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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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Lake High School is the only public school in the top 20 vying for $10 million in donations through the Kohl’s Cares program.

Each of the top 20 in the Facebook contest will receive $500,000, providing they meet rules criteria. Twelve of the schools are  Jewish schools, six are Christian and one is a charter school.

Lake is ranked eighth, as of this writing. The school is 10,560 votes ahead of 21st place Mooseheart Academy, a residential child-care facility and school for disadvantaged children operated by The Loyal Order of the Moose. However, Lake is not assured of finishing in the money. One school jumped in one day from below the top 20 to seventh. Voting ends Friday.

Kohl’s is giving away the $10 million to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its Kohl’s Cares program. In that time, the Wisconsin-based department store has given away more than $150 million to children’s initiatives. But, as far as this contest goes, popularity more than need or merit determines the winners.

For example, far down the list are two other schools, which like Lake, were heavily damaged by tornados, one in Minnesota and one in Iowa and two other schools were severely damaged by fire, one in Georgia and one in California.

 

Contrast those needs with the tenth ranked school—The Rohr Bais Chaya Academy, a private JewishKohlsGraphKG school in Tamarac, Florida where annual tuition runs $13,965. School supporters would like to use the donation to build an auditorium, upgrade the science lab or purchase laptops or smart-boards.

The Netan Eli Academy, sixth ranked, is a co-ed private school for 41 students located in Reseda, California. School supporters would use the money to build a new building and expand the curriculum.

Voters can also submit ideas on how their school should spend the $500,000. Kohl’s calls these ideas “The Big Dream.” Naturally, The Big Dream, varies from school to school. For Lake, it’s a new school; for the Mount Ellis Academy in Bozeman, Montana, it’s a new sewer system. For some of the private schools, it’s providing scholarships to reduce the tuition burden.

Building a new school will take considerably more than $500,000 so Lake supporters have suggested using the funds to replace buses, or items not covered by insurance.

A half-million dollars can make a significant contribution to a small school and comments left by supporters are mostly passionate and positive, however, a few are critical of those who have voted for a school whose needs seem insignificant compared to the needs of their school.

And, as expected, when there’s this much money involved, someone will offer an incentive to garner votes. Sponsors for Silverstein Hebrew Academy in Great Neck, New York raffled off eight I-Pads to its voters. Silverstein is ranked first. Supporters of another school are giving its voters a chance to win $7,770. There are also accusations that some schools, or their supporters, have hired people to solicit votes.

Just because a school finishes in the top 20 doesn’t mean it will receive the money, according to James Barnes, Kohl’s spokesman. The school must be eligible. Most public and private schools are, except those which are for-profit. And, only projects in the following categories are eligible: acquisition; construction or renovation of a school facility; efforts focused on curriculum, including math, science, reading, language arts, music, art, athletics, physical education and technology; books, supplies, equipment; and teacher salaries needed to create, expand or reinstate these programs.

The contest isn’t strictly altruistic. To vote, you must befriend Kohl’s on Facebook and join the site’s 2.3 million friends. That’s quite an audience. The site helps Kohl’s communicate with customers and build affinity for the corporation’s 1,059 stores located in 49 states.

Jim Witt, Lake Schools superintendent, said he hasn’t given much thought to the Facebook effort. There will be an application to fill out in mid-September should Lake finish in the top 20. That will be the time to rank his school’s needs and more will be known about insurance coverage limits.

Personally, I think there are better, fairer ways to give away $10 million than this popularity contest, but it’s Kohl’s money. And, you have to hand it to the Jewish community across America. It is united in its support of education and technology. In fact. Chabad.org, a family of websites that serves 10 million people and promotes Jewish education, states its mission is to “utilize Internet technology to unite Jews worldwide.”

Many of the top 20 schools have links to this website.
 
Each Facebook user is allowed to vote 20 times but is limited to voting five times for any individual school. To vote, go to www.facebook.com/kohls. Comment at zoz@presspublications.com

 

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