Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What we're doing...and reading

The handful of you who follow this blog regularly may be wondering what gives...why no recent updates? Basically, I've been so incredibly busy with other things -- too busy. At the moment, I am part of a team of three people launching a massive marketing campaign on behalf of the kids' school. Okay, "massive" is a relative term -- but considering we're three people, it seems massive. In Minnesota, the only funding that charter schools receive is per-pupil state aid (regular public schools associated with a school district get to pass local levies). Over the past couple years, the school's enrollment has dropped -- not by a lot, but when each student brings $5,300 in state aid, that adds up quickly. (The reasons are various -- more competition, declining overall student population, plus other factors.) Plus, the state legislature, in its eternal wisdom, has decided to "borrow" (=raid) 25% of school funding for the past few budget cycles. School districts can borrow short-term loans to cover that cost, but charter schools don't have that ability.

That means that this year we've seen lots of cuts, including the loss of fourth grade band, our foreign language program, and half of our classroom assistants. (The latter cut was recently restored.) And teacher salaries, which were low to begin with, have remained frozen for years, which has meant high turnover.

The only factor that we control in this equation is enrollment, so our marketing committee's goal is to achieve full enrollment next year. That would bring in maybe $132,000 in additional funds. Unfortunately, we're starting from absolutely nothing. Parts of our website haven't even been touched since before 2003. Heck, most of our website wasn't even indexed by Google! And we had no brochures or literature to pass out to anyone inquiring about the school, and no publicity campaign (to the local media) whatsoever, no ads, nothing. So over the past few weeks I have been busy, with the help of a couple other people, creating print ads, brochures, internal flyers (to educate our families about the advantages of their school so they can spread the word to friends and neighbors), videos, a new web pages...there's more, but you get the idea.

It is NUTS. Frankly, I don't have time for this, but that's what I said all last year, and no one stepped forward to take it on, and the funding situation just got worse, so here we are. I've told people I'm basically going to be "gone" beginning February 1 to prepare for the adoption.

Speaking of which, we're kind of in a lull in adoption land. Most of the paperwork is off, although those fun-loving bureaucrats like to keep us on our toes by demanding entirely new documents every week or so.

One of the ways we keep our spirits up is to read the adoption blogs being kept by other families who have gone through the adoption process or are going through it now. It is also great preparation, in terms of learning what we might expect. If anyone else wants to follow these to get a bit of a window into our "vicarious" adoption journey, here's what we're reading. I will post these in the sidebar, too.

Bringing Winston Home
This blog is interesting mainly because the couple adopted this past summer from the same city that we're adopting from. In fact, we spent more than an hour talking on the phone with the mom a little while ago, just to figure out what to expect. The blog is no longer updated, but go back to July and you can get a bit of a sense of what it will be like when we go over there. Except that when we go, it won't be July. It will be cold!

Bringing AJ Home
This is the blog of the Putz family, who are adopting AJ -- better known to those who have followed our own adoption journey as "Anthony." They already have an Anthony at home, so they needed to give him a new name! We fund-raised and prayed and prayed for Anthony for many months, so it is heartwarming to read about them finally meeting him, and getting to know him. He has warmed up to his new parents very quickly! Lots of video of them playing with him in the orphanage visiting room. He is an amazing kid who far outshines his severe CP. This is a private blog, but if you want an invitation, e-mail us and we will see whether Leann would be willing to add you. (It is private mostly to avoid spammers.)

Asking with Faith
This is the blog of a remarkable 17-year-old young woman who is VERY passionate about helping kids in need all over the world. She was one of two tireless advocates for Alex, raising money and pleading an praying for an adoptive family. Her own family just adopted a nine-year-old from Bulgaria; scroll back in her blog to November or so to see her story. Joanna is currently preparing to travel to Uganda to work with orphans there -- but she is in need of funding. You can help out by purchasing some of the cool stuff she is selling to raise money (see this post).

Three More Jacobsons
Here's a family that is attempting to adopt three kids! Their process is even more complicated than ours, and there have been lots of ups and downs, but they bring an inspiring faith to the process. Right now they have a great video of the boys practicing for a play -- singing a song, complete with actions, in Russian. Very cute!

The Blessing of Verity
This is the blog by the family that adopted the nine-year-old girl that they've named Katie -- the one who looks like an infant. Two months out from the adoption, they continue to update about her remarkable progress...still fun to pop in on every once in a while.

We're also following more adoption stories on a private Facebook group for families adopting from Alex's home country -- which is just to say that whatever we go through on this journey, others have forged the path already, and are accompanying us, too. (Some of them maybe literally!)

Off to work on more marketing materials!