- Practice Areas
In the spring of 2017, toward the end of the school year, Paris Elementary in Aurora, CO was preparing for five weeks of state testing. The third, fourth, and fifth graders were going to take the CMAS and PARCC tests. But the school’s track record with the tests was not great: many, many kids simply didn’t show during the testing period.
Paris Elementary is a school that draws from a poor population of families. The school serves a high percentage of children who receive free or reduced lunches, and many come from housing shelters. Typically, even after the five weeks of testing are complete, the school then has to commit another two weeks to makeup exams.
This year, the school was looking for a way to incentivize students to attend the five weeks of testing… and Anita Fitzjarrald had an idea.
Anita is the school’s Teacher on Special Assignment and the Data Analyst. She knew that something had to be done.
“Attendance at the exams doesn’t affect our funding,” Anita said. “It affects learning. We needed a way to get kids excited about coming to school during the exams.”
And Anita had a plan. At schools where she previously worked, she had called on donors to give things like gift cards, movie tickets, and even a bike to the school to help it incentivize children to attend during the exams.
At Paris Elementary, she started making calls and she was able to secure Walmart gift cards, Chipotle gift cards, Elitch’s passes, movie tickets and more. With one of the Walmart gift cards, she purchased a bike from Walmart, where she also received an extra $100 and 10% off any purchase she made for the school.
So, the school had one bike. But then Megan Killoran, the school’s custodian, had an idea.
“I noticed that they only had one bike and it was a boys’ bike, but the kids were so excited!” recalls Megan. “I thought, ‘What if we had even more bikes?’”
Megan’s mom, Sharon, works at The O’Sullivan Law Firm, so Megan and Sharon approached Scott and asked him if the firm could donate more money for bikes. Scott immediately agreed and wrote a check to the school.
“We got to buy 15 more bikes!” says Megan. “These kids don’t have much and none of them have had their own bikes before. The joy in their faces was amazing… to see how excited they were, that they might be able to call something their own. A lot of them can’t call anything their own.”
So, the school started giving away tickets to children for chances to win the gift cards, tickets and bikes. Similar to raffle tickets, the school gave tickets to any child who attended school during the days of the exams. Children also received tickets for staying actively engaged for a certain amount of time with the tests. For each ticket they received, a matching ticket was put in a giant bowl for the final drawings. Children earned many tickets each over the course of the five weeks.
“We had the best attendance of the year during the testing window!” says Anita. “On one day during the tests, we only had one student absent. It was the only day that year that happened.”
Anita also says that the children’s test scores improved, but she couldn’t share those results with The O’Sullivan Law firm prior to getting them vetted by the state.
Finally, the day of the big drawing arrived.
“The mood in the school was amazing,” says Anita. “It was so exciting! We had all the bikes, helmets and locks lined up on stage.”
Lutheran Hospital donated helmets for all of the bikes.
“The kids were at tables and they had their tickets spread out in front of them,” says Anita. “We’d slowly call a number, like a lottery, and every time we called a number, everyone cheered. Even if they didn’t win, all of the kids cheered for whoever won.”
Anita also reported that, instead of two weeks of makeups after the exams ended, the school was able to keep up with makeup exams during the normal testing period.
“It was great that The O’Sullivan Law Firm stepped up so that we could give away more bikes,” says Anita. “Every child felt like they had a chance to win.”
The O’Sullivan Law Firm has a long history of supporting community organizations and one of Scott’s greatest passions is helping children discover a love for a sport, such as biking or golf. As the former president of the board for The First Tee of Denver, Scott helps the organization use golf as a tool to educate kids academically, socially and physically.
The O’Sullivan Law Firm was also a Founding Member sponsor for BikeDenver.org, which advocates for better policies and infrastructure to support increased bicycling in Denver. The firm also sponsors an annual holiday party for the organization’s volunteers.
Additionally, the firm also donates annually to ProjectReCycle.org and Scott volunteers his time in the organization’s bike collection programs.
“How can you pass up the chance to help a kid get his or her first bike?” says Scott. “It was an honor to help the kids at Paris Elementary!”
The nights are cooler. The leaves are turning. And the wind whips up spooky shadows. So, I thought I’d share some creepy quotes. It’s up to you to figure out who said them! (Answers below…don’t peek!)