Likely contest loss has silver lining



November 3, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Allen County’s three-school-district team has likely come up short in its quest for a share of $1 million U.S. Cellular is giving to U.S. schools.
During the telecommunication company’s Calling All Communities contest, which ran from Sept. 9 to Oct. 6,  any person 18 or older could go online and vote for the school they would most like to see get receive funds. At the end of the contest, the top 18 vote-getters would be awarded a share of $1 million — $150,000 for the top vote-getters and $50,000 for schools finishing second through 18.
USD 256, 257 and 258 administrators agreed in August to use Iola Middle School as the school to vote for.
“Sometimes we have a better chance … as a combination than individually,” David Hardage, superintendent of Moran schools, said in August, referring to why his district, the Iola district and Humboldt districts joined forces.
Any winnings would be divided evenly among the three districts.
Results for the 17 schools winning the $50,000 prizes were released Tuesday, and Iola Middle School isn’t on the list. The winner of the $150,000 will be announced in the coming weeks.
Despite the coming up short, Thrive Allen County’s David Toland, a key contributor to the effort, said the community should still be proud of its efforts.
“Even though we didn’t win the money, we accomplished something that’s even more important — we set a positive example of cooperation, selflessness and hard work,” he said, referring to the Moran, Humboldt and Iola communities coming together for a single cause. “These kids watched adults act the way adults are supposed to act. Given the challenges we are facing as a county, and the leadership that will be required to face those challenges, that example has a much more long-term value than cash.”  
That the Allen County districts were among the top is a noteworthy and encouraging accomplishment, Toland said.
“We should all be proud of being in the top of districts competing, especially on our first try,” he said. “We’ll regroup next year and win this thing.”
USD 257 Superintendent of Schools Brian Pekarek said at the very least, the contest has made more people more aware of alternative funding sources and the impact they can have on a school district.
“Whether we got in the top 18 schools in the nation or not, I see the process as a success because we came together and tried to help out the schools during a difficult economic year,” he said. “Ever since we participated in the competition, I regularly receive e-mails from the community about grants and competitions for money, and I feel that this is directly related to the U.S. Cellular Campaign.”

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