Written by Janean Oberlander
In May 2001, I retired after 30 years of teaching, and completed my 19th yearbook, my last one – or so I thought. In January 2003, my replacement suddenly resigned, and I was asked to finish the year. My concern for the students forced me back, but I struggled. In addition to facing a staff whose response to me was mixed, I discovered in March that our account, which enjoyed a $4,000 balance in 2001, was now $3,000 in the red.
The school board provided some help, but we entered the next school year with a pittance. We needed a fund-raiser – a big one.
Enter Stephanie. An aspiring journalist, Stephanie was one of only two returning staff members. She embraced the job of editor with the same enthusiasm she displayed as a cheerleader before she was sidelined with a throat ailment. Having attended a national leadership conference, Stephanie had big plans for the book and staff. It began with a staff cookout at her house. Then came a brainstorming session setting goals. Those goals were soon spelled out on colorful, handmade posters on the room’s back walls.
The enthusiasm had caught on with the students, but we still had little money. Stephanie and Jim, the other second-year staff member, suggested a T-shirt sale. Now, the class had sold Red Riot T-shirts in the past for the student cheering section at basketball games. Red Riot shirts weren’t what they had in mind, however.
Their idea was New Knoxville Football T-shirts. But we don’t have football. Our school houses K-12 in one building with slightly more than 450 students.
I was skeptical, predicting we would sell 100 at the most, but their enthusiasm for the project swept over me, and I agreed to it. The front of the shirts read “New Knoxville Football.” The back read, “Undefeated Since 1924,” the first year we had a four-year high school. To my surprise we sold 370 shirts – the first time. I had a lot to learn about what sells.
Once the students began wearing them, everyone wanted one. Not only were students clamoring for more, but also adults, some from neighboring towns. Students’ relatives from as far away as Texas had to have a T-shirt. So we placed another order and then another, eventually selling 544 shirts (remember, our population is 450) and earning more than $3,200. I even managed to get one shirt autographed by Ohio State’s football coach, Jim Tressel, and we auctioned it off at spring open house. That brought in another $150.
Our account once more was in the black, and we had more than enough to purchase InDesign, which Stephanie, by the way, used to create some of the most exciting designs we have ever had.
Last year we were able to purchase a digital camera, and this year, thanks to the prompting of this adviser, who had previously dragged her feet, we will have an all-color book. My interest in yearbooks has resurfaced, thanks to the enthusiasm of the staffs I’ve worked with since my return to the classroom, especially Stephanie.