

Investment in Success is a scholarship program of the California Masonic Foundation, awarded to high school seniors who have the passion and determination to earn a college degree despite facing many barriers and challenges. Many are the first in their families to go to college.

Most Investment in Success scholars choose to enroll in a community college with plans to transfer to a four-year institution. The foundation recently examined the major challenges such students face within California’s public higher education system, including limited course offerings, long waiting lists, and little to no counseling and other supportive services.

As a result, the scholarship now comes with some innovative benefits. Besides the financial award, Investment in Success connects scholars with counseling and other supportive services. It also creates pathways for scholars to catch up on the credits needed to transfer to a four-year institution and to ultimately complete college.

These additions are another example of California Masons’ hands-on support of public education, and our commitment to helping students reach their long-term goals.

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Resources

With opening day on April 5, we’re dedicating this section to Masons4Mitts.

Using baseball, the Junior Giants provides safety, health, and character-building skills for underprivileged youth ages 5-18. Every year, regional teams of California lodges race to fund mitts for the program. We’re helped more than 9,500 at-risk youth so far.

Use this ad to encourage your members, families, and friends to join the competition. And don’t forget to order your lodge’s group tickets to Masons Night! The deadline to order is April 16.

This month: Masons4Mitts ad

Publish in your Trestleboard, and print out and post at the lodge.

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Question of the month

Last month we asked how many candidate coaches your lodge has. Of the 133 who responded:

50% - One to three
35% - Four to six
13% - More than six
3% - Don't know

As part of their coaching program, 50 percent said they offer group coaching, 35 percent have regular “drop-in” hours at lodge, and 18 percent ask candidates to produce a presentation or paper.

Here’s your next question.

 

 

 

 

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