Together we make a profound difference

April is Public Schools Month

BEST PRACTICE: Public school support

HOW-TO: Partner with public schools

Welcome to The Vault


Question of the month


April is Public Schools Month

Masons have championed public education in California for as long as we have existed in this state. In 1920, as schools struggled with crippling teacher shortages, we rallied our communities for the nation’s first Public Schools Week. In 2010, the fraternity made public school support a strategic priority. As schools struggle with a new set of challenges, we are committed to finding new ways to help.

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

During Public Schools Month, honor hard-working students and teachers. Adopt a school, host a supply drive, or help at a volunteer event. Support Raising A Reader.

Public education continues to be a top priority for our fraternity. This month, we have another chance to prove it.

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BEST PRACTICE: Public school support

Public school support is one of California Masonry’s finest legacies. During 2010-15 strategic planning, the fraternity declared it a priority for the future, too.

In recent years, lodges have worked to make the Raising A Reader program a success statewide. And within their own communities, lodges like San Jose Lodge No. 10 have continued to produce programs to enhance and support the schools next door.

Gregory Cheung, chair of San Jose Lodge’s public schools program, explains.


Seven years ago, San Jose Lodge started an essay contest for local sixth graders. It’s grown into an important tradition: It gives the students something to strive for, their families a sense of pride, and our brothers a sense of community. It’s a chance for the lodge to connect and work side by side with the teachers and administrators in our community.

The participants

  • Students who need Masons most: The contest is for public school sixth graders. So far, we have targeted schools with students from disadvantaged neighborhoods. For many of these students, English is a second language.
  • Spreading support: We began the contest at just one school, then added two more schools in recent years.
  • Looking to the future: The lodge recently approved expanding the program to all schools in the district.

The essay contest

  • Objectives: Our goals are to promote English writing skills, provide an opportunity for public speaking, and encourage students not to drop out.
  • Planning: To introduce the program to the schools, I sat down with each principal individually. The principals then informed their teachers. Some teachers assign the essay to students as part of their class; others make it voluntary.
  • Topics: In the program’s early years, the teachers decided the essay topics, including "What makes a good leader?" and "What are the characteristics of a good citizen?" More recently, our lodge has selected the topics "What does it mean to be an educated person?” and "Why does it take a village to raise a child?”
  • Judging: The teachers collect the essays from their sixth graders and submit the best six to eight essays to our public schools committee. The committee, which changes annually, is made up of about five brothers.
  • Winners: Our public schools committee picks three winners from each school. Letters are sent to the school announcing the winning students and inviting them to our Public Schools Night in April or May.

The awards night

  • Dinner’s on us: We invite the winners, their teachers, and two family members to a complimentary dinner at the lodge. Other family members are welcome to attend and may purchase their dinner.
  • Spotlight on students: After dinner, the winners and audience adjourn to the lodge room and the students read their essays. We invite the school principals to say a few words.
  • Awarding excellence: Our master presents students with a check for $100 and a marble pen set engraved with their name.
  • Gaining popularity: Attendance has steadily grown from around 20 to currently 60 people.
  • Community connections: The students, parents, and family members are excited about the event. Many of them ask to take photos with the brothers.
  • Making memories: Recently, one of our brothers has begun videotaping the evening and making it available to the families.

The benefits

Last year, a student winner was so nervous about reading his essay, he couldn't eat his dinner. He nearly had his sister read it for him.

I found an opportunity to speak with the student, and reassured him that we’re a friendly audience and that everyone was rooting for him. I told him what a fine essay he’d written, and that he had nothing to fear.

He ultimately read the essay himself and did a great job. It gave him an excellent first experience in public speaking. His parents thanked me personally afterwards.

That’s the kind of positive impact our public schools programs can have on students. That’s what we’re all striving to do as Masons.

For more information

To learn more, contact Greg Cheung.

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HOW-TO: Partner with public schools

Since the first Public Schools Week, California Masons have been known for their support of public ed. No matter how small or large the gesture, what you do counts. Here are 26 ways to make a difference.


  • Offer to paint a playground, 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 Principal for a Day program

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” for 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

Before settling on any one task, ask about meeting with local principals to find out what their schools need most. A face-to-face conversation will help forge a lasting partnership.

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

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Welcome to The Vault

Now, you can store digital versions of lodge documents in one secure place, with easy access for every lodge member.

The Vault is a new online storage system for California lodges. The system was developed in partnership with members and underwent rigorous beta testing in 32 lodges last year. It was introduced at the 2014 Secretary and Treasurer Retreats this past winter and launched live for all lodges at that time. Since, there has been strong and steady growth in the number of lodges using the system.

By enabling online access to important documents, The Vault increases transparency and accountability within the lodge, and can vastly improve communication and collaboration among officers. It’s also a secure way to stay organized and ensure your lodge records are preserved.

60+ lodges already use The Vault

“We do not have enough fire-resistant file space for our minutes and photos, so I wanted to use electronic storage. So far I have used The Vault to store old minutes from computer files, and I intend to store all of our minutes in it going forward. It’s easy to learn, and my questions are answered with a quick phone call.”
Secretary Robert Petterson, user since February 2014
Harding San Juan Lodge No. 579 in Citrus Heights

“I gave The Vault a try to save time and, more importantly, to save space, so I can cut back on storing paperwork all over my office. I'm currently using it for storing minutes, applications, monthly bills, and warrants. The system is easy to use. It’s saving me time and helping me stay organized.”
Secretary Christopher Snyder, user since 2013
Reseda Lodge No. 666 in Granada Hills

Ready for your use

  • Log into the Member Center on and scroll to My Lodge
  • Click on The Vault User Manual for instructions
  • Click on The Vault (Lodge Documents) link to access your lodge’s pre-set folders. You can edit all of these folders to your preferences, including changing the visibility of those that contain sensitive information
  • The Vault is free up to the first 2GB of storage (roughly 1,000 photos or 80,000 pages of text). Additional storage, if required, is available at cost
  • All your lodge officers automatically have editing privileges for folders and any documents. Lodge members have “read only” rights
  • Access rights are tied to member profiles and automatically update when those profiles are updated

Coming soon

  • Look for an FAQ resource later this month about The Vault’s online features
  • Stay tuned for updates about the project’s next phase: support for secure, physical file storage and digitization of physical files

Questions, feedback, or suggestions? Contact Member Services.

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With baseball season upon us, we’re dedicating this section to Masons4Mitts.

The Junior Giants baseball program provides safety, health, and character-building skills for underprivileged youth ages 5-18. Every year, regional teams of Northern California lodges compete to fund mitts for the program. Since 2009, Masons4Mitts has raised more than $270,000 for the Junior Giants, providing more than 13,500 mitts!

Use this ad to encourage members, families, and friends to join the game.

Don’t forget to order your lodge’s group tickets to Masons Night at AT&T Park on Sept. 10! The deadline to order is May 15.

To learn more and to keep tabs on the competition, check out Send your questions to or call 415/292.9139.

This month: Masons4Mitts ad

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

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Question of the month

Last month we asked if your lodge uses the Candidate Learning Center. Of the 105 who responded:

23% - Yes
54% - No
24% - Not sure

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very useful, users gave the Candidate Learning Center an average rating of 8.

Here's your next question.





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Grand Lodge of California
1111 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

p: (415) 776-7000