This week, eating and shopping locally earns high grades, as businesses team up with a local educational foundation to keep Cupertino schools great.
The Great Schools Week campaign kicks off today its weeklong fundraiser aimed at safeguarding Cupertino schools.
During the event sponsored by the Cupertino Educational Endowment Foundation (CEEF), local businesses will donate a portion of their retail sales to pay for classroom programs.
“This is the first year we are doing Great Schools Week,” said Minh Ngo, CEEF's executive director. “It’s just a very straightforward way for businesses to support education in their community.”
More than 120 local businesses are expected to participate with varying schedules and percentages of proceeds going toward CEEF. A full list of participating businesses with those details can be found here.
Great Schools Week was modeled after last year’s Community Day, part of the “Their Future is Now” campaign, which raised more than $2.5 million. The Cupertino Union School District credits that effort with saving 115 kindergarten-through-eighth-grade teachers, restoring a 20-to-1 ratio in class sizes in grades one through three, and preventing teacher reshuffling in K-8 classrooms across the district.
CEEF extended this year’s event to a week, allowing customers more time to explore all the local participating businesses.
“Last year, the event was a tremendous success,” Ngo said. "Businesses saw a significant increase in sales on the day of the events, and we had restaurants running out of food and places with long waits. People couldn’t get to everything, because it was only a one-day event.”
This year’s fundraising will be more far-reaching in scope than last year.
“This year, the effort is not as pigeon-holed,” said Karen Rizkalla, lead parent volunteer coordinator for Great Schools Week. “We are not saying it’s specifically for 115 teachers. It’s more to offset any budget cuts that are coming down, that are happening this year or in the future.”
In fact, local parents were a main impetus in organizing this wider event, amid funding cuts trickling down to the city level.
“I don’t think this event would happen without parent volunteers,” said Rizkalla, who has been actively involved in school fundraising since last year. “The parents are really the primary ones doing all the work on the ground to explain the events to local businesses and the importance of it to the community and our children.”
Some volunteers have planned breakfast meetings at participating restaurants and organized activities for families. In fact, many parents echo the concerns voiced by Rizkalla, whose two children go to Cupertino Elementary schools.
“You can’t sit on the sidelines and let the state dictate the quality of our schools," she said. "We need to fight back—in whatever way that we can do it, that’s what we’ll do.”
Businesses have been very receptive, too.
“It was much faster this year for business, and it wasn’t as hard of a sell,” Rizkalla said, “I think because the whole event last year increased the awareness to the community of the need to help the schools, and the event was so successful.”
Many local Cupertino businesses have pledged to lend their support again.
Ram Gopal, owner of Cupertino Indian Restaurant and Bakery, said he was one of the first people to get involved last year with business fundraising, and he will participate again this year.
“I have a business here, I live here, my kids go to the schools—so I’m just as involved as anybody else,” Gopal said. “I am as much concerned as any other parent, and the way I can help the community is by donating a percentage of my business.”
Gopal will donate 15 percent of next week’s business proceeds to Great Schools Week.
Some businesses hope this year’s turnout will encourage reinvestment in the community. Freshness Farms, a Cupertino family-owned business that prides itself on high-nutrient, organic food will participate in Great Schools Week, donating 15 percent of the proceeds throughout the week.
“We are all interdependent," said Nasim Kashemi, owner of Freshness Farms, who has lived in Cupertino for 16 years. “Being involved in the community for me is giving. Spending money with local businesses keeps jobs local.”
The arrangement is a win-win situation for schools struggling with funding and local businesses getting some additional business and exposure. CEEF and local volunteers hope that in the future, the Great Schools Week can become an annual event, so schools always have a safety net.
In fact, CEEF, an independent nonprofit founded in 1984, has always been a source of comfort for the beleaguered Cupertino school district budget.
“We are fortunate enough to tap into that to provide a private source of revenue to support the district where federal and state funding fall short,” Ngo said.
To get involved or learn more about Great Schools Week, click here.