A longtime teacher says she was deeply moved by an act of kindness at a Chandler second-hand store and then brought to tears of frustration moments later by a note placed on her car outside.
The episode Friday morning highlights the divide in support for the Red for Ed movement, as teachers gear up for a potential strike.
Kelly Jones-Preville’s Spanish classroom at Highland High School in Gilbert is covered with materials designed to get students engaged in Hispanic culture. Nearly every item — save for the desks and chairs — she purchased herself.
“To be a good teacher, I really think the kids need this,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “Can you imagine a classroom with desks and white walls? I wouldn’t be interested in that class.”
She said adjusted for inflation, she makes less now than she did as a rookie teacher in Iowa nearly 20 years ago. Like many teachers, Jones-Preville says she spends a sizable amount of her paycheck on classroom materials.
“It's a huge expense,” she said. “A lot of the time, it's going to the store and here's my budget for food and groceries and here's my budget for school. Sometimes you have to decide, OK so we won't have steak this week.”
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Last week, Jones-Preville’s grandmother died. She took Friday off for bereavement but decided to spend her time shopping for classroom materials at a Chandler Savers.
Store manager Sharon Schollmeyer noticed Jones-Preville’s minivan in the parking lot, which is covered with painted Red for Ed slogans. One of the sides of her vehicle mentions that she buys her own classroom supplies.
“It made me stop and think, there are things that I have at this store that we can do to help,” Schollmeyer said.
Schollmeyer directed Retail Sales Manager Paul Farrell to find the owner of the minivan, and treat them to some school supplies.
"I paged her up [on the intercom],” he said. “She was kind of freaked out thinking somebody hit her car.”
The staff treated Jones-Preville to nearly two shopping carts full of supplies.
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“As I was taking the price tags off, I was like, ‘Oh my god. There are hundreds of dollars here,’” Jones-Preville said. “You'll never understand how much this helps me and my family. It makes me feel appreciated emotionally and monetarily. Those are things that I'm not going to have to buy for next fall.”
Said Farrell, "It made us feel great. Everyone in the store."
[SPECIAL SECTION: Schools in Crisis]
The staff even helped Jones-Preville get it all into her minivan, but when she sat down in the driver’s seat, she noticed a note on the windshield from someone else. It read: “No worries. Go ahead and strike. My children attend charter schools. Cheers!”
To Jones-Preville, the tone was unmistakable.
“I started crying again because I was already emotional anyway. But I was thinking, ‘Does [the writer] not understand those charter school teachers get paid less than we do?’” she said. “There are so many similarities between the charter schools and the public schools. We're both in the same boat!”
The experience showed Jones-Preville there’s both support and opposition for the Red for Ed Movement in Arizona, but it reaffirmed to her there’s only one solution to restore education funding: a strike.
“We’ve tried everything else,” she said.
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