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Jackson County school system asks PTOs for more money
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The Jackson County School System is encouraging local parent-teacher organizations to help purchase instructional supplies for the 2010-11 school year, but some parents are concerned about the school system relying too heavily on them for supplies.

Superintendent Shannon Adams posted a letter on the system’s Web site last week noting the financial issues it has faced in the past year, from implementing a reduction-in-force plan in March 2009 to finding nonpersonnel-related ways to cut costs when faced with a budget deficit at the beginning of the 2009-10 year.

“It has just become obvious that our financial situation — and by ours, I mean not only Jackson County Schools but school systems statewide — is not going to improve over the next two years, and we’re just not going to be able to provide all that we’ve routinely provided to schools,” Adams said in a telephone interview.

Adams said that the state legislature’s two-week recess to discuss the 2010 budget is “encouraging,” but the system still is looking at a tough year financially.

Instructional supplies have been one of the categories the school system has seen cuts. These funds go toward purchasing classroom supplies and are typically measured per student.

“This year’s allotment was $10 per student, as compared to $32.27 per student last year,” Adams wrote in his letter. “If the current fiscal landscape does not change dramatically, we will be hard-pressed to provide any money at all to the schools for instructional supplies next year.”

This, Adams writes, is where PTOs can help.

He explains that the PTOs at Jackson County schools have been “tremendously supportive” and have afforded students many opportunities and activities over the years, but they also could direct that same dedication toward fundraising efforts and school supply collections.

“Those support groups have been tremendous. Traditionally, we’ve got some of the best anywhere, and we’re just asking them to consider helping us out,” Adams said.

Melanie Crozier, PTO president at West Jackson Primary School, said her organization has about three fundraisers a year to pay for new playground equipment, beautification projects around the school and other costs.

“From a financial standpoint, I like to think of us as a fundraising group, and we provide the extras that the school system doesn’t have to pay for — murals on the walls in the school, beautification on the grounds, things like that,” she said.

The PTO also coordinates events at the school to encourage community spirit, such as the movie night the school recently hosted.
This year, the board has voted on a number of requests from teachers and staff for supplies such as agenda books for the first- and second-grade students and steam cleaners for the custodial staff.

But Crozier said she thinks that the school system should be careful not to lean too heavily on parent groups to pay for instructional supplies.

“We don’t have a problem helping out; I think that’s an integral part of what the PTO does. But I think it’s really dangerous to rely on school PTOs for necessities,” Crozier said. “Our PTO is very blessed — we’ve been pretty successful at our fundraising. But there are schools in the county that don’t have the funds we do. What happens to those children in the schools who don’t have the same financial support from their PTO? Are those kids going to go without? And if the county pitches in for those schools, is that fair to the rest of the schools?”

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