The tech giant funds all requests by LAUSD teachers, starting with Marina Del Rey Middle School

Google’s Venice headquarters surprised Marina Del Rey Middle School teachers with a treasure trove of classroom supplies Photos by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

Google’s Venice headquarters surprised Marina Del Rey Middle School teachers with a treasure trove of classroom supplies
Photos by Jorge M. Vargas Jr.

By Gary Walker

Like many other local public schools, teachers and students at Marina Del Rey Middle School have had to make do for years short on many basic classroom supplies and lacking access to technological aids for research and projects.

Things got a whole lot better on Monday, however, when Google’s Venice-based headquarters arrived like Santa’s sleigh with a surprise donation of dozens of boxes of classroom supplies: pencils, books, microscopes, telescopes, computers — even 3D printers.

But that’s only the beginning.

Teaming up with the nonprofit crowdfunding website, where teachers are able to post public funding requests for classroom supplies and projects, Google is spending nearly $1 million to fund every LAUSD-generated request posted to the site.

The donation fulfills 769 LAUSD teachers’ wish lists and will benefit 75,108 students, according to Google. That includes sponsorship of an eighth-grade field trip at all LAUSD middle schools, including some field trips to places as far away as Washington D.C.

“On behalf of our Google employees, I want to say we know how hard [teaching] can be and we’re happy to help in any way we can,” said Google Senior Director of Engineering Thomas Williams, who heads up the Internet company’s headquarters at the Frank Gehry “binoculars building” on Main Street in Venice.

Google has also funded the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program at Venice High School, said Williams.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LAUSD Supt. John Deasy, and LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer joined Google for the surprise morning assembly at Marina Del Rey Middle School, located on Braddock Drive in Del Rey.

“It’s with these types of partnerships … that we’re able to do these kinds of innovative projects,” Garcetti told students. “As your mayor, this is what I think education is all about.  It’s about connecting all of us, not treating schools like islands that are just the responsibility of teachers, who often don’t have the resources that they need and have to pay hundreds of dollars out of their pocket every year for the supplies that they need. We all have a responsibility for your success and to transform the lives of students.”

Deasy said the school’s faculty and staff are “nothing short of remarkable” for their dedication to students and perseverance with limited budgets.

Naomi Roth, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade English and journalism at Marina Del Rey Middle School, received a Google Chromebook laptop computer and a camera as part of seven DonorsChoose requests funded by Google.

“Just this morning, we received Bose speakers so we can do podcasts, another laptop and a lot of books,” she said.

When budget cuts loomed large four years ago, Roth was worried about losing the space where the school’s newspaper is produced. Today, The Mariner has 10 Chromebooks and two additional laptops— “so now we can enter the 21st century,” she said.

Susan Castañeda, a teacher in the school’s Marine Science Academy, had nine projects funded by Google. That included telescopes and binoculars for field trips to the Ballona Wetlands, science lab materials such as baking soda and vinegar for science and laptop computers.

“This is exactly the kind of support that schools need — well-funded organizations funding teacher-led projects,” said Karen Wolfe, whose daughter is a seventh-grader at Marina Del Rey Middle School.

Zimmer, who represents Westside voters, echoed Garcetti and Deasy in celebrating the efforts of the school’s teachers to take classroom fundraising upon themselves.

“We would not be getting some of the best donations in all of LAUSD without your teachers. Over the last few years we’ve asked so much of them and have only been able to give a little in return,” Zimmer said. “All we ask is that you take these donations that you’ve been waiting for — that you deserve — and use these donations to make things better for yourselves and that you continue to follow your dreams.”

Wolfe, an outspoken Venice resident who was critical of Google’s arrival in Venice, said she had to give them credit for their educational philanthropy.

“I think people who have planning issues or concerns about corporate citizenry with Google should continue with that. But Google didn’t tell our teachers what they were going to give them — they gave them what they asked for, and I appreciate that,” she said.