Fredericton parent grateful to 'stranger' for paying fee for school supplies

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A Fredericton parent says he feels grateful to the anonymous donor who paid a $40 school supply fee that the family couldn’t afford.

“I was pleased at the generosity of a complete stranger to go ahead and take it upon themselves to pay my son’s student fees for me,”  Kevn Sacobie said Thursday.

Earlier this week Sacobie, spoke out about his struggles to come up with the $40 fee for school supplies bought by a teacher at Nashwaaksis Memorial School. The mandatory fee came after his son already received supplies from Greener Village, the city’s food bank.

On Thursday morning, Sacobie said he received a message from the secretary at the school saying the fee had “taken care of.”

He called the school back to ask who paid the fee, but the secretary didn’t know. 

“I would really appreciate the opportunity to thank them in person,” he said. “Whoever you are, thank you so much and I wish there was more people like you in this world.” 

Fifteen of the 19 classroom teachers at Nashwaaksis Memorial School opted this year to buy paper, pens, coloured pencils and notebooks to last their students the year, said principal Jackie Hay told CBC News earlier this week.

In turn, to cover their expenses, the teachers asked each student to bring in $40. Since Sacobie told his story, many people offered to pay the fee.

But more than the fee, it was the embarrassing treatment by the school that upset Sacobie, a father of two, and he would still like an apology.

In particular, Sacobie said, he felt humiliated when the vice-principal approached him in a parking lot across from the school, and near his family and other parents, to discuss the unpaid fees.

backpack Fredericton parent grateful to 'stranger' for paying fee for school supplies

The school supplies the Fredericton food bank provided to Sacobie’s son, Riley. (Maria Jose Burgos/CBC)

“It was never about the money, the payment itself,” he said of the incident that made him want to speak out. “It was about the vice-principal coming at me and putting me on the spot in a public space in front of a lot of people, talking about my financial situation.” 

Sacobie said he would like to see teachers and staff practise discretion when discussing financial  with parents.

“Everybody is human at the end of the day, and people make mistakes,” he said. “I think it was a learning opportunity for the school in the sense that they can see there’s always room for them to improve how their staff conduct themselves.”

Teachers pay out of pocket

Teachers spend hundreds of dollars out of pocket to pay for school supplies so students don’t go without, the president of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association says.

Teachers are spending an average of between $750 to $1,200 on these resources every year, George Daley said. Thursday.

He said teachers paying for supplies is a common practice because of child poverty in New Brunswick.

“I would suggest that probably every teacher in the province of New Brunswick is doing it,” Daley said in an interview with Information Morning Fredericton.

‘I don’t want to see any children in this province come to school without resources or without food.’-George Daley, president of New Brunswick Teachers’ Association

The teachers association said it does not want teachers spending so much of their money on school supplies, but Daley said it’s necessary to ensure students have the tools they need to learn.

“They see these students in front of them who have a need and they respond,” he said of the teachers. “Our students need us to do it.”

Some schools across the province have decided to buy supplies in bulk, which has lowered the cost for parents, but also takes away the stigma of one student having nicer resources than another student, Daley said.     

“It also makes your day flow easier if you’ve got all the resources in your room,” he said.   

Society needs to step in

Daley said government and New Brunswick society are both responsible for helping to foot the bill for supplies.  

“I don’t want to see any children in this province come to school without resources or without food,” he said.

“Students that come to school, they have to feel safe, they’ve got to be fed and they have to have the material and after you have that, teachers have got to build relationships with them — and that’s before education ever starts.”      

george-daley Fredericton parent grateful to 'stranger' for paying fee for school supplies

George Daley, president of the New Brunswick Teachers Association, says it’s common practice for teachers to buy supplies for students, so no one goes without. (CBC News)

Premier Brian Gallant’s government cut the $250 classroom supply benefit.

Daley said the benefit would help, but he called it a Band-Aid approach to a bigger issue.

He said there needs to be a better way to get that money into the hands of teachers for students.

“We’ve got pockets of areas in this province that are really struggling with severe poverty,” he said. “But it’s a fundamental conversation in our society that we need to have.”  

Government needs to step in

Daley said he didn’t want to point fingers at political parties, which have all had to deal with the issue of child poverty in New Brunswick. But with an election coming up, he said, he wants to know what each party plans to do about child poverty.

Fredericton school hounding father of student for supplies he can’t afford1:21

“As New Brunswickers, we have to have a response,” he said. “What’s our acceptable level that we’re willing to pay and how are we willing to fix that situation?”

​CBC News has asked for comment from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development but has not received a response. 

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