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Books For School Children Or A Scam For Area Businesses?

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St. Ann’s Principal Warns Against Predatory Companies Seeking Money In Name Of Schools

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St. Ann School Principal Pierre Antoine displays a box of books the school received from Goodwill Publishers, a group that seeks donations from area businesses to help give books to the school. The 10 books St. Ann School received probably cost area businesses between $2,000 and $2,500 in “donations”.

By Alex Haglund

Principal Pierre Antoine of St. Ann School in Nashville is very busy, but in the late morning of Wednesday, January 11, it’s not the day-to-day running of a school that has Antoine occupied. Instead, he is on the phone with area businesses, trying to explain that donations they made to St. Ann School were not made with the school’s blessing or knowledge.

Antoine contacted The Nashville News because a company called Goodwill Publishers, or operating under nine other DBAs, was seeking money from local businesses, so that they can “donate” books to the school.

“They do not have permission from St. Ann School,” Antoine said to the person on the other end of the phone. “They use our name and for me, that’s a problem.”

Antoine said that he had dealt with these predatory book companies in the past, and if he hadn’t, he would not have know anything was wrong.

Essentially, these companies– Goodwill Publishing or one of its other aliases, or other companies with the same business plan– speak to businesses in a given school’s area and seek donations on behalf of St. Ann School or other schools.

Donors are told that they are helping to purchase books for the school, which is technically true. Neither the school or the donors are getting a very good deal out of this proposition though.

Antoine showed a box of books that the school had received. Inside were ten copies of “The Way To Go: A Book About Character And Kids Like You!”

These books are not textbooks or part of a curriculum and if they were, ten copies wouldn’t be enough to outfit one classroom, let alone the whole school. They are also not novels or on any reading list. They do, however, look very nice and have a general children’s “textbook” look to them.

Seven area businesses made donations in order to help purchase these books.

“I think that they have raised between $2,000 and $2,500,” Antoine said, “and now we’ve got ten books.”

Antoine stated time and again that he did not have a problem with the local businesses, who he feels were being taken advantage of.

“It’s not that they should feel embarrassed,” Antoine said, “they just do things for the school more effectively by dealing directly with us.”

Antoine reiterated this point on the phone when he told the person he was speaking with that anyone contacted for donations on behalf of St. Ann School should contact himself or Father Andy Knopik before they got out their checkbooks.

“Their heart is in the right place,” Antoine said, “but with these book scams, their money is headed to North Carolina or elsewhere when it could be coming here.”

One person that Antoine had contacted said that they had been locked into a contract for three years. Another company told Antoine that they had been doing this sort of business in the area for more than 20 years.

Antoine said that they had received books for the preschool last year and had asked to be taken off the list. Then this year, books arrived for grade school aged students from the same parent company. In seeking answers, Antoine discovered that the various entities under Goodwill Publishing don’t necessarily share data, so being taken off of one list was not enough.

Antoine said that someone at the company had “let it slip” that they were also seeking donations like this for Trinity–St. John School and possibly Nashville Primary School as well, but he was unable to confirm this further.

Antoine said that businesses that sponsored these books were also under the impression that their names would be printed somewhere in these books – they were not. The books were however packaged with a slip of printed out mailing labels with those businesses’ names and addresses on them, so that the students could write them “thank you” notes.

“I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill,” Antoine stated, “I am just so fed up with people taking advantage of others like this. I feel it’s my duty to help let people know. I feel like it’s parishioners, giving uop their hard earned money, for us, and then we redirect it to God-knows-where.”