Thursday, January 11, 2007

Swim Technique and "Ick Factor"

Swimming is all about technique. Spending a lot of time on drills is the best way to smooth out your stroke, and be more fish-like in the water. Some people use an assortment of gadgets like fins and paddles and such. I hear that works, but I usually just do the drills that require no apparati. (is that plural for apparatus?)
Anyway, I had an abbreviated swim this morning because I was on the phone with a friend who was consoling my fuming mind about our school's fundraiser. Here's what I need to vent about.

The Ick Factor

We've been at this school since pre-K for both Bobby and Ally. This is our fifth year; the school opened its doors six years ago. So we've almost been there since the beginning. I've been on the committee for our Spring Gala every year, so I of course volunteered again this year. But it's different this year -- I hate it.

There are several people that are new to Providence that came here from other private schools, and they were on the fundraising committees there. I think they did things differently at their old schools, and I hate that they want us to do it "their" way at "my" school.

Yes, I called it "my" school. I feel that way. Most of the parents feel that way. Even the kids take ownership of the culture here. Each day I walk up that gorgeous sidewalk to that special place and some kid I often don't even know opens the door for me. Kids I do know say, "Hi, Mrs. Moore!" I love the place and I feel like the place loves me.

The founding families - just a handful of people - built this school for us. It was a gift. The generosity around here is mind-blowing. Those founding families don't even know my kids and to look around and see what they have given to US PERSONALLY. I get teary driving up the driveway sometimes. Considering the backgrounds that I and my husband come from - this is just an indescribable gift.... Anyway, the theme of the Gala this year is "We are Family". I love that. I have always felt like family even when I am sitting among some of the wealthiest, most influential parents in the country. One father is one of President Bush's advisors and they talk fiscal policy while flying on Air Force One. Another is #12 in the Forbes Wealthiest Americans list. One founding family owns a winery in Napa - wine you and I drink probably at least once every year. And the guy who invented the bar code system AND that magnetic stip on the back of your hotel room key and credit card? He gave us this place and his kids are here. Big people. Rich people. But if I hadn't been told "who" these people were, I would have never guessed it in a million years. Never once have they made me feel inferior.

But these new people do.

Here's a sampling of what's being discussed in the last three Gala meetings. Try not to hurl if you are wearing anything special:

1). Let's monitor the donated items because we don't want any (insert visual grimace that could only mean "lesser") items. Let's not open it up to just "anything". We want high ticket, good items.

2). Let's hit up X-person (I'm omitting his name because he's a professional sports athlete on a team here in Minneapolis) -- last year he only gave an iPod. He needs to be giving more than that.

3). Last year's idea to have the 4th grade students make a cookbook was a good idea, but c'mon - it had spiral binding. It was unattractive. It only sold for $225. It was our cheapest item of the night. [gasp - since when is $225 for a cookbook not good enough???????]

4). Someone suggested we offer internships to upperclassmen. [awesome idea] Does anyone own a business or know someone who does who'd like to have an unpaid intern shadow them and "work" for them for two weeks. My girlfriend, sitting right next to me in the meeting, said her husband is an oral surgeon, and he'd probably love to show a kid what he does. [he once wired back-together the face of another friend of mine who had an accident and fell on his face, breaking his jaw in several places and chipping out most of his front teeth]. Mean Girl looked at my GF, stared blankly at her, and then turned her head away to the rest of the group and said, I meant, like, A.W. is vice president of a bank that her family started. I think that's the kind of internships we are looking for. [gasp - did Mean Girl just tell my GF that what her hubba does is not good enough? besides, I think watching surgery surely would be at least as interesting as attending fiscal planning meetings and lunches and staring over someone shoulder while they read Excel spreadsheets. But really, how rude was that?]

5). Ticket prices. Some parents don't attend the Gala because the tickets are too expensive. [last year they were $125 per person]. So this year we are sending out a "sliding scale" ticket. You will have the option of paying $50, $100, $200, or $400 per person for the party. [I'm sorry, but if I receive a ticket in the mail that offers me a sliding scale, I will be insulted. I'd expect to see that from a social worker at a womens health clinic in the city, but not on my school's party invite].

So it's the "ick" factor that is just unpallateable for me. I love this place and I know I shouldn't let these Mean Girls change that. But I've never seen people behave this way. It's a level of snobbishness that I think is disgusting. So if the cheapest item last year sold for $225, and they want to change up the assortment so that there is nothing that "cheap", then I and "poor folks" like me won't get to have any fun in the Silent Auction. And that's fun to do! Sorry, Mean Girls, but there are a lot of people - like me - who used to feel good about winning even a $60 item, knowing the money went to our school. The Live Auction items can be as pricey as you want, but leave at least the Silent Auction to the "poor folks"!

