Local school vies for $25,000

The kids at Webb A. Murray Elementary School are popping open Pepsis and crossing their fingers in hopes of winning thousands of dollars in much-needed musical instruments.

Since one “passionate” music teacher entered Murray Elementary in the Pepsi Refresh Everything competition in April, students and teachers alike have been sipping Pepsis and voting online daily for the school to win $25,000 in drums, guitars and recorders.

“With all the cuts to education recently, we have to resort to this sort of funding,” said Shari E. Crabtree, the music education specialist at Murray Elementary who entered the school into the contest. “I have faith in our community and friends, though, that they will help us get this money.”

The Pepsi Refresh Everything Project gives away money each month to “fund great ideas that refresh the world,” according to refresheverything.com. After Crabtree submitted a grant request to Pepsi in April, Murray was selected as a May candidate for the money.

How it works

The more online votes candidates get, the higher they are ranked in the competition. When voting ends May 31, the top 15 candidates receive grant funds.

Crabtree said candidates can also receive “power votes” when voters submit codes from Pepsi bottle caps that are yellow. The “power votes” can count up to 100 votes per cap.

As of Thursday, Murray was ranked 18 for the $25,000 grant.

“I’m probably going to lose every friend on Facebook because I’ve been sharing the competition with them every day and telling them to vote,” Crabtree said. “Every day, the kids have been coming in with bags full of the Pepsi yellow lids. We’re all going crazy, and the kids are really trying to get us over the hump.”

Crabtree, who was recently selected as Murray Elementary's 2010-11 Teacher of the Year, purchased and donated many of the school’s instruments. And even though Crabtree said “you do what you got to do” to support education, she said it’s financially difficult to afford all the instruments.

“It gets to a point where I have to say, ‘I love my family too, and I can’t keep buying instruments,’” she said.

Murray Elementary Principal Chip Cathey said Crabtree is “super dedicated.”

“This is only her second year at Murray, but she’s so much a part of the faculty now that I can’t imagine Murray without her,” Cathey said.

“It’s just kind of evolved from something she started that was nice, and she discovered the power voting and our ranking went from the 40s, 30s, 20s and now we are in the teens.”

Crabtree uses the Orff method that teaches music in the most natural ways — a teaching strategy that Cathey said requires instruments.

“It’s a way of naturally teaching music, and by being able to buy these drums is a critical step from clapping on your hands and knees and taking it to another level,” he said.

Root for the 'underdogs'

But even with Crabtree’s motivation and the school’s heavy involvement in the competition, school officials still consider themselves “underdogs” for a variety of reasons.

One of those reasons is highly-complex “alliances” that are formed between other schools involved in the competition. Crabtree said these alliances are driven by strong political motivations, but did not want to specify the involved parties.

She said the allied competitors make agreements to vote for each other throughout the duration of the competition, vaulting each other into the coveted and lucrative top 15. When Crabtree was approached Wednesday to join an alliance with another school in North Carolina, she denied the offer.

“My gut told me that wasn’t right to form an alliance,” she said. “When you hear about these things that make it hard for plain old people like us, it’s disheartening. But I have faith in our friends and community.”

Cathey supports Crabtree’s decision.

“We’re one of only two schools that aren’t involved in this whole alliance process,” Cathey said. “As a school, we’re really using a lot of local support, and we’re not using this worldwide and national email chain. It’s just Catawba County getting behind her and supporting her and not some massive email chain of networking.”

Cathey and Crabtree also said their smaller school size and level of funding makes it harder to gain votes.

To vote for Crabtree and Murray’s cause, visit refresheverything.com or text 105915 to 73744. Yellow Pepsi bottle caps can also be donated to Murray’s front office.