Shearn Elementary Gets an Extreme Makeover

When students at HISD’s Shearn Elementary School show up for class on Thursday, September 15, they will see a different school from the one they attended just the day before.

Thanks to a huge contingent of volunteers from a number of Fortune 500 companies, within just 24 hours the school will appear squeaky-clean and next-to-new, with weed-free flower beds, freshly painted walls and curbs, and power-washed windows throughout the entire building.

The volunteers who performed these tasks (while the students attended class in a set of on-site temporary buildings) came from companies like Home Depot, Schlumberger, Starwood Hotels, and Transocean as part of the Corporate Month of Service program started by the Hands On Network. Its goal is to increase the number of employees who volunteer by 10 percent each year and encourage them to collectively contribute more than half-a-million hours nationwide during a month-long period.

The “extreme makeover” of Shearn Elementary School was one of more than 2,000 service projects slated for completion around the country in September.

“It is wonderful when people from the community come in to support a school,” said Principal Bill Buck. “The volunteers are doing an excellent job, and we have over 300 of them here doing landscaping, painting, and various other jobs around the campus. We are thrilled.”

Other partners who made the rejuvenation of Shearn Elementary School possible are: Volunteer Houston, Jones NY, the Fund for Teachers, Dillards, and UBS.

Spruced-Up School

Jason Spencer
Houston Chronicle

The scents of progress – hot asphalt, wet paint and fresh mulch – wafted throughout southwest Houston’s Shearn Elementary School on Wednesday as an 8-hour makeover undid years of neglect.

Nearly 400 volunteers, mostly Home Depot employees, converged on the Houston Independent School District campus toting power washers, paint rollers, shovels and truckloads of equipment to spruce up the grounds. That’s roughly one volunteer for every student at the Stella Link school where almost every child qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches.

It’s good to get out for a change and do some volunteering,” said Sarah Lockett, who handles purchase orders for paint and flooring materials at the Home Depot at Beltway 8 and Bellaire Boulevard. She spent much of the day pouring concrete slabs for three picnic benches in the Shearn courtyard.

HISD officials chose Shearn for the project because the school hasn’t received a significant renovation in several years.

When the workers finished, the children had a freshly resurfaced basketball court, new carpet, bookcases, landscaping and a baseball diamond. The teachers weren’t left out either. They got a refurbished lounge and new outfits from Jones New York. Every classroom now has a fresh coat of paint and new bulletin boards as part of the $50,000 effort.

“I’ve been teaching 23 years with HISD, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said teacher Beth Boggs. “We’re a smaller school, so we don’t get a lot of the perks.”

Other companies also pitched in for the makeover project coordinated by Volunteer Houston, a nonprofit group that links volunteers to the places that need them.

  • National Oilwell bought $5,000 worth of new library books.
  • Transocean spent $5,000 on building repairs.
  • Apache Corp. paid for a new baseball diamond and equipment, as well as landscaping.
  • UBS Investment Bank fixed up the basketball court.
  • Schlumberger fed all the workers. More than 100 volunteers from those companies also did the grunt work.

“It’s very hot out here, but it’s fun to do,” UBS employee Sandra Gonzalez said as she steadied a ladder beneath a basketball goal while colleague Sonya Rodriguez painted the backboard.

Inside the cafeteria, workers stood on scaffolding to paint the high walls, while others toiled in a corner near the food service line where they assembled bookshelves.

Fifth-grader Angel Martinez was among dozens of students using hammers and nails to build birdhouses, CD racks and shelves to take home.

“I’m building a shelf,” Angel said. “I’m going to hang it in my room to hang my trophies there.”

Fund for Teachers to hold sessions on obtaining grants

The Fund for Teachers will hold three informational sessions to help teachers learn about applying for the organization’s professional development grants.

The Fund for Teachers partners with the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide direct grants to teachers for summer professional development opportunities of their own design. Last year, more than 80 area teachers received grants.

Fund for Teachers grants are open to all Oklahoma teachers who have at least three years’ teaching experience, are full-time school employees and spend at least 50 percent of their time in a classroom setting.

Grant applications are available online at and must be postmarked no later than 12 a.m. Jan. 21.

