Dealing with disapointments

Considering all the “unwanted attention” this story is generating I would not be surprised if the school district administration does a 180 next week with a heavy dose of spin. School districts are run by politicians and the one thing they fear more than anything else is negative press.

I RT’d Adam and posted the link to my facebook page, and I have alumni from the mid '90s writing letters to the school district.

This has not gone unnoticed.

I agree. At the very least they will release a statement clarifying their position since the Mythbusters showed this story to at least 360,000 twitter accounts, and they are sort of figureheads of the STEM movement. It also helps that it made it to the top of digg, reddit, fark, etc. No one (especially the internet!) likes to see student’s hard work get trampled by bureaucracy.

I can’t believe how far this has spread. When I saw it posted by Adam and Grant, I retweeted it and posted a link on my Facebook. There was quite the “how can we help!?” discussion on that post. I even had a non-robotics friend contact me telling me that he saw it on Fark.

And the bad press may also encourage students to move away, or parents to live in neighboring school districts. Less students = less money

Warning, this is not going to be a popular opinion.

Which is sad. The school is following its written policy and catching flak for it. The school says they can’t be a club without a staff member being involved. They have also decided to provide an alternative to it in the form of this MESA program.

The policy in question is:

Matthews referred to Portland Public Schools Administrative Directive “4.40.050-AD, Student Clubs”, that defines school clubs as “… recognized student groups or organizations that may be curricular or non-curricular.” Matthews then quoted from Section I, Subpart 5, “Supervision of student clubs” which states: “… All clubs with the exception of religious, political, and sports clubs must have a staff supervisor.”

They do not classify FRC teams as a sports club which is their choice and the team cannot be a club at the school. As for the equipment and the money, is it school equipment? Was the money donated to the school?

Yes, this is a bad situation but frankly the school is completely within its rights here.

Want a TLDR? The team didn’t follow the rules, rules they’ve known about since at least September, and were shut down. When they didn’t like that they went to the press hoping to force the school into bending the rules.

While they are within their bounds to terminate the club on the standard rules and policies that the school district holds.

I think it is questionable that the school is taking/wanted to take donated money (or so the team claims) that was presumably for the team to use and using it for the school. The same goes for the tools. If they were donated for the team or purchased with money donated for the team they shouldn’t be preventing access to them by former team members if the team plans to move elsewhere.

The club can be terminated for that reason, Andrew, but the school cannot take donated money and use it toward any other purpose. Most schools require the return of said funds to the donors in question.

Andrew, if they’re out of bounds, so be it. However:

Let’s say that I’m a local business owner who donated money to the team because I thought it was a good thing to sponsor. I want that money to be used by the team to deal with team business. Now, I hear that the school has shut down the team for lack of a faculty advisor. The money that I donated to the* team*, not the school, is being held by the school as their property. I see this news item. What do you think my response is going to be?

I am going to want that money to be either a) returned to the team or b) returned to me, unless I specifically choose to support the school, which I may or may not want to do anyway.

Same for equipment loans. Space is theirs; if they choose to lock it up, that’s their choice. But as I said, if I’m local and hear this, I just might be rather annoyed.

Which is sad. The school is following its written policy and catching flak for it. The school says they can’t be a club without a staff member being involved. They have also decided to provide an alternative to it in the form of this MESA program.

I checked the schools web site and it listed both the MESA program and a robotics club along with what I assume are staff contacts. Both were listed as school clubs.

Also noted on the teams web site is the issue started when the team tried to stop the school from taking funds donated specifically for the team and using it for another program.

Also had a message from someone involved with the team that some of the sponsors are asking the school to return the funds that were donated for the team.

The school says they can’t be a club without a staff member being involved.

With the principal’s permission, one of the team’s leaders could have been allowed to be a school liaison, but the principal decided against. it also isn’t clera if the staff member who had been part of the FRC program decided to leave or if it was “suggested” by the school. That staff member in question is not even leading the Oregon MESA program.

