BY MARTIN PAGE
Crowdfunding is the practice of using online sites to solicit donations, whether monetary or in-kind. A crowdfunding campaign is considered to be on behalf of the school system if it uses imagery or language that would lead a reasonable person to believe that (1) the school system is associated with the campaign or (2) the campaign has the purpose or effect of providing resources or a benefit to the school system.
A lot of positive aspects are associated with using crowdfunding for projects in the Iredell-Statesville school system. I understand that. However, everyone must realize the unregulated use of crowdfunding can subject both our school system and our employees creating the crowdfunding project to potentially significant legal liability.
The board of education’s legal duty is to protect our system and employees from possible liability. Therefore, principals need oversight and control based on board policy over both the products purchased and used in classrooms as well as the fundraising mechanisms used to purchase them.
A large issue for our school system is unapproved and or illegal products in our classrooms. Both the fire and insurance inspectors routinely write us up for unapproved / illegal furniture and wall hangings in our classrooms. This can result in fines and higher insurance rates.
Bleach-containing wipes and unapproved electronics also cause possible liability issues. Computers and other media devices not compatible with our network and firewall can also be problematic.
Any time money is involved within our system, a great deal of responsibility and record keeping must document the proper use of these funds. The board must protect our staff and system from any possible accidental or perceived financial impropriety.
At the Iredell-Statesville Schools Committee of the Whole meeting on January 6, 2020, the board was introduced to a five-page recommended policy prepared by North Carolina School Board Association lawyers.
Iredell-Statesville Schools, as well as most North Carolina school districts, contracts with this organization to monitor changes in state and federal laws that affect school board policies. NCSBA also has many other national and state resources at their disposal.
This document was simply an introduction to this NCSBA-recommended policy for the boards consideration. The board asked for more information and legal advice before proceeding in making any decisions on this policy.
As with most policy decisions, the decision will not be simple. This board wants to give principals and teachers as much freedom as we can. Between local, state, and federal regulations, as well as legal opinions, that desire is not as easy as one would think.
Personally, I feel we must not allow unapproved crowdfunding or any other unapproved fund raising. The board needs to develop and approve policies and procedures allowing controlled, carefully considered fundraising procedures that protect both the staff and school system.
I’ll make one more comment about instructional supplies. Last year I-SS provided over 1.55 million dollars directly to our schools for instructional supplies. This is approximately $1,000 per teacher. How this money is spent is up to the principal, along with staff and school improvement team input.
Iredell-Statesville Schools is funded 111th out of the 115 school systems in North Carolina. Because of state funding, I-SS struggles to provide the needs and wants of our schools and teachers. Can fundraising help? Sure, but it must be done correctly. Please be patient while the board does its due diligence in developing a policy that protects our school system and staff.
I am not speaking for the I-SS Board of Education. These comments represent my opinion.
Martin Page is chairman of the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education.