Chapter 6- Money
As the cliché goes, “money walks and money talks.” This was especially true at Cucamonga JHS. The school budget was the major money source in Cucamonga JHS. The teachers were not aware that 10% to 15% of the budget was added into the budget just in case the Board cuts 10-15% after the budget review. The assistant Principal’s power came from the fact that he was in control of the budget for the entire school, subject to the approval of the Principal who had never done a budget in his lifetime. A lot of goodies or special projects could easily be buried in the budget under titles like Miscellaneous Science Lab materials, general computer supplies and the like. Each year in February a budget form was sent around to the department chairpersons to make out a supplies request form for their department. Mistakes were often made. One Social Studies teacher made a mistake with some additional zeros that the Assistant Principal did not discover until the day the item was delivered. The Social Studies teacher wanted to order 100 paper clips but made a typo and ordered 10,000 paper clips instead. They were boxes not individual paper clips. When the beginning of school began in Sept. a large 18-wheeler pulled up in front of Cucamonga JHS and the driver delivered case after case of just paper clips. Ten thousand boxes of paper clips to be exact. They filled up the entire front hallway. It was most embarrassing when the Assistant Principal checked the cases of paper clips to find they only contained boxes of paper clips. It was too late to send them back.
Supplies went out on bid so if you did not make an item specific such as a “Spalding rubber football XL high quality” you got a rubber football that was so cheap the it did not have a bladder and usually leaked after being used a few times. Department chairmen learned to write specific descriptions that were hard to find a substitute for. If they just put down 12 footballs and 12 soccer balls, they got crap from China or some other third world country made out of plastic rather than rubber or leather. Textbooks were the largest annual expense and renewal of new textbooks was on a rotating basis. Every three or four years a complete new set of textbooks would be ordered for an entire department.
In Health Education the budget was small so the books were written in the 1950’s and were worn out often without full covers. Sex education was two pages of content and AIDS hadn’t been discovered yet. The book spent more time on auto injuries and accidents than controversial issues like sex, dating, anatomy, diseases, smoking, cancer, and death. The annual Health Education budget was $500 a year. It was impossible to teach using the textbook since it was so outdated. It wasn’t until 1985 that new Health Education textbooks were ordered because the entire District Health Education curriculum had been rewritten by the District-wide Health Education Curriculum Committee. AIDS was the major curriculum being developed at the time. Unfortunately, the AIDS curriculum by New York State was rejected a year later and then the District curriculum was implemented which only lasted two years and then abandoned due to law suits by Indian parents that did not want Sex education for their children or the discussion of AIDS and sex related illnesses. It seemed like every year the AIDS curriculum kept changing due to new information available each year. The student has no idea what AIDS was really about until we got our first HIV positive student in the late 1980’s. This was a strictly confidential piece of information that the counselors made the teachers involved sign a special HIV confidential information form. That had to promise not to identify the HIV positive student or talk about him to anyone. Naturally the word got out about the student and despite the confidentiality measures taken by the staff and teachers all of the students in the Cucamonga JHS knew about the student having HIV/AIDS. A lot of parents complained at school board meetings but nothing was done. Very few students had the guts to hand around the infected HIV student. Fear and lack of knowledge kept teachers and students away from personal contact with the student.
The Principal always seemed to have money for awards and special projects. The source of his money was from two slush funds. The first account was from money paid to the office for schoolbooks that were lost or destroyed. Textbooks usually cost $50.00 or more depending on whether they were new or used. If students did not pay for their lost books they were not given their grades and could not graduate until they paid up. This money was supposed to go back to the district general fund, however some of it was diverted into a Cucamonga JHS Club account at a local bank. Thousands of dollars sat in this account for the Principal to use when ever he wanted and no questions asked. Only a few hundred dollars was sent to the Central district office to be returned to the general account. The second slush fund was from the soda machines in the school. The head custodian arranged for a soda distributor to set up four machines in the building to sell cans of soda at $1.00 a piece. The profit was .50 on a can and was returned to the custodian who in turn gave the check to the Principal for the commission on the sale of soda for the month. The Cucamonga JHS students lived on sodas. They bought a soda for breakfast before school and bought a can to take on the bus for the ride home every day. The profits each month was in the thousands. The Principal and the Head Custodian shared the profits.
Eventually the Head Custodian fell into disapproval by the Principal and their friendship dissolved. The relationship got so bad that the Principal filed the paperwork to fire the Head Custodian at the end of the summer. Someone in the administration office saw the termination paperwork to get rid of the head custodian and being a friend of the head custodian called him at home to tell him the Principal was planning on firing him. The head custodian came back from his vacation to see the Principal and a big verbal fight ensued in the Principal’s office with yelling and cursing heard around the entire front office area. The head custodian threatened the Principal that if he was fired he would “spill the beans” on the slush fund money the Principal had been receiving for the past five years. Over ten thousand dollars was sitting in a Cucamonga JHS account in a local bank separate and distinct from district funds. Come the end of the summer the Head Custodian was not fired, but he was transferred to North Mountain High JHS. Few teachers or administrators were privy to this story
Money affected the budget and gave the Assistant Principal more power than the Principal sometimes. One Assistant Principal asked the Principal if he could have a new Apple laptop computer and the Principal said, “No.” When the budget came out that year an Apple Laptop was included for the Assistant Principal and the Principal could do nothing about it since the Superintendent of Schools already approved it.
