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August 2, 2015

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Kids sell lemonade to try to save teachers’ jobs

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Leila Navidi

Principal Dale Slater talks to the students that raised money for the school by running a lemonade stand at Linda Givens Elementary School in Las Vegas Friday, May 20, 2011.

Lemonade Money for School

Fifth grader Grant Goodwin, clockwise from top left, second grader Kendall Ruberio, fourth grader Alana Sullivanm first grader Renae Sullivan, fourth grader Gracie Goodwin and kindergartner Kylynn Ruberio gather in front of their school Linda Givens Elementary School in Las Vegas Friday, May 20, 2011. The studenst raised almost $50 running a lemonade stand and have donated the money to their school. Launch slideshow »

Several youngsters recently walked up to Givens Elementary School Principal Rick Slater and handed him a small plastic bag that held $27 and change. They wanted to help, wanted to save teachers’ jobs at their Summerlin school. Slater was stunned.

Six students had earned the money, plus another $20 from a second fundraiser, by building a lemonade stand in their neighborhood and asking customers to donate what they thought was appropriate for cups of lemonade, the rims carefully ringed with fresh lemons.

Some gave pennies, quarters, dollar bills. One man kicked in $10. A week later the children operated a second lemonade stand at a neighborhood park. They were passing the hat to fill the void left by the state’s budget crisis, which threatens deep cuts in education, including layoffs.

Fourth-grader Gracie Goodwin explains Southern Nevada’s economic reality: “There aren’t enough jobs. There aren’t enough people buying houses.”

Slater has been in education for more than three decades. He’s in his 60s, nearing retirement, dotes over his grandchildren, has the amiable demeanor of a man who genuinely cares about children. He’s not one to seek attention or controversy, but he’s about to lose 6 1/2 teaching positions. Class sizes will grow at his school by one to 10 students depending on the grade level, with fifth-grade teachers having as many as 39 in a class.

Second-grader Kendall Ruberio, who has the wisdom and awareness of a much older child, succinctly explains her thoughts behind the fundraisers. “If we don’t have enough teachers we won’t have a good school,” she says. Fourth-grader Alana Sullivan jumps in as her nonprofit business partners stand nearby. “If you don’t get a good education, you won’t be able to read and write,” she says.

Kendall and Alana know nothing about the political back story — the haggling over state tax policy, per-pupil spending, redistricting, electoral politics, education reform — but they sense the tension, hearing of teachers who are about to disappear from their school.

Givens is one of the district’s better performing schools on standardized tests. It has active parent groups that seek accountability from their children and the school’s teachers and administrators. Teachers often seek transfers to the school rather than from it. Its $73,000 supply budget for textbooks, paper, computers and toner for printers is about to be cut in half. The lemonade money could be used to buy some paper or toner cartridges. Slater hasn’t decided yet how to spend it.

Children do not pass through our lives unaware of the challenges created by grown-ups. They hear the conversations, sense the body language and tension. This group of six has a sense of social responsibility and community activism, although none would call it that. They might have a third fundraiser. Their motivation is simple.

“It wouldn’t be fair if the next group of fifth-graders didn’t have supplies to do science experiments,” fifth-grader Grant Goodwin says.

Slater smiles as the youngsters share their thoughts, but his eyes reflect other emotions as he looks to the two plastic bags with $47.73.

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