Sunday, August 30, 2009

Q&A: Listing Schools & "vetting" teachers

In this post, I would like to answer two of the questions we are most often asked.

1. Principals and teachers from around the country having been asking us how Supply Our Schools decides which schools to include in our efforts.

It is simple, we get our list of schools from the NCES database. If a school is not listed on the Supply Our Schools website, see if you can find it on this page: http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schooLSearch/.

The NCES database is updated from time to time, so it might just be a case of SOS needing to update our records.

2. Donors often ask us how we "vet" teachers. I.e., they want to know if the teachers who have built Supply Lists are legitimate.

There is a simple answer to this: most people are honest and good and will not abuse a system like Supply Our Schools. Invariably, there are some people who will not act honorably, but as Gandhiji said, "Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Supply Our Schools relies on this reality.

On a more commercial note, there really isn't a thriving black market for crayons and copies of the Hound of Baskervilles. The fact is, there is little profit to be had from scamming this particular system.

That said, there is a loose framework that helps reduce the likelihood of abuse.

First, Donors have a choice of which teacher they would like to buy supplies for. Each teacher has the opportunity to write a Profile, which is a little write-up about themselves and their classrooms. These profiles provide quite a bit of insight into the teachers' experiences and passion for teaching.

Second, Donors have a choice of which supplies to buy for any teacher. One potential donor was in a lather about the huge number of USB drives a teacher had requested. The fact is, if you think a classroom does not need USB drives, then don't buy them. It is as simple as that.

Third, Supply Our Schools ships all supplies directly to the school and we use a tracking system to determine when the package was delivered and who signed for it. It is hard to scam a system if you have to get your packages from the school administration office.

Finally, next to every teacher's name is listed the number of donations they have received and the acknowledgments they have written. As with the Teacher Profiles, these thank you notes provide a lot of insight.

Hopefully, this explanation helped a bit. If not, let me know.

Enjoy your Sunday!
Radhika

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