Local law firm DeFusco Law awarded $3,000 in stipends to 10 Scottsdale Unified School District teachers this month.
The stipends were used to purchase extra school supplies for the students.
The teacher recipients include Ingleside Middle School’s Shalese Doan, Kiva Elementary’s Sheila Fullerton, Desert Mountain High’s Janet Emond, Cherokee Elementary’s Melanie Usher, Tavan Elementary’s Marilyn Miracle Williams, Coronado High’s Misty Gardner-Hajek, Cocopah Middle School’s Matthew Dougall and Chuck Curry, and Navajo Elementary’s Laura Jenner and Jeannette Young.
“I am so appreciative of DeFusco Law for giving us this grant,” said Young, Navajo’s vocal music teacher. “We don’t have money in our schools to buy extra items, so we really count on community partners to help our schools get what they need. DeFusco Law has been doing this for a while.”
Since 2018, the DeFusco Law Classroom Supply Stipend Fund has donated more than $10,000 to SUSD teachers.
“It is important to DeFusco Law to give back because we feel we owe it to teachers,” said Bryn K. DeFusco, founding partner at DeFusco Law. “Andy and I are products of public schools. We wouldn’t be where we are today without all the amazing teachers we had in the public schools we attended.”
Each teacher received $300.
Young asked DeFusco Law for tote bags and rhythm instruments for each student.
“With the coronavirus pandemic, music teachers’ options in the classroom have been greatly diminished. We can’t sing, and we can’t share instruments,” Young said, adding
“I was able to buy enough tote bags for kindergarten and 1st grade and a few rhythm instruments to put in them.”
Cocopah band director Curry, on the other hand, spent the stipend on a band instrument repair kit, explaining it “will help keep the kids instruments in good working order when they return to live instruction.”
The donation was particularly meaningful to Curry, who had just returned to teaching after spending nearly a decade performing as a professional musician on Broadway tours and cruise ships.
“I was actually living in Thailand, where I had to leave my wife and 1-and-a-half-year-old son to take this job and start making money again,” Curry said. “With all of these life changes, it was so nice to hear that DeFusco Law provided some money to help me in my return to teaching.”
Each year, DeFusco Law commits at least $3,000 in funding to SUSD schools.
Local businesses also contribute to the DeFusco Law Classroom Supply Stipend Fund.
This round’s contributors included Rimmer Lighting, Phoenix Mountain Animal Hospital and Turquoise Farms.
“I was so appreciative that local businesses are partnering in such an impactful way with our schools, students and teachers,” said Edmond, Desert Mountain social studies-criminology and IB MYP coordinator.
“DeFusco Law is not only using their resources, but they are encouraging other businesses to join them to support Scottsdale schools. It speaks highly to the value they place on education and supporting their local public schools,” Emond continued.
Edmond used the stipend to buy a set of “Just Mercy” – a book about Bryan Stevenson, lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative – for her classroom.
“Just Mercy,” winner of the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction and the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction, among many other awards and nominations, was adapted into a feature film last year.
“This book speaks to many of the themes that are discussed in our class,” Edmond said. “Now, students who could not afford to purchase their own copy will have one provided for them. What a gift.”
This round, DeFusco Law received about 12 applications. Pre-pandemic, Bryn said, they typically receive 30 to 40 applications.
“I’m hoping we receive more in the next round when the application period opens in November,” Bryn added.
While choosing who receives a stipend, Bryn said she and Andy try to award teachers who work at schools that may lack the resources of a PTA “that is able to raise a lot of money.”
“I think many don’t realize that there can be fundraising inequities among PTAs/APTs in SUSD,” Bryn said. “Some PTAs are able to reimburse teachers for classroom supplies.”
Looking ahead, Bryn said they would like to expand the program to help more teachers.
“Hands down, the teachers are the primary reason parents send their children to SUSD schools. Arizona’s public schools are grossly underfunded and so it’s the least we can do to help out and be assured that the dollars are going right into the classroom.”
The next application period opens in November.
Businesses interested in contributing to the DeFusco Law Classroom Supply Stipend Fund can email the firm at email@example.com.
“Thank you,” Edmond said. “Thank you for valuing our public schools and supporting programming in such an inspired way. We appreciate the partnership with our greater Scottsdale community.”