Even without the added burden of a gasping economy, school funding these days comes with a bewildering array of challenges, nearly all of them unpleasant. Administrators, teachers, parents, students and nonprofit groups survey the landscape and wonder, where do you even start?
Public education budgets all have gaping holes, and each school campus has at least a thousand pressing needs on its wish list — a list that never seems to get any shorter. Scare resources are already allocated, sometimes several times over. Should an unexpected expense arise ... well, good luck with that.
That was the situation Harding School confronted when its venerable hawk weathervane was stolen earlier this summer from the school’s tower roof. The hawk had proudly “flown” above the Westside campus for decades, and may have even been erected when the school was built in 1927. And then, in the dead of night, it was gone — either the victim of vandalism or stolen for the value of its metal.
To replace it would cost upward of $15,000, not an option even for a school with as much going for it as Harding. The school at 1625 Robbins St. has seen a resurgence over the last few years, with a new International Baccalaureate Program, a partnership with UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and even a new name: Harding University Partnership School.
Since we at Noozhawk have an affinity for hawks, Harding’s plight got our attention. We thought we should, and could, do something to help a fellow raptor. We spoke with Harding Principal Sally Kingston, who was excited and grateful for any assistance at all. And we talked with givezooks!, a local online nonprofit fundraising company. Like us, givezooks! is a startup and the company is a strategic partner of ours. Joe Fazio, one of the co-founders, and Chris Giles, manager of customer services, immediately donated their time and services to handle the fundraising side.
One of the reasons I think it’s important for Noozhawk to participate in this project is as basic as the broken-windows theory first proposed in the early 1980s by political scientist James Q. Wilson, now at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy, and criminologist George Kelling.
The broken-windows theory holds that maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition may prevent further vandalism and more serious crime. The theft of that weathervane is a broken-windows moment and an affront to all of us. We must not abide it; as citizens, we have a duty to tend to our community.
But equally important is the question asked at the beginning of this column: Where do you even start? As a local business — and a relatively new one, at that — we can’t possibly fix the problems facing our schools today. But there are things Noozhawk can do that will make a small difference. If enough local companies make enough of those small differences, the results will be impressive.
Santa Barbara’s business community has a rich tradition of doing just that. Perhaps the most notable examples are the Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy, which enjoys the active and generous support of dozens of high-tech companies, and the Village Properties Teacher’s Fund, which has been providing vital tools and materials for local teachers for nearly 10 years.
But there are plenty of others, like MedBridge Development, whose employees organized a Martin Luther King Jr. Day work party at Santa Barbara Junior High School. Out of a patch of dirt where students ate their lunches, the MedBridge team created a tiled, outdoor dining area.
Another example is the Westmont College men’s and women’s basketball teams, which heard that Los Prietos Boys Camp was in need of basketballs, and donated them.
No one is happy about the condition of our schools, but there is inspirational leadership all around us and plentiful opportunities to help. I invite other local businesses, organizations and individuals to join Noozhawk in this project to replace the Harding School weathervane. We’ll make you an honorary Hawk, but the feeling you’ll get from participating will have you soaring like the real thing.
Click here to make a tax-deductible online donation to the Harding Hawk Project through givezooks!