Lady Gaga funds local teacher projects in wake of shooting

Dayton Public Schools policy however prohibits crowdfunding

Some Dayton-area teachers got a fundraising boost this week thanks to music star Lady Gaga, but Dayton Public Schools staff did not benefit because of the district for the moment bans staff from receiving funds from crowdfunding efforts.

Lady Gaga announced Friday that her Born This Way Foundation had fully funded all classroom projects from Dayton, El Paso, Texas, and Gilroy, Calif., that were listed on a crowdfunding website called Donors Choose. The three communities were all hit by mass shootings in an eight-day span.

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The singer’s post said “14 classrooms in Dayton, 125 classrooms in El Paso, and 23 classrooms in Gilroy will now have access to the support they need to inspire their students to work together and bring their dreams to life.”

According to the Donors Choose site, the requests Lady Gaga funded included a classroom table in Mad River schools, an area rug at a Clayton elementary, books at the Miami Valley Academies charter school, and a table and soft chairs at the Richard Allen charter school in Dayton.

Some of those projects had already been partially funded via regular crowdfunding donors, and Gaga’s foundation covered the rest of the cost.

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Projects from Dayton Public Schools are not listed on the site, however, because last September the school board approved a policy prohibiting school employees from launching crowdfunding campaigns on behalf of Dayton Public Schools or any individual school.

The board made its decision after the Ohio Auditor’s office encouraged schools to set formal crowdfunding policies. The Auditor’s office said allowing the donations without rules created the potential for improper project requests or donations being diverted for private use.

At the time, Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said DPS had funding streams available for many items that teachers can tap into. But with no mechanism to track crowdfunding, she said DPS didn’t want to make “an error in judgment” by allowing the process and then not having the manpower to control it.

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School board Vice President Jocelyn Rhynard said Sunday that the board voted to prohibit crowdfunding just to create time to review the best policy going forward. She said after getting advice from the Ohio School Boards Association, she had hoped to make progress this summer, but the two school board policy committee meetings did not have a quorum.

“We have a policy meeting I believe on Aug. 20 before the review meeting where this will be on the agenda,” Rhynard said. “It’s frustrating that we don’t have policy put in place, but we want to make sure that this is done thoughtfully with all of the contingencies worked out beforehand so there are fewer problems afterward.”

Rhynard said the draft policy would make Donors Choose the sole permitted crowdfunding site for DPS staff, with guidelines on what projects can be pursued.

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“It does need to be in line with academic goals, and there should be somebody (from DPS) who oversees it, just in case something (is proposed) that takes away from our mission,” she said.

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