26 Aug Cafe Zupas School Nights: Dunkin’ with Mr. Z
In the office hallway at Summit Academy a poster hangs on the white brick wall in the likeness of an Oreo with the phrase, “Dunkin’ with Mr. Z” printed across the top. The principal’s office contains a squat round table, and it’s on the carpet next to that table that Mr. Z sits individually with 32 students every month. They talk about school, and life, and they dunk a lot of Oreos. How many Oreos does Mr. Z eat each month? “Well, I started with four Oreos for everybody, but those Kindergarteners take so long!”
Bob Zentner eats a lot of Oreos.
For the last nine years he’s been the Elementary Principal for Summit Academy, where he sits on carpets eating Oreos with the kids, stands on curbs during loading time, and scrapes together funding.
It’s not a new problem for educators. Money isn’t easy to come by, and any extra bit often goes to the basic necessities in running a school. When asked what it is like educating in an environment that’s often underfunded Zentner states simply, “you go without.” He then clarifies, “You go without, or you try to find ways to do things that support teachers, help them be successful, and help the students.”
It’s a mantra found often in education: making more with less, and doing without on a daily basis. A recent study found that more than 60% of states measured are still below per student funding than prior to the recession of 2008, Zentner’s home state of Utah included. What does this lower funding mean for schools? Fewer field trips, limited extra-curricular activities, scaled back assemblies. When all funds on deck are needed to save Art and Music programs in schools, these other activities tend to be the items on the budget chopping block.
Zentner acknowledges that their school is lucky, particularly in parental involvement in special fundraising activities like the Café Zupas School Nights. “We have never lacked. We’ve done seven or eight years of these [school nights]. It’s been exceptional.”