The other program, Oregon MESA, has a stated mission “to provide students underrepresented in the fields of mathematics, engineering, science and technology with the skills, knowledge and opportunities to develop their talents, explore technology-based careers, enter college and compete successfully in the workforce,” in part by having students “Design and build projects and conduct research to prepare for science fairs.”

This doesn’t seem to infringe on FRC. One is in the classroom (which I balk at; classrooms have some serious disadvantages in this sort of thing), one is extracurricular. One caters specifically to minorities, whereas the other is open to all. One is more an introduction to science and tech, whereas the other is directly trying to be a pipeline for technology and engineering college students. There’s no reason the two programs can’t coexist.

The district has not “stolen” the money as I keep seeing written, they have placed a hold on the account. Nor have they “stolen” the equipment, merely locked it down. Both of these are standard operating procedure would be my guess. I know that in Flint (which is all I have a lot of experience with) a non-school employee cannot get money out of a district account. I also know that we are not allowed in the building unless there is a district employee there.

Given the information we have currently the district has NOT stolen the money, they have not removed a piece of equipment and they are NOT using the money for other purposes. Until that account is emptied out and the room is cleared of equipment it is just a team who is having problems and making up unfounded claims.

I urge people NOT to contact the district as it only puts pressure on people who likely have nothing to do with this issue. Contact the team give them information about how they can avoid this, about local teams who would be willing to help out. Leave contacting the district to the team or, if they want help, to their regional director.

I really think we need to keep our pitchforks sheathed and torches unlit until we here more news and get more details.

Lets see what comes of this in the next day or so and if it turns out to be as bad as it seems then we can release the nerd dogs of war!

As long as that is what the team wants.

It’s definitely different all-around. I don’t know anything about how our finances are handled, but it seems that all that our school has to do with our financial situation is accepting the donations as 501c(3) and then giving the money to the team. We are also allowed in the building without a district employee - we just have to have a CNP (certified non-personnel) present.

Which is precisely my point, we don’t know all the details, the school is probably following their policy and has absolutely no bad intentions.

While the situation sucks, Andrew’s right.

Of course, I’m interpreting his comments as: “This sucks, but the school can’t change their rules just because its FIRST.”

That being said, there is another thread here about how we can help them.

If that were the case (absolutely no bad intentions), one would reasonably expect that the principal would be willing to meet with the mentors and explain the situation clearly and even be open to suggestions as to how to resolve the issue within the rules. That doesn’t seem to be happening, at least according to the article in The Bee (which may or may not be accurate).

Bottom line: We don’t have enough information to infer the school’s intentions at this point.


I’m with Ether on this. The school hasn’t weighed in, except through their business manager. Let’s let them weigh in.

If the team splits entirely from the school, and the school does not release the money/return it to the sponsors, and does the same for tools and parts, then would be a really good time to ramp up the pressure. However, I think the media spotlight they’re in will prompt an explanation from the school. I don’t expect that it’ll change their mind, but we’ll all at least know both sides of the disagreement.

If no pressure is put on or calls are made to the school, why would they know that anyone cares as to what they are doing? What venue would they weigh in on, and would they feel it’s even necessary?

I’m all for level headedness, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call the school or take any action.

If I’m the school, I’d consider the amount of negative publicity I’m getting right now and try to block/counter it with an explanation. If I get a lot of pressure, I could do one of a few things.

  1. Return money/tools to team/sponsors. (I look bad, but at least I got them off my back.)
  2. Refuse to do anything. (Really makes me look bad, so I don’t want to do that.)
  3. Reinstate the team, by bending the rules. (Upper administration hates me.)
  4. Reinstate the team without bending the rules. (Some poor teacher doesn’t like me.)

Increasing the pressure decreases the likelihood of 3) or 4), because technically the school is in the right to suspend/lock out the club. It increases the likelihood of 1), which is the team’s desired result–but if I’m the school, I now really don’t like the team and may not allow the team anything more to do with the school.

I guess what I’m saying is, you can only put so much pressure on before something gives. If it gives badly, you are out of luck. The more pressure, the more likely you get a very bad break, which means you’re REALLY badly off.