“What we noticed from our kids and things that go on in schools and what we hear… is that a lot of times, now especially with the budget cuts, that a lot of the funding is not there for the things that are needed,” parent Brian Blair said.
Blair, along with several other parents of HIS students, decided something needed to be done to help the education of not only their children, but all children in the HIS system.
In September, this group of concerned parents formed Individuals Supporting Bulldog Education (ISBE), a non-profit organization through which money would be raised to purchase materials and technology needed by the school system, but that the school system could not afford to purchase on its own.
“We don’t want our kids to fall behind,” Blair, who is now the vice president of ISBE, said. “We want them to have at least an equal opportunity to have the same things that the other kids in the state do.”
ISBE’s first and founding goal is to make sure every classroom in the city school system contains Smart Board technology, something they say is necessary in order for teachers to teach the new Singapore math curriculum recently adopted by the system.
“Once we get to the point where everybody that wants one (a Smart Board) has one, then we’ll move on to something else that they need,” Blair said.
Blair said the group also wanted to have accountability for what donations made through them would be used. He said if someone gives money to a sports team, they don’t really know exactly for what that money is being used. However, he said when someone donates to ISBE, they will know what that money is buying and will see the result of their donation.
Laura Pelfry, one of the ISBE board members, said part of the group’s mission to be accountable is to make sure the Smart Board technology is being used properly and that the technology isn’t simply gathering dust.
“We want to make sure … that they’re not just put in there and just sitting there,” Pelfry said.
Blair said ISBE hopes to have a group of people go into the classrooms in which ISBE Smart Boards have been placed and assess the use of them by the teachers. If teachers feel as if they need more training, Blair said ISBE may concentrate on paying for this training in the future.
Right now, ISBE is entirely dependent upon donations from the community, with large donations from Sykes, the William D. Gorman Fund, David and Susie Duff and Pine Branch Coal Sales, starting their donation-gathering in a “big way,” Blair said.
Rebecca Fletcher, ISBE’s treasurer and secretary, said large donations are very helpful and ISBE is grateful for them, but what the group is more interested in continuing donations.
“We’re interested more so in the smaller, individual monthly donations so that we can continue to grow upon those donations so … we will have a fund to sustain us and keep the monthly donations going,” Fletcher said. She added that any local business that would be willing to donate to ISBE through payroll deductions would be more than welcome to do so.
Blair said ISBE will be targeting alumni and teachers of HIS, parents and grandparents of students in the school system and local businesses for donations through pledge letters which will be sent home with every student in the system in the coming weeks. He said any donation amount would be accepted.
“We’re not looking to break anybody up,” Blair said, adding that he felt people wouldn’t mind to donate so long as they knew where the money was going. “We would accept fifty cents, especially is that’s the most they (people) feel like they can give.”
He said all donations are tax-deductible and that it will be the people of the community making small, monthly donations that will keep the group alive and able to help the school system.
Fletcher said the group’s first smart board, which was purchased by Sykes, was installed recently and is now being used by the teacher, citing that as a positive result of their hard work since September. Blair said Smart Board technology has been around for years, and that he felt HIS was behind other systems in having it in every classroom. With the installation of that first ISBE Smart Board, this is something Blair said ISBE hopes to remedy.
“We’re just trying to push forward and stay current with what technology is out there,” Blair said.
He also said ISBE is focusing on installing Smart Boards in the Walkertown and Roy G. Eversole first because Hazard High School already had a high number of Smart Boards, and the board members of ISBE felt it would be more beneficial for students to have access to this technology while they are young and continue it through high school so they will have experience in using it and grow with it.
“If we can concentrate on the younger kids and the middle school kids … they’ll get to use them over their entire educational career,” Blair said.
Fletcher said exposing younger children to the technology would better prepare them for life outside the HIS system.
“The more exposure you can give (students) at a younger level, the more comfortable they’re going to be with (the technology) as they go through school and as they get into the workforce and into being a productive adult,” Fletcher said.
Blair said ISBE hopes to hold teacher forums in the future in which teachers would be able to come to the group with ideas and suggestions about what they and the school system most need, but don’t have money to purchase. He said the group would be glad to consider all suggestions and help purchase as many necessary items for the school system as possible.
“We want to provide the nuts and bolts so they (the students) can get a good education,” Blair said.
For Dale Williams, ISBE board member, creating this group and buying educational materials for the school system was a way to show support for the future of the Hazard school system’s students.
“You’ve got teachers (in the system) that are dying to use this technology, but (they’re) not getting funding enough in that small system to afford it,” Williams said. “Our goal is help them get what they need to help our own children.”
Williams added that even though most of the board members have children currently attending school in the HIS system, ISBE was trying to help not only those children, but all children in the system.
“We see that there’s a need that the Hazard city school system is having a difficult time supplying all the materials that’s needed,” Williams said. “We’re not doing it just for our children, but we see it because we have children there.”
Blair added that he hopes the community will have trust in ISBE and want to donate because they will be able to see exactly what they’re donations are being used to purchase, stating that the donations will only be used to help the children of the community excel in their careers.
“We’re not paying anybody’s salary, and any of us are not looking to gain any wealth out of this,” Blair said. “We just want to provide for the kids and make sure that they have the best opportunity to get a good education.”