Teachers can learn more about applying for the grants at the following sessions:

4-5 p.m. Nov 30, Redskin Room, Union Multipurpose Activity Center, 6836 S. Mingo Road.

4-5 p.m. Dec. 1, cafetorium, Fulton Teaching and Learning Academy, 8906 E. 34th St.

4-5p.m. Dec. 7, Broken Arrow Public Schools Central Learning Center, 210 N. Main St., Broken Arrow.

For more information, call (800) 681-2667

Private Education

Local philanthropy should enrich the public schools, but winds up having to provide basic support.

The Houston Chronicle

Texans are generous with their money and time, and education is a prime beneficiary. In a state with an adequate and equitable system of financing the public schools, philanthropy would enrich the learning of Texas children. As it is, private corporations and foundations are struggling just to keep the wheels from coming off the school bus.

According to the National Center for Education Information, 40 percent of the nation’s teachers plan to leave the profession in the next five years, almost twice the rate for 1990-1995. Retirement will account for the bulk of the departures from a teacher corps that has aged considerably. But many teachers will leave because they can’t make a living or burn out. Every time a teacher leaves, it costs some school district an estimated $11,500 to recruit, hire and develop a replacement.

The Texas Legislature’s response to these conditions has been a failure to give teachers a raise and the refusal to provide public schools adequate funding. Fortunately, private charities have been more constructive.

The Houston-based Fund for Teachers gives direct grants to teachers for summer sabbaticals of their own design. The grants have sent teachers abroad to sharpen language skills and experience cultural immersion. They have underwritten research to find better ways to teach children with learning disabilities.

The result: retention of experienced and talented teachers; improved classroom teaching; and more student excitement for learning.

H-E-B, the grocery company, supports education across Texas. In the Houston area, the company, its corporate partners and its customers have raised more than $1 million to pay for school supplies for needy children. The need is so great, the National Education Associate reports, that modestly paid teachers spend an average $1,200 of their own money on classroom supplies.

Every year, H-E-B also provides 50 teachers, principals and school districts with grants ranging up to $100,000 in recognition of excellence.

These are but two of the many organizations providing support for Houston-area public schools. Think of how much good they could do if Texas politicians had the decency to provide the basics.

Houston pours energy into Fund for Teachers Challenge for Teacher Support

Steve Farris left, and Leticia and Steve Trauber spearheaded the Energy for Teachers campaign that raised $3 million for the Fund for Teachers.

On a recent evening, as the price of crude oil ratcheted toward the milestone $50 mark, a loosely bound group of energy executives celebrated a $3 million windfall they had amassed on behalf of the Fund for Teachers.

In less than eight months from the Energy for Teachers campaign’s inauguration, the $3 million goal was met. Three cheers for Energy for Teachers chairs Leticia and Steve Trauber, global head of the Energy Investment Banking Group at UBS Investment Bank, and Steve Farris, Apache Corp. president and CEO.

“This was a great collaboration with the entire business community,” Trauber said.

“I think the city is back…And I think, obviously, within the energy sector, high commodity prices are making everybody feel good.”

It was this celebratory thank-you that found more than 300 energy execs and spouses and educators, who had benefited from the Fund for Teachers, sitting down to dinner recently in the InterContinental Houston ballroom.

“This energy business,” special guest Mayor Bill White said, “has a lot of people with big hearts and open wallets.”

The $3 million Houston campaign is part of a larger $50 million campaign taking place nationwide in cities with Fund for Teachers programs – New York, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver and Tulsa.

In remarks to the gathering, Fund for Teachers founder Raymond Plank, Apache chairman, explained the value of the program that provides direct grants to teachers to support learning opportunities of their own design. The funds are used for teacher travel and study during the summer months – providing learning experiences that they bring back to the classroom.

“It’s like baseball and apple pie,” Trauber explained.
“How could you not support it?”

Among those supporting the project were Nabors Industries’ Eugene Isenberg and Tony Petrello, ConocoPhillips’ J.J. Mulva, Anadarko’s Jim Hackett, Halliburton’s John Gibson, Marathon Oil’s Clarence Cazalot and Cooper Cameron’s Sheldon Erikson.

