Executive Perspective                                 Page 48


AASA’s Support in Disaster




 Daniel Domenech

With a few weeks to go before the end of the official hurricane season, rebuilding efforts and disaster relief continue in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

As a result of the storm that pounded the Eastern Seaboard a year ago, approximately 8 million people lost power and thousands of children were displaced as homes and neighborhoods were destroyed. Estimates of the U.S. damage have reached $65 billion.

Government agencies on all levels engaged in the difficult task of emergency assistance and putting storm-ravaged communities back together.

Multifaceted Efforts
To broker support among schools and districts most affected by the storm, AASA played a major role. Less than two weeks after Sandy pounded the New York City area, we launched an exchange program with help from our members across the country. This initiative was part of a multipronged effort, targeted to dispatch information, resources and supplies.

Components of this nationwide undertaking included:

Districts helping districts. An online district-to-district exchange providing members with information about districts that needed help the most. Members were able to contribute directly with equipment, transportation, books and classroom supplies.

Schools helping schools. Dissemination of fundraising strategies to unaffected schools wanting to lend financial and material assistance to affected communities.

AASA members helping children and families in need. AASA’s Urgent Need Mini-Grants were available to assist children and families. These funds continue to be used to provide urgent health, mental health, education and other social service needs that affect poor children and their families.

Corporations helping affected communities. Through a partnership with EdBacker, a web-based funding platform to find funds that schools need for all education-related programs, we worked with schools to help them secure the resources they needed to rebuild.

AASA’s efforts generated $25,000 for school districts and more than $50,000 worth of supplies from more than 100 donors. These groups included schools, single classrooms, student groups, PTAs, Girl Scout troops, AASA members and businesses. Goods delivered included backpacks, blankets, books, furniture, cleaning supplies and school supplies.

Throughout the country, many schools and children took the lead in these efforts. For example, a 1st- and 2nd-grade class from Unity Charter School in Morristown, N.J., organized a read-a-thon and raised more than $2,700 in relief aid. Ralston Middle School in Belmont, Calif., collected another $2,000.

We know many districts still need assistance. It’s going to take years to rebuild these communities, and we know there is no quick fix.

Superstorm Sandy wasn’t the only natural disaster to devastate a community over the past year. We witnessed our colleagues sift through wreckage and rubble caused by a tornado in the suburbs of Oklahoma City last May. Officials say the storm created a trail 17 miles long while packing winds at more than 200 miles per hour. The community of Moore, Okla., was the hardest hit.

The Moore Public Schools, third-largest district in the state, serve 21,000 students in Moore and south Oklahoma City. The tornado leveled two of the district’s schools, Plaza Towers Elementary and Briarwood Elementary. The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management estimated that more than 20 people were killed, including several young children, and 1,150 homes were destroyed.

AASA coordinated a relief effort following the tragedy. As was the case with Sandy, our work was administered by AASA’s Children’s Programs. We collected funds on behalf of Moore Public Schools and issued a check to the superintendent at the beginning of the current school year.

Continuing Prayers
In the aftermath of these tragedies, I ask all of you to pause and remember the loss and damage we’ve sustained in the past year. We can’t stop sending our thoughts and prayers to families affected by these horrific events.

We’re at a time when we’re seeing positive changes throughout the education arena. Dozens of superintendents visited their members of Congress last summer in Washington, D.C., to expand the national dialogue on important education advocacy issues. Meaningful movement on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is under way for the first time in more than a decade. Efforts also are under way to ensure schools are capable of offering adequate broadband capacity to their students.

At a time when sweeping changes are in the making on behalf of our students and schools, we pledge to continue our steadfast support for our friends and colleagues badly in need as a result of natural disasters.

Daniel Domenech is AASA executive director. E-mail: ddomenech@aasa.org 


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