Couple use tax refund to ease cuts that hit education

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Just as she does every weekday, sixth-grade teacher Susan Stubbs grabbed her mail Wednesday morning in the Knox Middle School office.
As she shuffled through the envelopes, she spotted a letter from a stranger.
Curious, Stubbs tore it open. Inside, she found a check for $600.
A check made out to her.
“Surprise!” read the accompanying letter.
“We have been more and more distressed by the cuts in tax dollars that go to our education system,” wrote Geoffrey and Dottie Hoy.
The Salisbury residents didn’t know Stubbs, but they chose her and other teachers who received gifts based on recommendations from neighbors.
“We got a larger than expected tax refund,” the Hoys wrote. “So if the government does not want to keep it, we decided to distribute it to places that have lost tax dollars.”
Stubbs and her co-workers marveled at the letter and tried to comprehend the gift.
“I’m flabbergasted,” Stubbs said. “I have goosebumps.”
The timing was perfect, she said, as supplies she bought at the beginning of the year have run out.
Like many Rowan-Salisbury School System teachers, Stubbs spends hundreds of dollars from her own pocket every year to buy classroom supplies. Teachers used to receive about $200 from Rowan County to help offset the cost, but that practice ended a few years ago.
Using their tax refund, the Hoys wrote 11 checks last week and mailed them to nine teachers and two nonprofit community groups — the Community Care Clinic and St. John’s Child Development Center, to help defray registration fees for low-income families.
In addition to their relatives who teach, the Hoys chose a teacher from each of three public schools serving their Fulton Heights neighborhood — Koontz Elementary, Knox Middle and Salisbury High.
They decided to direct their gift mainly to teachers because the tax refund arrived as they were reading about significant cuts to schools, said Dottie Hoy, who worked as a schoolteacher years ago.
“We think education is an important thing,” she said. “We thought everybody thought it was important.”
The Hoys didn’t intend to publicize their gesture. A Post reporter happened to be at Knox when Stubbs opened her letter.
But after giving it some thought, the couple agreed to talk publicly about their decision.
“We are not wealthy people,” Geoffrey Hoy said.
Anyone can commit an act of generosity, not just those fortunate enough to accumulate great wealth, he said.
After retiring to Salisbury a few years ago from the Midwest, the Hoys said they have been amazed at Salisbury’s strong tradition of philanthropy. Giving encourages more giving, they said.
Moments before she discovered her check Wednesday morning, Stubbs had to tell a student who asked for an eraser that her supplies were gone and she couldn’t afford to buy more.
After cashing the check, she planned to immediately buy erasers, pencils and a commercial-grade pencil sharpener to replace the old-fashioned crank model that “eats half the pencil,” she said.
She will save the rest of the money for the fall.
“I will have the best start of the year ever,” she said.
At a school like Knox, where a high percentage of students receive lunch for free or at a reduced cost, Stubbs said most children show up on the first day with nothing.
“I just assume that my kids are not going to have crayons and markers, that kind of thing,” she said.
The 2010 Teacher of the Year for Knox, Stubbs said she buys markers, construction paper, paint, folders, pencils and other materials and supplies. The school provides materials, but often not enough for the whole class, she said.
Stubbs said their gift was an answer to prayer.
“You can’t tell me God’s not listening in to my conversations,” she said.
Co-workers jokingly call Stubbs “the hippie with rose-colored glasses,” she said, because she believes in the intrinsic goodness of people, despite evidence to the contrary.
The Hoys’ generosity proves her point, Stubbs said.
“People still do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.