Great news! The team got the full funding for the trip! Now all that needs to happen is a special meeting by the board to vote yes. Thank you so much for all your support!
I don’t typically talk about robotics on my blog, but today I couldn’t keep myself from typing up this post. I hope you’ll join me in reaching out the Norristown school district especially if you live in the Philadelphia area. Don’t let 5 kids whose dreams were realized lose the opportunity of a lifetime.
I’m not a soccer mom, I’m a robot mom. More than that, we’re a robot family. My husband spends countless hours every week volunteering to run our local robotics club, Downingtown Area Robotics also known as VEXMEN. Over 100 middle and high school aged boys and girls gather together each week (and many weekends) to build and compete in VEX Robotics. My son has been active in the club for three years, and I can say without a doubt it is one of the best experiences we have ever had as a family. It has given my son (who is not athletically inclined) an activity he can not only participate in, but excel at. It has given him so much more than that, but it’s hard to put into words without dissolving into tears. (If you’re a parent you’ll understand the tears from seeing someone so in their element)
A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to attend a local robotics competition my son was competing in, and my husband helped run. I don’t often get the opportunity to do this, but because it was local and our younger kids are finally at an age where they can all come along without too much wrangling I stuck around until the end.
It was the last match of the season. The last opportunity for teams to earn a spot to the World Championship in April where they compete against other children from places as far away as China. Two teams work together to win, and I watched as my son’s team helped another team from our club secure a spot to the World Championship. (an honor his team had recently been awarded as well) I watched as another local team who has been placing in the top 5 at every match had their hopes dashed. My husband filled me in on how awesome the team was, how hard the kids had worked, and you could see how much the mentors (coaches) wanted it for their kids.
Then came the awards, and one last chance for the team from Norristown, PA to earn a spot to the World Championship. As their name was announced as winner of the Excellence Award the team went forward to accept their award and pose for photos, and every one of them teared up. They hugged, and high fived. It moved me so deeply to see how passionate they were for the game.
Watch video of the team accepting their award
Sadly the team won’t be able to go to Worlds because the School Board denied their request to go. No reason was given by the School Board. The team was not asking for funding, they had planned to fundraise to pay for their expenses, and the families would likely chip in as well. Instead these children who worked so hard all year long were denied the request to attend.
It is unbelievable to me that at a time when kids and schools really need this type of extracurricular activity the school board would deny them the ability to compete. The school board should be congratulating them for working so hard, and bringing awards home to their schools.
Will you help me by raising your voice in unity with these kids? They need to know that people stand behind what they are doing, what they worked so hard to achieve. Help me support the kids from Eisenhower Science & Tech Leadership Academy in Norristown, PA.
To reach out to the school board visit the school district site or contact the secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org, and also take a minute to give them a phone call at 610.630.5000.
Update: To clarify the school district sponsors the team, so the board must approve of the trip or the kids won’t be able to attend.
Update 3/15/2012: Still no response from school board on their reason for saying no to Team 255a. NBC Philadelphia aired a wonderful piece at 4:30pm on the students including interviews from the students, parents, and mentors. With a deadline looming for registration, please keep calling and emailing.
Update: Norristown Patch covers the robotics team’s denial, and once again gets no response from the school board.
Video from NBC10:
View more videos at: http://nbcphiladelphia.com.
Video from ABC Philadelphia:
Update: March 16th Some good news! VEX extended the deadline for the team to register which means they have until Tuesday. The school board is meeting on Monday night so local families, taxpayers, and supporters (including me!) will be attending to make our voices heard to the school board.
Fox News is coming out to do an interview this afternoon.
People have asked lots of great questions, and I’m trying to respond with the information I have. The school board was apparently quoted in one piece (though they have remained silent to other reporters)-I’m searching for that piece online. Other folks have asked why the team can’t just go without the school board’s permission. The parents of the kids will not be attending-the mentors will. The mentors are teachers who work in the district, thus they need approval from the board to attend and act as mentors to the kids. Please believe me when I tell you these mentors would do just about anything to go to Worlds with their team, but they shouldn’t have to be in this position. If you have other questions leave them in the comments and I’ll try to respond.
I’ve also started a petition per my friend Michele’s suggestion. You can sign it here.
Board member Al Mauthe on record: “Board member Al Mauthe said a majority of the board was not ready to approve the trip and that some members had questioned how the robotics team boosters were independently raising money for the trip. “It looked like to us as if the hat was being passed around,”Mauthe said. “I think the majority of us felt that we did not want to send the kids.”” Full story