The evening’s program included a talk by Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and dance music by Mid-Life Crisis and the Hot Flashes.

View photos.

Shearn Elementary Gets an Extreme Makeover

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Couture Finds A Cause

Jones Apparel Group, Inc. has survived in the cutthroat world of fashion by keeping a laser-sharp focus on the preferences of its well-heeled audience. Hems at the knee? Shoulder pads out? Pink as the new neutral? JAG gets it, and probably a full season before its ready-to-wear competitors.

But successful brands go further than tweaking their merchandise, and continually look for ways to increase their relevance for consumers. In June 2004, JAG began tracking concerns beyond hemlines, with an eye to impacting the very fabric of its consumers’ and employees’ lives. Through surveys of the two groups, the company learned that each shared a top priority: children and education.

Within months, Jones had constructed its first corporate-wide philanthropic campaign, Jones New York In the Classroom. The four-tiered program, backed by a $1 million grant, aims to improve the quality of education by supporting teachers via fundraisers, partnerships and in-school activities.

“We exist for our consumers,” says Stacy Lastrina, senior VP-creative services, Jones Apparel Group. “They led us to [the education cause]. Consumers want to do more, but don’t always have the time. This gives them an opportunity to get involved.”

JAG’s initial grant will benefit four teachers’ organizations and address specific challenges within the profession: recruitment, retention, professional development, and recognition and support. By supporting teachers, the benefits will reach children, Lastrina says.

“Teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, yet there are very few programs for [them],” Lastrina says. “We want teachers to know there are resources out there and that teachers count.”

New York City-based marketing consulting firm The Leverage Group helped launch the program for JAG.

“Our research showed that employees and consumers are tremendously motivated by causes that address the needs of children,” says Dana DiPrima, executive VP of The Leverage Group. “Removing barriers to education was a critical concern.”

According to the In the Classroom Web site, between 30% to 50% of teachers leave the profession within three to five years. By 2010, the nation will need 2.2 million to 2.4 million teachers to fill the growing need.

The need recognized, JAG and Leverage then decided where to focus support. Following interviews with educators, administrators and agencies, they winnowed choices from more than 75 non-profit teacher organizations to four:

TeachersCount, a national organization that offers free teacher support services, resources and information.

New Teacher Academy, a support program for first-year teachers.

Fund For Teachers, a grant-giving organization that supports teachers’ summer professional development.

Adopt-A-Classroom, a national organization that links individuals and businesses to classroom needs.

Partnering up

JAG launched In the Classroom on May 2 by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange and handing out apples and hats to traders. The following day (May 3 — National Teacher’s Day), it kicked off globally via print ads and a guerilla marketing effort, as teachers and students rallied outside The Today Show in New York City.

Since then, JAG has adopted more than 100 classrooms; some 3,000 more teachers have registered to have their classrooms adopted; more than 80 teachers earned summer sabbaticals and more than 100 teachers have engaged in New Teacher Academy.

JAG is extending participation to its 7,000 corporate employees, offering three hours of paid time-off each month so staff can support the campaign. Some employees spend that time organizing activities for adopted classrooms.

Other employees across 23 JAG locations are organizing independent fund-raisers (think craft sales and bake sales), raising between $500 to $2,500 per event for the campaign, says Amy Rapawy, VP-marketing, Jones New York.

“Our associates led us to this cause,” she says. “It’s something they feel passionate about. The entrepreneurial spirit has really taken over.”

In addition, JAG is giving makeovers this month to teachers and their classrooms – complete with a Jones New York wardrobe – in five regions via its Back to School, Back to Style program. The June isssue of O magazine encouraged shoppers to nominate teachers online. Other partners include The Home Depot, Lane Furniture and Hancock Fabrics. Celebrity designer Laurie Smith from TLC’s Trading Spaces assists, adding trademark style to each classroom.

