Dear Santa: Send Kleenex

The public has a chance to play Santa for Chico schools this year, picking from an online wish list ranging from facial tissue and electric pencil sharpeners to plywood and goal posts.

Anthony Watts, a Chico Unified School District trustee, has developed a Web site he said is intended to “put the ‘needs’ in touch with the ‘haves.'” includes message boards, on which 70 posts have already been logged, asking for a wide variety of gifts—even items as pricey as a video security system and an all-weather track. Viewers can donate requested items or put items they have up for grabs. Watts likens it to an “eBay for donations.”

He spent two weeks developing the site, unveiling it to CUSD employees via the official district-wide e-mail system on Dec. 10 and announcing it to the media two days later.

While the issue of the site never came up in a public meeting, Watts said since it wasn’t a policy decision and doesn’t use public funds he approached the board members and superintendent individually, and they “reviewed and signed off on it.”

Trustee Rick Anderson later clarified that the CUSD never officially endorsed the site. “The board as a whole has not discussed it or blessed it,” he said, adding, “I think it’s an absolutely awesome site. It’s a great idea.”

Board President Steve O’Bryan also said the site is a creative approach to supporting public schools. “It’s kind of a place where people can go and place their needs and hopefully someone will fulfill them.”

As state funding becomes increasingly unstable, the board has been brainstorming ideas on how the CUSD could increase private support.

Watts said that, like many new board members, he “expected to find some fat” in the budget, only to learn that there was little if any.

The state is barely footing the bill for the books, desks and teaching staff, so old tennis balls to put over chair feet, children’s books in Spanish and native plants (also on the “wants” list) are out of the question.

The site mentions that it is nonprofit and a tax write-off can be had if donations are ultimately approved by the CUSD Board of Trustees.