Aug 19 2011

Joanne Taylor of Boise writes winning grant for Cynthia Mann Elementary School


Joanne Taylor of Boise comments on most recent grant win:

I wouldn’t want to get in the habit of writing about every grant I win, but I’m really excited about the most recent one. Maybe it’s because the grant funds will benefit the school that my daughters attend. Or, perhaps it’s because I wrote the grant as a volunteer, and there’s something satisfying about doing something just for the sake of doing it, and affecting change, even if in a small way.

Feeling frustrated and wanting to do something to help Boise schools in the wake of budget and staff cuts, not to mention rash legislation that serves private interests, I volunteered to write a few grants for Cynthia Mann Elementary School.

I have always been impressed with the teachers, staff and principal at Cynthia Mann, and have often thought about what the place would be like without them, should their jobs be eliminated or they decide to seek a new career. How would other kids acquire the love for reading and math that my girls acquired without first grade teacher Wendy Leadbetter? How would they discover that learning can be fun and teachers can sometimes be silly without Tina Kambitsch? How would they learn that at school, like everywhere else, kindness and respect towards others is essential?

Those thoughts led me to action. I asked some of the teachers at Cynthia Mann what they needed most in order to continue to progress and/or keep up with current teaching methods.  Interactive whiteboards were mentioned most often. I worked with Cynthia Mann PTA President Amy Stahl and Principal Rick Bollman to complete two grants in hopes of raising enough money to cover the costs for 5 whiteboards, 5 wireless adapters, and installation fees.  Total amount needed: $9,836.80.

We were awarded $4,836.80 from Boise Public Schools Education Foundation and are waiting on word from Micron on an additional $4,000.  Cynthia Mann’s PTA helped out, raising $1,200. In addition, the school received two used whiteboards from the Boise School District—all-in-all, a fantastic return on our efforts, thanks to teamwork and determination.

We made a difference. A small difference, but it’s a start. Please think today about what you might be able to do to help kids, teachers and staff at public schools.

“Most students enjoy interacting, manipulating, and working with the whiteboard. It is quite impressive to see reluctant learners, who have previously been hesitant to interact during class discussions, are now more excited to “come to the board” and share their results, style of learning, or process in which the solved the answer.”

-Kimberly Amburn, 5th Grade Teacher at Cynthia Mann and interactive whiteboard user


Feb 9 2011

Boise-based Joanne Taylor PR weighs in on Tom Luna’s public education reform plan


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Below is a copy of a letter Joanne Taylor of Boise (that’s me!) wrote to Idaho legislators that represent District 16.* The letter voices concerns about Tom Luna’s proposed public education reform plan.  Many thoughts and opinions have been expressed about the plan but there might be a few new ones here. Please feel free to comment and, if you feel strongly about this issue, please consider writing to your legislators.

Dear Representative Higgins,

My name is Joanne Taylor. I live in Boise (District 16) and have two children who attend Cynthia Mann Elementary School.

I do not take writing to you lightly. It is the first time I have done so, as I have reserved my voice for a time when needed most.

That time is now.

I am very concerned about the education reform plan Tom Luna has proposed. There are many reasons for my concern, but I will focus on three.

The first is class size. My 4th-grader, a straight-A student this year, has 29 classmates. While she maintains good grades, she, like all the other students in her class, gets very little attention from her teacher. This isn’t because the teacher is not adequate or caring. It’s because there are only so many hours in the day, and just keeping order in a classroom that size is a full-time job. In order to keep up, the teacher arrives early and leaves late–oftentimes, after 7 p.m.

This situation is not uncommon. Before making a vote on the proposed education reform plan, I urge you to sit in on a classroom of this size for one day, so that you can get a clear picture of the dynamics of an over-crowded classroom, and the challenges it presents to the teacher and the students.

My second concern is the provision of laptops to high school students. I ask you to consider whether careful consideration has been given to the cost of maintaining thousands of laptops throughout the state. IT support, a help desk, software upgrades, laptop repairs, losses due to theft and/or damage, virus fixes, and recovery of identify theft should be among the time and costs that are tallied and accounted for in Luna’s plan.

In addition to maintenance and repair costs, questions of possible abuse must be addressed. Porn sites, social media networks, and online dating services are among a host of distractions that unsupervised use of laptops will put at the fingertips of teenagers.

My third concern is lack of motivation on the part of state leaders to find alternative solutions to close the budget gap in order to minimize public education cuts. I’ve heard of two such solutions in the past two weeks–the sale of the empty and costly “Governor’s Mansion,” and privatization of state liquor stores. Both ideas have been rejected.

Another alternative, which there is very little talk of but great need, is the pursuit of federal and private grants. The federal government and private foundations are offering hundreds of grants to help fund public education. Grant funds are used for school programs, curriculum development, professional development for teachers, technology equipment and software, and technological training. One school district in Nevada, the Washoe County School District, raised $63 million dollars last year through the application of grants. If every student does indeed come first, perhaps the state should explore how it might work with Idaho school districts to develop a strategic plan to apply for and win federal and private grants.

As a Representative for District 16, please take into account these concerns, as well as others voiced by your constituents.

Thank you,

Joanne Taylor, Boise

*District 16 legislators are Les Bock, Grant Burgoyne and Elfreda Higgins.

Mar 2 2010

Pepsi: A bad social media day at the office


The Pepsi Refresh Project is a good study in social media campaigns. Pepsi has had multiple communication issues and technical difficulties. As a result, the company has received bad press from a wide range of news and information sources–from Tech Crunch to The New York Times.

Tech Crunch headlines Pepsi’s campaign as “Social Media Gone Awry.” The New York Times says, “Pepsi Charity Contest Trips Over Its Own Submission Rules.”

Why, if you’re a company the size of Pepsi, with the best possible resources at your feet, would you fumble like this? Common sense (and several failed/bad social media campaigns) tells us that the last place you want to mess up is among a bunch of social media enthusiasts who, by the way, are also consumers. Extremely vocal consumers.

Besides the communication issues and technical problems, I am suspect of the number of people who post comments saying, “Pepsi is the best soft drink ever” and “I love Pepsi.” This one is good: “I’m drinking Pepsi right now. I love it!”

Anyway, I have personally been involved in the Pepsi Refresh campaign. I have been working with the Boise Public Schools Foundation and a BSU PR student to vie for a grant for Boise public schools. Our idea is called “Refresh Boise Public Schools.” We submitted it on Feb. 1 for voting in March. But we found out yesterday that the submission had not been accepted. Pepsi said we would know one way or the other two weeks after submission. Then it became 3 weeks. Then it became Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. We weren’t notified until March 1 at 3 p.m. By that time, it was too late to resubmit our application for the next round of voting! Worse yet, we aren’t able to access our application to make modifications. So, we’ll have to start over. Other people have had similar problems. And, several are complaining about celebrities being able to vie for the grants, etc. Go to the Pepsi Refresh Facebook fan page and you’ll see what I’m talking about/can make your own assessment.

I expect we’ll hear more about this-through every medium imaginable. Time to pay attention, Pepsi, or the bad day you’ve had could turn into a year.