The program hits retail this fall, when JAG launches a dedicated Shop For Education Week from Oct. 15-22 in more than 250 Macy’s East, Macy’s West, Hechts and Carson Pirie Scott stores. Ten percent of the proceeds of JAG merchandise sales (up to $500,000) will go toward the cause. Consumers may treat themselves to mini-manicures or massages in the “teacher’s lounge” or samples goodies during “recess.” More than 60 teachers from area schools will participate in runway shows in the five markets and model Jones apparel. “We are putting [teachers] on the runway and treating them like the models they are,” Rapawy says.

For Macy’s, the partnership with JAG was a no-brainer, says Martine Reardon, executive VP-marketing for Macy’s. “Education was easy…for me to say ‘yes’ to. Children are very, very important to [what] Macy’s is about and what we want to support. It’s not about a sales generating idea. It’s more about giving back to the community in which we live.”

The retailer’s role could grow in future years, Reardon says.

“Anything we’ve ever done with Jones has always been a success for us,” she says. “We feel good there is potential for us to grow.”

The appeal extends to other retail partners. Gift retailer The Fruit Co. is assembling specially designed In The Classroom watercolor art boxes. “We really feel a special tie to this program,” says Scott Weber, president of The Fruit Co. “It’s great to be associated with Jones New York In The Classroom and the cause of helping education.”

The Fruit Co. plans to donate 20% of its gift sales used with the promotional code JYNYCLASS toward In the Classroom. The Hood River, OR-based company hopes to raise $1 million by year’s end.

Online, consumers can purchase apple car magnets (similar to the magnets that support U.S. military troops) branded with “Support America’s Teachers” via for $3 each, plus shipping.

“It’s a call to action,” DiPrima says. “What better real estate than the back of your car to show your support for teachers?””

Umm, maybe your chest? JAG will offer this fall a limited edition T-shirt created by New York City artist Ryan McGinness. The T-shirts will sell for under $20 at select Macy’s and other department stores, as well as 102 Jones New York outlets.

‘Strategic sense’

The Classroom initiative coincides with a pivotal time in JAG’s market positioning. Though it reported a nine-cent decline in earnings per share to $2.39 in 2004, JAG revenues rose 6.8% last year to $4.7 billion from $4.4 billion, largely due to the 2004 acquisitions of Barney’s and Maxwell Stores.

A philanthropic cause like In The Classroom, especially in partnership with Macy’s, makes sense, says Marie Driscoll, investment officer for New York City-based Standard & Poor’s Equity. Federated Department Stores, owner of Macy’s, accounted for 12% of JAG’s sales last year, she says. While the campaign itself won’t result in a big financial boost for JAG, it may yield a positive impact on the brand over the long term to increase its pricing and position, Driscoll says.

“It makes strategic sense to do this,” she says. “It’s a grassroots effort to connect with people and bring awareness to the fact that this is a valid cause. It’s a plus.”

In the Classroom isn’t JAG’s first grassroots foray. In 2003, it kicked off its Life Speaker Series and Wardrobe Seminars. The program, which included trunk shows, offered lectures on financial success, health, nutrition, stress and time management to women working in Fortune 500 companies. Boston-based Arnold Brand Promotions handled.

The brand reached more than 100 companies. Trunk show proceeds benefited the Women’s Alliance, a national organization that provides clothing, career skills training and other services to low-income women seeking employment.

“Jones really looks to what is important in women’s lives,” says Michael Carey, VP-group account director for Arnold. “They know what is important to those people aside from clothing. They look at what is important to consumers from a personal perspective to make that personal touch with someone.”

The women behind Jones New York Inside the Classroom are in full agreement.

“The goal is not to lift sales, but to make a difference and add value to the brand,” Rapawy says.

“Anyone who thinks a company initiating a cause marketing campaign is doing it to ring their registers is completely mistaken,” Lastrina says. “It will not get consumers to purchase a brand they do not already have an affinity for. It’s about extending the relationship.”

“This is just the beginning,” DiPrima promises.

Corporate Plunge

JAG execs get immersed in the cause

How to get employees to really back a fundraiser? Promise to get corporate bigwigs to provide sweat equity – literally! When Ellen Bowen, director of organizational development for Jones Apparel Group’s division Nine West Footwear, suggested company leaders wash employees’ cars raise money for In the Classroom, the response was overwhelming.

