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Schools turn to parents

Education: PTAs and other parent groups shoulder expenses of field trips, assemblies and even textbo

Posted: October 3, 2010 9:41 p.m.
Updated: October 4, 2010 4:55 a.m.

As state officials have whittled away at funding for public schools, parent organizations have stepped in across the Santa Clarita Valley to fill in the shortfalls, covering everything from field trips to basic classroom supplies.

Doing so means those parents have taken the art of fundraising far beyond seasonal sales of cookie dough and Christmas wrap.

“Our parents are very active in their schools — and that’s across all of the districts in this valley,” said Suzan Solomon, a long-time Parent-Teacher Association leader. “That’s why our schools are high-achieving.”

The fundraisers come as PTAs have evolved from advocacy organizations into financial support groups, Solomon said.
“Whatever the priority of a school is, (parents) are asked to step up,” she said.

Through her role as legislative chair for the Santa Clarita Valley PTA, Solomon is trying to get parents to be the voices for public education.

“It’s really hard to do it because the needs of the site are what they’re involved with every day,” Solomon said.
The increasing support role of parents isn’t going unnoticed.

Castaic Union School District Superintendent James Gibson said without support from parents and the district’s education foundation, field trips wouldn’t be an option for students.

And finding money to build computer and science labs would be considerably harder if it weren’t for donations and community support, he said.

Running to raise money
Organizers of this year’s Jog-a-Thon at Oaks Hills Elementary School hope to raise $40,000 for the school.

For the event, the Stevenson Ranch school’s nearly 600 students collect pledges in time for a schoolwide run on Oct. 14.
The Jog-a-Thon serves a dual purpose: while raising money, it also promotes fitness and healthy lifestyles.

Last year, students raised more than $58,000, shattering the initial goal of $45,000.

“It’s really the only huge fundraiser,” said Ashley Matkin, Parent-Teacher Association president for the school.

The money raised at this year’s Jog-a-Thon will help fund all the programs lined up for the year, including assemblies, art programs, dances, the science fair, the variety show, family fun night and books for the classroom.

“The schools are strapped,” Matkin said. “They can only do what they can do. They’re having to raise classroom sizes and lay off teachers.”

As much as kids enjoy field trips and attending bully-prevention assemblies, those programs are educational, too, Matkin said.

“They’re learning in a different way — that’s just outside the classroom.”

The eBay of fundraisers
Up Interstate 5 at Live Oak Elementary School, parents have donated more than 200 items and services as part of the Castaic school’s first online auction.

“Nobody has disposable income right now, especially our schools, so we’re all trying to find creative ways to work together,” said Susan Christopher, vice president of ways and means for the PTA.

Parent leaders hope to raise $15,000 to pay for field trips and assemblies for the school’s 700 youngsters.

Even though many of the school’s field trips are local to the Santa Clarita Valley, paying for buses and transportation
proves to be a financial struggle, said Christopher, who is also a Castaic Union School District board member.

“I think it’s really important to provide those extra services and open the kids’ minds, improve their test scores and get them thinking outside of the box,” Christopher said.

A festival for funds
At Leona Cox Elementary School in Canyon Country, parent leaders are hoping this year’s Harvest Festival on Oct. 28 will raise enough money to pay for the school’s music teachers and new technology in the classrooms, said Shanele Stoll, event coordinator.

Last year, the school opened the event — which features games, activities and food — to the public to raise more money, she said.

Instead of hiring vendors, parents are volunteering to make and sell home-baked goods, reducing the cost of putting on the event.

Stoll said financial donations are down, but parents are willing to donate more time organizing events.

At the same time, the parent group is trying to host a handful of major fundraisers instead of frequent sales.
“We’re trying to find a balance of not bombarding the parents,” Stoll said.


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