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Web site helps donors choose the cause they want to support

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD When the Classical High School class of 1957 decided they wanted to do something special for their 50th reunion, class members approached the Springfield School Department to make a donation to the special education program to honor one of their classmates.

What they discovered, class member Larry Derose said, was the $10,000 the class raised would go into the School Department's general fund and not necessarily be spent on classroom programs as they wished.

The class's solution was to work with the Web site On June 13, the class will formally present $10,000 at a ceremony at a press conference in the atrium of the former Classical High School now the Classical Condominiums.

Derose explained that by using the DonorChoose Web site, people with funding to donate can select a specific project suggested by a teacher. This method bypasses governmental red tape.

The Web site asks public school teachers, after meeting eligibility requirements, to write a specific one-page synopsis about a need that would assist their school or program. After screening, the request is listed on the Web site. Donors can fund a request in part or completely through DonorChoose and receive a tax deduction. DonorChoose will alert the principal of the school, purchase the necessary materials and ship them to the school and teacher.

DonorChoose then asks the teacher to provide thank-you notes from the students, which are then forwarded to the donor or donors.

As of May 28, there were two Springfield teachers with requests on the Web site.

One teacher wrote, "I work in a public inner-city, under-funded and cramped school in Massachusetts. We are desperately in need of a fighting chance.

"These kids are great. Despite the lack of resources, we manage day-to-day...A part of this is creating a welcoming, warm, prepared environment in which they can learn and grow. Our middle school is housed in two rather small rooms, and that is it. Imagine hormonal 7th and 8th graders cramped in only two rooms, which are shared by four teachers. I kid you not. Unfortunately, these kids lack organization and, simply put, a place where they can just store their binders, books, etc. throughout the day. Transitions from one class to another are often chaotic, causing management issues, making it difficult to get them settled and on-task.

"To not take away from their learning time, the quickest, easiest, cheapest solution is to provide them with a storage area where they can put their things throughout the day, so that when they need to transition, they can put their previous class's materials away and access the new ones for their next class. Thus making for smoother transitions and enhanced learning time. To make sure there are no miscommunications, I've asked for a label maker, as well to make very clear labels of each student's name to place on each cubby (this is good especially as the middle school child is often territorial, and, the labels will help students with learning/reading disabilities) ... My middle school students need a label maker and two 24-cubby storage units to keep books. The cost of this proposal is $796, which includes shipping for any materials requested and fulfillment."

The other Springfield teacher wrote, "I teach Chinese at Central High School in Massachusetts. The Chinese program at Central High provides Chinese classes from level one to level four. With the request of parents and students, Chinese level five will be provided next school year 2008-2009, and I am thinking of providing a Chinese AP class also.

"To meet the course expectation of Chinese level five and an AP class, it is important to implement computer-aided learning programs in the Chinese classes. I would like to teach the students to learn to use Chinese Word-processors and an online dictionary.

"As typing Chinese texts on a computer is different from typing English texts, inputting Chinese characters requires one to choose from various input methods. Using the Pinyin input method is one of the most popular and easiest methods to type Chinese texts and can enhance the student's capability in recognizing and memorizing characters and learning the words.

"I am requesting a laptop computer with which I can set up my Chinese Word-processor in class. The word-processor is obviously a useful tool in learning the Chinese language and has the capability of displaying Chinese Pinyin fonts with tone markers. It also has an electronic dictionary. "This Chinese language-learning tool will help the students to improve their high communication skills in both spoken and written Chinese. The AP and level five Chinese classes will be designed to teach students more writing and reading skills. "The students will be asked to use Chinese word processors to complete many types of assignments: composing, editing and desktop publishing. For reading comprehension, the students will be asked to use the online dictionary to learn the pronunciation and meaning of the new words (Chinese characters). The online Chinese dictionary can also help the students to build their own vocabulary lists .

"My students need a laptop computer to help them learn Chinese. The cost of this proposal is $1,079, which includes shipping for any materials requested and fulfillment."

Derose believes the Web site will provide a simple and direct way for people throughout the region to support a specific school project.