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Parents help fund science teacher position

The job was at risk in 2011 when anonymous donor who had been funding it pulled out, but parents worked together to form foundation to save it.

December 13, 2012|By Jeremiah Dobruck
  • Tricia Lamb a science teacher at Kaiser Elementary School teaches a class about measuring the capacity of containers to third graders Anthony Pizarro, 9, left, Libby Triebwasser, 9, and Bryan Lopez, 8, right, on Wednesday. For two years, parents at Woodland and Kaiser elementary schools have donated money to keep a dedicated science teacher.
Tricia Lamb a science teacher at Kaiser Elementary School… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Parents at Woodland and Kaiser elementary schools started an experiment in 2010. Now, after two rounds of privately funding a dedicated science teacher, they have a simple conclusion:

"It works," said Tricia Lamb, the teacher funded by the Kaiser Woodland Schools Foundation.

Lamb holds one of two dedicated science positions at the twin elementary schools. When her job was at risk of disappearing in 2011, parents fought to keep Lamb in the lab and kids experimenting with fulcrums, sound and states of matter.

"This is not book science. This is laboratory science," said Andy Peters, the foundation's chairman. "The more science education you provide, the better students do."

By digging into their bank accounts, hosting fundraisers and writing grant applications, parents have helped double the percentage of fifth-grade students deemed proficient or advanced in science, Peters said.

For about 15 years, an anonymous donor funded one dedicated science teacher at Kaiser, which serves grades 3-6, and its feeder school Woodland, which serves grades K-2.

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In 2006, the two schools got a second science teacher thanks to an Irvine Co. grant for science education throughout the district.

But in 2010, parents started hearing whispers that their anonymous donor might pull out, eliminating Lamb's position.

"When I found out this job was going to go away … I sat there and I bawled for the weekend," Lamb said. She previously worked as a third- and fourth-grade teacher and likely would have returned to that, but she called teaching science her passion.

Not wanting to lose Lamb or a dedicated science position, parents scrambled, forming the foundation in 2010 and receiving final word in early 2011 that the donor had indeed pulled out.

"From late February to basically the end of May was all we had to make the commitment," Peters said. "So we had to figure out what are we going to do in order to generate enough resources in just a couple of months."

In 2011, they funded a science class — salary, insurance, lab equipment, field trips and more — at 60%.

"Our biggest contributor was the science teacher herself, who agreed to work a 60% contract for the year," Peters said. Through fundraisers, ongoing donations from parents and a fireworks stand that netted $12,000, parents met a $70,000 goal.

The results, parents say, are worth the price tag.

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