So if you've taken the time to read this, and thanks if you have, please offer your suggestion: do I:

a). bail out and quit now, or
b). continue with what I committed to do (sew spirit-themed pillows), and just smile and nod and try to fly under the radar. It's so icky to me that I don't even want my name in the book as being part of the committee.


Spokane Al said...

I vote that you definitely do not bail. They need you now more than ever and if the new group changes the culture of your school it will be a bit less than it is and was, and the future students and parents will be the worse off.

Tri-Dummy said...

+1 w/Al.

You made a commitment and your pillows totally rock!

Kill MeanGirl...with kindness!

Laurie said...

Option C: Do NOT bail out. You will regret it later. Speak up and let your opinion be heard. The event is for the school, to benefit the kids. They should be reminded of that, that it is not a popularity contest. Every dollar counts. Don't let them ruin your school for you. It sounds like a wonderful place.

ironjenny said...

You guys are right, but I still don't know if I should voice my opinion to them. I can see taht coming back to bite me. I don't think they're making it a popularity contest (I would surely win that... ;-)) - they are making it a "who's the richest" contest and that is just gross.

Pharmie said...

I agree with the above. Have you tried talking to other parents that have been on the committee with you in the past? Maybe you all need to gang up on them and say something. The people at your school love it for a reason. Changing the culture in a negative way (even a little bit) now could plant a very ugly seed. I vote for the pillows! Who cares what they think. You're obviously contributing to the fundraiser for your kids, and that's what you're there to do.

Taconite Boy said...

Proverbs is clear, it's not wise to confront a foolish person in their folly. You only get nast blowback. I like the idea of contacting older founding members that you trust and talking to them about what your seeing. If the snobbish practices continue, then bring them in to discuss the purpose of the school ect. Praying for wisdom for you Jen.

Bolder said...

all i have to say, is that, um, that was not a flattering picture of you, but, that your stroke looks like it is improving...

those folks have their own issues... just make sure they don't drag you into them... because, they will...

Ridinfences said...

First off, that picture is WAY too funny. Second off, I don't see you as a quitter. Go with your gut, and trust YOUR instincts. Only you know what you should do. I trust whatever decision you make will be the right one.

Comm's said...

I think you should spike their committee cookies with exlax. Is that to passive aggressive?

Nah, stick it out this year but do try to steer it in a direction you and probably some others want it to go to. These new folk are just that new...and there should be some maturity on the board.

BTW, I could help reading into your microcosm and instead of seeing a private school, see the state of Arizona and the rich people trying to make lofty changes the transplants from California and Mexico.

greyhound said...

Not much help here. You have reminded me of the misanthropic streak that makes me avoid committees like the plague.

I was the worst Presbyterian Elder in the history of Christendom.

That picture is disturbing.

jbmmommy said...

That's an awful situation to be in, I'm sure. I would also second the idea that you contact other "old school" members and maybe you can convince more of them to get involved to over-rule the mean girls. Direct confrontation probably wouldn't help you, though, it would get twisted around as they reiterated to other people how mean you were. I hope it all works out well.

TriJack said...

not the right answer, i know but... what if the committe continued with its plan to generate some major funds then gave, i dunno, half to the local public school... would that change the perception of things?

as if...

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

That picture...(shudder)

I really believe that you should stay with your commitment and voice your opinions while decisions are stil being made. Cand you find a few others who will be willing to speak up as well? It's not about you; it's not about them; it's about the kids.

MUT said...

If my donation was rejected by a committee, my company would never offer our services to be donated ever again. If They dont want my gift, I can take it elsewhere.

Pamela said...

If it were me I'd speak right up and say something like, "Look - we're not having a yuppie contest - we're having a fundraiser. Last year we raised X dollars without resorting to pressure tactics and snobbery. Not everyone wants to compete with the people who show up on the New York Times society page. Let's get back to basics and make sure everyone in the community feels like they are a part of this event" and I would smile broadly while saying it.

I had the same issues when my kids were in school. I chaired the Jr. Prom once and had to endure the exasperated gasps from the snob crowd when I declared that we would not spend a dime over $25,000 on that event. I took a lot of heat but the prom was great and I made no apologies to the spendthrift snobs. No apology was needed.

tri-mama said...

That's just plain nasty. You probably have greater influence then you think-know who's in your camp and make sure they are sitting next to you when you speak up at the next meeting.

How goes the skiing?