Marie Koltchak

Marie Koltchak

Pick Up the Phone for PIE

Now more than ever we need to help teachers and our children adapt to new educational models.

  • Sunday, September 27, 2020 8:14pm
  • Opinion

To my way of thinking, Vashon’s Partners In Education (PIE) is to teacher-classroom support what Ginger Rogers was to Fred Astaire.

“After all,” goes a well-known quip, “Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backward and in high heels.”

That is how I think of PIE — swift-footed — an organization that moves quickly to put funds at the disposal of the people closest to the educational process: our teachers.

Like a flawlessly executed pas-de-deux, there is no intermediary. Through a grant application process, the all-volunteer organization funnels money directly to specific, teacher-designed projects and programs.

As PIE gears up for its annual fall fundraising efforts, now more than ever, we need to back this nimble funding model.

The pandemic turned this year up-side-down (in case you hadn’t noticed). And disturbances will continue into the foreseeable future. The urgent needs of our students and educators require our help.

The school board, staff and teachers are reinventing school in real-time. Surprise! And although the pandemic has disrupted lives — the care of our children and their education must continue.

As teachers implement new models of learning, PIE is responding to evolving demands in several ways. PIE extended several 2019-2020 grants into the 2020-2021 school year to give additional breathing room to the grant recipients, for example.

Concurrently, PIE approved several “emergency” summer grants.

Unforeseen grant-funded programs included providing books through the school district’s Daily Meal Program (both on location and via mobile delivery), and through Summer Reading Packs, an initiative that provided new material to eager readers.

Humanities teacher Rebecca Blankenship said that in order to enhance an upcoming curriculum she needed specific material by October, prior to the traditional funding cycle. She said, “I connected with PIE on a Thursday and was able to get approval and purchase the books within a week.”

To respond to Vashon School District’s new learning models (including remote learning), PIE has also added grant-application opportunities. Unanticipated needs may arise during this unprecedented school year.

Following the traditional Sept. 15 deadline, educators can now work with an Oct. 15, or Nov. 15 deadline.

Chautauqua Elementary, McMurray Middle School, and Vashon High School teachers, staff, and other community members submit grant proposals identifying specific needs or opportunities not addressed by the existing school budget. Grants are evaluated on educational value, innovation, need and impact.

Direct funding lifts projects off the ground that might otherwise languish in the shuffle of ever-tightening budgets.

The grants support teacher-initiatives that strengthen and improve learning environments – including, but not limited to, field trips, classroom enrichment, books and supplies. Grants have also helped replace much loved, much-used equipment.

Since 1987, supporters have donated over $1.35 million and helped PIE fund more than 1,350 grants!

But the work continues, and now more than ever we need to help teachers and our children as they redefine and adapt to new educational models. We must collaborate during this pandemic. Our teachers and children need our support to stay connected and safe while learning at home and in school.

Please support PIE during its Fall fundraising efforts by giving what you can. No amount is too big, and every amount helps.

This year, even PIE’s Phonathon has adapted to change. Seasoned Phonathon volunteers will call from their homes during the week of Oct. 12. They would love to talk to you, so please answer the call if you can – you can also donate online anytime at

In education, like dancing, we need partners. In watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers you can see how they seemed to move as one. And although their dancing looked effortless, their virtuosity, their magic, was the result of hard work. And that seems apt, the point of supporting our teachers and our children is to move in concert with their efforts, and help them live their best lives.

And it can happen with our help. Together we can turn on a dime!

Marie Koltchak is a PIE board member who knows first-hand that the love and care children receive plant the seeds of the compassion they will share in turn.

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