Money affected sports. The football team had the largest sports budget of any of the sports in the school. The pads, helmets, and uniforms cost a fortune. Old shirts had to be reconditioned and passed down to the eighth grade football team and the 7th grade football team. New helmets and new uniforms were purchased every year and they were always Champion brand or some other major brand of equipment. The image of the school was at stake and safety of the players so if the equipment was substandard there was a greater possibility for a lawsuit that could cripple the school district. Soccer teams, wrestling teams, girls softball and boys hardball teams all got new uniforms every year for the ninth grade teams and the old uniforms were reconditioned and handed down to the lower grade level teams. There was very little in the budget for intramural teams since the majority of the funding went to the Sports Teams. Intramural teams did not need uniforms and if they did they bought their own. Gymnastics was an example. As the gymnastic team grew from ten students to fifty students and then 110 students the gymnasts had to buy their own leotards that the coach would order from a sports supplier. The boys would buy their own white gymnastic pants and shirts since their uniform was standardized. The girl’s leotards had hundreds of colors and designs and sizes so in their situation each girl filled out a form with their sizes and the coach got a discount for them by ordering one large order of leotards for all the girls. This was initially for the PTA Annual Gymnastic Exhibition held each year for the parents. This tradition spread to doing exhibitions at local elementary schools and other high schools in district and outside of the district. When equipment was needed the school had no budget to buy equipment so money was always an issue. During the first years the Gymnastic coach held a Spaghetti Dinner for the parents of the Gymnasts in which he gave out trophies for Outstanding Gymnast, Most Improved, and so forth. He also took the opportunity to tell the Parents that the gymnastic equipment was substandard and out of date. He asked the parents to help raise funds or donate funds to help the team buy a new balance beam. This approach worked and money made the difference. The next year the Parents helped the team buy Uneven parallel bars and each year after a new piece of equipment was purchased until Cucamonga JHS had the best gymnastic equipment and program in the entire High Mountain school district. That process took twenty years.
Money came into play with school field trips. A certain amount of money had to be set aside for busses to take students on field trips to NYC museums, special educational exhibits, and other worthy educational trips. School trips were always controversial because they had to be initiated by interested teachers who went along as chaperones. Administrators could not force school field trips on teachers. They had to let the teachers come up with the idea for a field trip so that many teachers were willing to accompany these full day trips and were not being forced to do so. Getting an administrator to allow a field trip usually involved “kissing up to the administrator with some favors.” It was always the “one hand wipes another game” or “quid pro quo.” Sometimes a teacher got a special discount group ticket to a NYC Broadway show that was educational in nature or a story being read in the English classes like “Les Miserable,” which was a story being read in the 9th grade English classes.
Money determine the difference in what a student wore or didn’t wear The richer students all bought high fashion high end jeans that cost over $60 or $70 each. In the 1970’s a $60 dollar pair of jeans was very expensive. Students that didn’t have a lot of money wore knockoff jeans or unknown name jeans. Girls spent the most money on dresses, mini-skirts, sweaters, jackets, shoes and makeup. Boys tended to down dress with their clothes. Still rich students bought Sacs 5th avenue shirts and the poorer students bought K-Mart $5.99 t-shirt specials. Richer students work real leather jackets to school or $250-$400 dollar down ski jackets to school. Poorer students wore layers; sweatshirt hooded over sweatshirt or a ski vest over a sweatshirt. Sneakers varied between the traditional white tennis sneakers that were cheap in price or running shoes that cost over $100 each. Money determined the difference in cultural values of the students also.
70% of the students at Cucamonga JHS were on the free lunch program called Title I where the Federal government reimbursed the States and the States reimbursed the individual school districts to allow for free lunches for low income students. The poor students had to eat what was being served for the day. The richer students brought their own brown bag lunches with corn beef sandwiches, turkey sandwiches, deli prepared sandwiches, or ethnic food such as fried rice, rice ball, Chinese soup, and other foreign foods prepared at home. Pizza was the most desirable food and could be purchased for only $.75 a slice and almost everyone could afford that. Some students were always borrowing money from their friends who had money. Junior high students had no clue when it came to money. If they had it they spent it. Saving money was not in their vocabulary. Some students grubbed off of other student’s food everyday of the week. In most cases their parents never took the time to fill out the Title 1 Free Luncheon food assistance program and their child went to school everyday with no money and no lunch.
Money was the reason for so much theft in Cucamonga JHS. Especially in the school hall lockers and the Phys. Ed. Locker room, students were always being robbed or money when their locker was left open or unlocked. When one student flashed some money around they got for their birthday it was inevitable that someone would attempt to steal it in the PE locker room or the hall locker if they knew it was kept there. One year a band of 7th grade Haitian students were caught in the girls bathroom by a security guard dumping a pocketbook contents down the toilet. They had been stealing other girl’s pocketbooks during lunchtime and splitting the money between them. Nine girls were involved in this scheme which was surprising considering they all came from Catholic school the year before.
Junior high students were very careless with money as evidenced with the hundreds of petty thefts each year for student money or valuables like watches or jewelry. Money was a desirable commodity. Junior high student could never have enough money.