When CMS gave the grand tour of Grand Oak Elementary, I was struck by the sight of PTA volunteers unloading crates of Lysol, copy paper and other classroom supplies.
PTA president Marissa Gilbert said the parents and kids weren't just helping with heavy lifting. They bought the goods in bulk, an approach that ensures teachers and students will have all the supplemental supplies they need. I've heard of parents getting individual "wish lists" from teachers seeking such items as Kleenex and hand sanitizer, but this was the first I'd heard of bulk-buying.
|Sloan Lorino, 12, hauls supplies at Grand Oak|
Apparently this is old hat at many schools, including Torrence Creek Elementary, where most of the Grand Oak students and families came from. But for folks like me who haven't bought supplies in the 21st century, here's how it works: Teachers at each grade level prepare lists of classroom needs, such as hand wipes and reams of paper, and items students will need, such as markers, glue sticks and pencil bags. Families have the option of making a bulk purchase, with prices ranging from $50 to $75, depending on the grade level, Gilbert said. They can also choose to buy their own items, but Gilbert said well over half the 600 students at Grand Oak went the bulk route. This year the PTA decided to "round up" on the price to raise money for buying books for the library and classrooms, she added.
I've heard parents gripe about being asked to pay for supplies in schools that are already funded by their tax dollars. But Gilbert says the bulk-ordering plan is popular. "I haven't heard anything but, 'Thank you for doing this again,' " she said.
Here's another surprise for me: In some struggling districts, schools solicit parent donations to hire staff and pay teacher stipends (read education writer Emily Richmond's blog about that topic here). I've never heard of that happening in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools or nearby districts. I asked CMS lawyers if there's a legal reason for that.
"I am unaware of any statutory or policy limits," responded General Counsel George Battle III. "At the risk of speculating way outside my lane, as a practical matter, it seems that it would be difficult to fund personnel out of parental gifts due to sustainability, variance by school and other issues."