DERBY — A private, online fundraiser launched by parent Jason Griffith raised $12,820 in a few weeks to help parents cover the cost of hot lunches at Derby Elementary School.
Griffith presented a check for $12,433.05 to Principal Stacey Urbin on Friday morning.
Now the school board has to decide whether to accept the donation, and how to allocate it so that it meets the intent of Griffith’s donors and the school’s policies, says John Castle, superintendent of North Country Supervisory Union.
Castle said it makes sense to accept the donation, but the challenge will be in applying it.
“It appears Mr. Griffith was well-intentioned,” Castle said.
The fundraiser is in the school’s name, without the school’s endorsement, he said.
The board is expected to discuss the matter Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m. in the school.
Griffith, an area body and tattoo artist who has a strong online presence, launched the fundraiser on Facebook in early September, saying some parents have trouble paying the daily hot lunch cost for their youngsters.
He gained online support quickly. Griffith shut down the fundraiser Friday at a total of $12,820, paying $391.95 of that to Facebook for their online donation services, and donating the rest to the school. He was shy of his $15,000 goal.
Griffith said he opted to present the check now rather than to give it to the school board Oct. 1.
The money is intended specifically for the hot lunch program to help parents, he said Friday.
The cost for hot lunch at Derby Elementary is $2.70 for hot lunch and $1.75 for hot breakfast, Castle said. A majority of students at the school take advantage of the hot lunch program, but some do bring their own lunch.
The school has a free and reduced hot lunch program which covers many students, where the federal government funds lunches and breakfasts for students whose families meet a lower income standard, Castle said.
Under this program, parents who can’t afford hot lunch for their youngsters do not have to pay, he said. Those who earn more than the threshold must pay, he added.
Castle said there are always some parents who do not pay some of their hot lunch bill by the end of a school year.
The donation from Griffith’s private fundraiser could cover some of that. Castle said. He did not know as of Friday how far the donation will go or how many parents it would help.
Castle said he is concerned that a donation like this might create an unintended consequence, a disincentive for some parents to pay their bills, leaving the school board with the difficulty of figuring out who should deserve support from Griffith’s donation.
Asking parents to pay the outstanding bills is already a challenge for schools, Castle said. “We are not a collection agency.”
Griffith said he understands that the school administration and school board may have to figure out how to apply the donation.
He said he did not want to attend the school board meeting and have a discussion or argument about how they should use the money.
Castle said he arranged a meeting with Griffith recently about the donation, but Griffith did not attend.
Castle said he welcomes donations for any school, but he said he also has concerns about anyone seeking to raise money privately, in person or online, without seeking school backing first.
If anyone were to run a scam fundraiser, with people willingly giving money to what they think is a school-supported fundraiser, it would reflect badly on the school, Castle said.
“We have a real reluctance” to do any fundraisers without school support, he said.
Even a well-intentioned fundraiser may be for a cause that the school doesn’t want to pursue, he added.
Griffith said he understood that concern, but he wanted to help parents and said he wouldn’t have done anything differently.