“It’s a fun way to turn the tables,” Bowen says. “The entire company embraced the idea.”

Sixteen division presidents and VPs rolled up their sleeves July 18 for the Get Washed Nine West Footwear Corp. Presidential Car Wash. For $10, employees received a car wash from the president or VP of their choice and an In the Classroom car magnet.

In all, more than 80 employees signed up for the event. The car wash raised over $2,000.

With corporate employees in the cause, Jones Apparel Group can “move the needle” and make a difference in teachers’ lives, Bowen says.

“Many of us are working women with children,” she says. “To have a cause that is close to home for us is really important. It is unique for a corporation to say, ‘We want you to volunteer.’ It sort of promotes a better balance in our lives. It’s a wonderful thing.” – AJ

Teachers’ Pets

Brands make the grade by helping schools

Other brands have recognized the importance of teachers and education via various marketing inititatives. Washington Mutual Bank rewarded teachers for their excellence with tickets to a Broadway show – 28,000 Saturday matinees to be exact. To celebrate its 2002 entry into New York City, Washington Mutual exhausted the supply of Broadway tickets and gave them to 14,000 teachers who were nominated by students and parents. In addition to the free show, teachers were treated to a pre-curtain rally in Times Square lauding teachers. The reward was part of Washington Mutual’s Spotlight on Teachers campaign, which won Best Overall and Best Idea or Concept in PROMO’s 2003 PRO Awards. Now in its sixth year, Delray Beach, FL-based Office Depot Inc. is renewing its 5% Back to Schools program, which offers schools the chance to earn free school supplies during the year. Under the program, shoppers select a school to receive a 5% credit for qualifying school supply purchases. Since its inception, Office Depot has awarded $10 million to more than 36,000 schools in the U.S. and Canada.In addition to the 5% Back to Schools program, the company runs a backpack donation program, in which each store donates backpacks to schools and associations to help underprivileged kids in their area.“Our focus is on children,” says Mary Wong, director of community relations for Office Depot. “There isn’t going to be a future without them.” That’s not all. Office Depot stores across the U.S. and Canada are hosting their 12th annual Teacher Appreciation Breakfasts to give area teachers an occasion to network and prepare for the upcoming school year. The program, designed to recognize and honor teachers for their work and thank them for their commitment to children, runs through Aug. 27. Teachers and administrators can visit to learn about this year’s list of scheduled breakfasts. More than 100,000 teachers and administrators participated in the program last year. – Amy Johannes

It’s Academic at Jones

NEW YORK – Having dressed countless teachers in classic tweeds and comfortable shoes, Jones Apparel Group is now reaching out to give them a helping hand.

The company next month will launch Jones New York in the Classroom, a multifaceted cause-marketing effort to improve the quality of education in the U.S.

“As diverse and as fragmented as women are, they stand unified in one area, and that is children,” said Stacy Lastrina, senior vice president of marketing.

Jones, purveyor of Jones New York and other brands as well as owner of Barneys New York, is using its status as one of fashion’s best-known companies to support teachers through the non-profit organizations TeachersCount, New Teacher Academy, Fund for Teachers and Adopt-A-Classroom.

“We’re hoping it starts to build momentum and takes on a life of its own,” said Lastrina.

The need for such a program is great, she said. Some 2.3 million new teachers will be needed in the U.S. by 2010, but the profession is not a top career choice and loses 30 to 50 percent of its entrants in three to five years. Additionally, teachers spend an average of $589 of their own money to ready their classrooms.

The program’s apple logo will be featured in Jones New York’s national advertising, and up to $500,000 of the brand’s sales during the first week of October will be donated to the four non-profit organizations.

Jones will also hold events, such as runway shows featuring teachers as models, to support the ongoing initiative.

The company polled its employees and consumers to come up with a cause that resonated with both groups. Education is also an area near and dear to Jones chief executive officer Peter Boneparth, who is an active guest lecturer at business schools, and who has said he might go into teaching if he should ever choose to leave fashion. On April 15, Boneparth was principal for the day at the Global Enterprise Academy in the Bronx.

To celebrate the new program, the ceo will ring the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange May2, the day before National Teacher Day.