With the financial crisis slamming most public schools these days, bake sales and magazine drives can’t even make a dent to help cover decreased funding. Many parent groups have resorted to Annual Giving Campaigns in which parents or friends of the school make a one-time or ongoing contributions to fund student programs.
For the past few years, Colfax Charter Elementary School in Valley Village has been conducting an annual two-day phone-a-thon in which volunteers call every family enrolled in the school to request a donation of any size. Some parents will contribute $5. Some will commit to thousands, sometimes in monthly installments. Many won’t donate at all, yet the programs paid for by Annual Giving will benefit every student – not just those who pay for it.
At last Monday’s weekly morning assembly, nine students put on a mock infomercial show for the school, imitating Bumpits, Thighmaster, and Magic Bullet hawkers and operators standing by to take calls for donations. The presentation was such a huge hit, they decided to film it and post it on YouTube.
Colfax mom Crissy Guerrero wrote the skit and her daughter Alina Foley (Nora from 2010’s The Spy Next Door) plays one of the infomercial hosts. Colfax dad Josh Waters assisted with the production and his son Ethan Percell is the young actor who endorses the Magic Bullet in the video. Scott Jacobs (another Colfax dad) loaned the crew the camera and sound equipment. Seven other Colfax students gave up two non-school days to rehearse and shoot. Graeme Côté plays the second host and his brother Griffin is Happy Kid #2. By day their dad Glenn Côté supervises visual effects for motion pictures, but last Monday he filmed the kids and stayed up all night editing the video, which can now be seen at http://www.viewbix.com/v/Colfax-Charter-Annual-Giving/f3e4d8f1-da2a-4dce-8d97-b31ec6aefe97.
It costs about $600 per student to pay for all the education and enrichment programs that make Colfax so unique. In 2010, the Annual Giving Committee shifted the standard message and created the slogan "Participation is Power." Approximately 50 percent of the families participated in last year’s Annual Giving and raised just over $100,000. Colfax’s charter mandates that the school add curriculums that emphasize the arts, technology, and green living. The price tag is over $250,000 a year to run programs like Suzuki violin, keyboard instruction, science and computer labs, art instruction and appreciation, math & music and technology programs, field trips, assemblies, their on-campus farm and vegetable garden, and teacher's aides.
In past years, Annual Giving funded capital projects like the Wonder of Reading Library, the grassy track & field, playground equipment, science and computer labs, and literacy garden. With the ailing economy, proposed capital projects like shade structures and an outdoor science lab have to be put on hold because funding is needed for existing programs. Last year $75,000 was spent on teacher’s aides alone.
Since LAUSD has increased class sizes to 24 for kindergarten through 3rd grade and 39 for 4th and 5th grades, the budget for teacher’s aides for the 2012-13 school year must be increased to preserve the quality of education at Colfax.
“Now that we are facing an election year, it is uncertain what will happen to our school budget if certain initiatives are not passed (30 and 38),” said Deana Payne, Co-President of the Parent Association of Colfax Elementary (PACE), whose daughter Sara Ghadban plays the Bumpit girl in the video. “With that uncertainty, coupled with the budget cuts we are already facing, it is imperative that our families participate and give what they can so that we can just maintain what we already have.”
The Colfax Annual Giving committee, which consists of Crissy Guerrero, Deana Payne, Glenn Côté’s wife Abbe Murray-Côté, and Soledad Boyle (whose sons Noah and Joaquin also appear in the video) are busy getting ready for the phone-a-thon, which takes place Oct. 1-2.
The real estate office of Ewing Sotheby’s IR in Sherman Oaks has graciously allowed the 20 or so Colfax volunteers to use their office to make the phone calls. Colfax Charter’s Gold Sponsor and top realtor Michael Okun, was instrumental in setting up the arrangement.
Other children in the video are Layla Ruppert, a Thighmaster believer, and Sophia Warren who plays one of the energetic “happy kids.”
Every Monday morning, Colfax holds a school-wide assembly where committees inform the students and parents about upcoming events. Parents “get so de-sensitized to the adults standing up there week after week making announcements, we thought we'd let the kids do the talking,” says Crissy Guerrero. “The whole reason for doing the infomercial (both versions) was to try to find a way to capture the attention of the parents. “
Although the video currently appears on YouTube, Colfax is also promoting it through the Viewpix site which allows the video to link to the Annual Giving site at http://www.colfaxpace.org/. Unlike most school fundraisers in which silent auction winnings, dinner or trinkets must be declared when filing taxes, the Annual Giving Campaign is 100 percent tax deductible. Most fundraisers, such as the Colfax World Fair bring in a huge amount of money, but likewise have high expenditures. The Annual Giving Campaign has absolutely no expenses; therefore 100 percent of the monies donated go directly to the school.
Colfax parents say they hope that the video goes viral among the Colfax community and beyond.