Books donated to Cassville schools unusable

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

N.C. company asking for donations not associated with district

A North Carolina company has been soliciting donations for books for Cassville Elementary School students, but Superintendent Richard Asbill said the donated items are unusable because they have not been vetted by the curriculum committee.

Asbill said a representative of The Ambassador Company has been asking Cassville businesses to donate in the name of the school to provide educational books.

"What we found is The Ambassador Company has been mailing us boxes of books every couple years, and when we called them to ask about it, they said it was a donation, and in the books, it says, 'compliments of,' and lists Cassville businesses that paid Ambassador," Asbill said. "The problem is, we are not always able to distribute information we receive because it hasn't been reviewed through the curriculum committee or the school board."

Asbill said most of the items sent to the district are elementary-level, but that no outside groups have permission to raise money for the district for books.

Asbill said the representative, John Padden, came to his office on Thursday to discuss the issue.

"He was a nice guy," he said. "We do not have an agreement with Ambassador, and he agreed that what was occurring was unethical. He said he was retired and answered an ad in a newspaper for the work, and he has resigned from the position. He seemed very honest and like he did not know what he was getting into."

Padden, of Kansas City, said he got the job with The Ambassador Company after answering a Craigslist ad, and he resigned from his position on Thursday.

"I certainly wanted to do what the school wanted to do," he said. "I assumed they had an agreement with the school district, and when I found out they didn't, I decided I did not want to be a part of anything that's not on the up and up."

David Moore, vice president of The Ambassador Company, said the 77-year-old business is a wing of Good Will Publishers, and The Ambassador Company has been active in the Cassville area for 14-16 years.

"The normal process is we go to the elementary schools and get the numbers of 6- and 10-year-olds so we know how many books to send," he said. "It's not a school program or part of the curriculum, and the books are sponsored by local character educators, and we put their names in the books as recognition."

Moore said the books cover a range of topics, including respect, responsibility, anti-bullying, beginning drug education (like to keep away from chemicals under the kitchen sink), and how to handle emergencies and call 911.

"The books always have happy endings, and we emphasize community through the fire department, police department and local businesses, saying we have a good community and let's keep it that way," he said.

Moore said the company does not get a lot of push back from schools, but he understands why a principal or superintendent may be apprehensive.

"Sometimes, we'll be asked to talk to the curriculum person or the superintendent, but that is very seldom," he said. "I don't blame any superintendent in this day and age for asking about the books, and we are totally open to critique and certainly understand when a district wants to check things out."

Moore confirmed Padden's resignation and said he tried to assure Padden issues such as this are not normal with the company. In the future, Moore said the company will discuss the donations with the district before sending any more or soliciting any more donations.

"We would be open to whatever the area desires," he said. "If the superintendent wants to sit down and talk, we would certainly do that. Usually, when a case like this arises, we wait to hear from the superintendent, and we will be totally OK with whatever they say.

"We are in 42 states in the U.S. and we do this primarily in small towns. We are an ethical, Christian publishing company, and we try to do things right."

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