Thursday, 21 June 2007

Distractions and old history

I have spent most of a cold winter’s day hunched over my computer, alternately cursing people who make poor computer forms and people who create hoops for others to jump through so that they can decide not to give you money based on you not having answered section 7.3c subsection ii/ correctly. Yes, 'tis the season for writing grant applications for the school. Last year we decided that rather than depending entirely on the efforts of local fundraising, we would focus on getting grant money for big projects. As the argument went, one person spending 20 or so hours on a grant was a better use of time than ten people rushing around flipping burgers or selling chocolate for x number of hours. Given that I’m currently not on the Parents and Citizens executive committee and I have had much experience plowing through various bureaucracies, I volunteered to do the job. I can still appreciate the theory, but the reality is grinding me down a bit.

On the other hand, over the last six months we have received about $52,000 worth of grant money. Next week a fantastic new playground is scheduled to be installed and sometime when it rains, the school will be planting native plants along Black Snake Creek alongside a number of community organisations.

This latest project will cost close to $100,000 so I have ended up working on three different grant applications (two federal and one state) to cobble together the money. So far I have one application completed, one almost done and the third that I’m trying not to think about.

The one interesting factor is that I have ended up sorting through the school’s archives, talking to numerous establishment figures, emailing contacts and reading local histories in order to answer one simple question in the application – “please provide the date your organisation was established.”

One of the teachers remembers that her father-in-law was treasurer when her husband was at school. A great anecdote but not concrete enough for a sub-sectioned document. The school archives are dusty but only go back to the 1970s. The school history book commemorating their 125th anniversary makes no mention of the P & C. One brief mention though is made of a lad riding to school on his horse, being followed by a car whose occupant, the school committee’s chairman, complained to the principal that the boy was riding dangerously fast. Dire warnings in front of the whole school ensued. Ironically, this lad’s (of sixty or so) wife commented the other day on my habitually precipitous descent down our hill. My descent has since been decorous with barely even a cloud of dust.

The question remains unanswered. Given that the school was established at the behest of parents, what I wrote on the form was “Marburg State School has had a parent’s committee since its founding in 1879.” My secret to surviving bureaucracy is to emphasise the facts of my choosing.

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