Porter Elementary may just end up in better shape than it was before a December vandalism incident caused thousands of dollars in destruction and damaged or stolen items. Thanks to the efforts of staff, students and parents, and the donations of several individuals and businesses, Principal Jared Smith said the school is in strong shape after the Dec. 11 episode.
“We’re on the up-and-up, so to speak,” Smith said Wednesday. “It happened, everybody was upset, they were shocked, we rolled up our sleeves and started raising money and whether it was businesses, parents or community members, the generosity was just overwhelming. We’re going to end up better than before this, both financially and technology-wise.” The technology boost came on Monday when John King, a senior computer specialist at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, delivered a donation of four laptops, three desktop computers and an iPad to the school.
ORAU is a federal contractor that supports agencies like the Department of Energy in their mission work in science education and health. Supporting a local school like Porter through a technology donation fits in with their mission of supporting science education, said Wendy West, ORAU communications and marketing manager.
“We have for years taken the equipment that we are no longer using in our corporate environment, and our IT department goes in and cleans it and puts new hard drives in so really these schools are getting the equivalent of some brand new technology just based on the inner workings on the technology itself,” West said.
ORAU employees are able to suggest area schools for donations, and when there are incidents or situations like what happened at Porter, that school goes to the top of the list, West said.
King heard about the vandalism at Porter on the radio and read about the stolen items in The Daily Times and contacted Smith to see if ORAU could make a donation.
“When John described the equipment we had to donate, the principal told him that two of the laptops that were stolen were exactly like the Dell laptops ORAU could provide to him. He was thrilled,” West said. “It was almost like it was destined to happen because a lot of the technology that they were donating was comparable to some of the items that we had stolen,” Smith said. The total value of the refurbished equipment is about $13,645.
Porter Elementary has also received donations from other county schools, the Blount County Education Foundation, two GoFundMe campaigns and private businesses and individuals. Smith said they recently received an “incredibly generous” donation from Blount Discount Pharmacies. All told, “we will have probably raised over $20,000,” Smith said.
The principal said this entire school year, one of the school’s big campaigns has been to expand its technology. The recent donations “will be used to not only replace what was damaged or stolen but to help us go above and beyond technology-wise,” he said. Smith reiterated his gratitude for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office for investigating the incident and the Blount County Schools maintenance department for overseeing the replacement of broken doors and windows and re-keying the building.
Another area where Porter is stronger today than it was before the incident is its school spirit. “Our school culture has benefited from this tremendously,” Smith said. “I think it’s made everybody realize how much Porter means to the kids and families.” Five suspects have been arrested in the incident and face various charges of vandalism over $60,000, theft of property and burglary.
By Melissa Erickson-The Daily Times