Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

July 18, 2012

Fundraisers helping keep schools afloat

TAHLEQUAH — Oklahoma’s budget, particularly when it comes to education funding, is flat for yet another fiscal year.

While Tahlequah Public Schools is faring better than area metropolitan districts, funding is not projected to increase, and donations from local groups provide vital resources for students and teachers alike.

Tahlequah Public Schools Interim Superintendent Lisa Presley believes the district has combined a number of funding sources, grants and child count to provide essential student services.

“Over the past couple of years, financial preparations have also been employed to anticipate the huge costs of opening Heritage Elementary School, and the new cafeterias at Greenwood Elementary School and Tahlequah High School,” said Presley. “With the support of the Tahlequah community, the sites are near ready, as the district has prepared to operate and staff the new structures.”

TPS has added an additional site for the 2012-’13 school year, and will now be operating seven schools, including the pre-kindergarten Sequoyah site.

“Sequoyah has required some remodeling during the summer,” said Presley. “Additional teachers and support staff have been employed, and increased operational costs are obviously expected. This growth will have an impact on the district’s fund balance.”

For these reasons, fundraisers held by community organizations could be considered vital in a down economy.

The Elks Lodge is hosting an Indian taco sale from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Tahlequah Community Building. All proceeds from the event will be used to purchase school supplies for TPS elementary sites.

“The Elks lodge is a nonprofit organization,” said Connie Parnell, an officer with the Tahlequah Elks Lodge No. 2601. “Any money we raise goes right back into the community. It’s just one of our ways of helping.”

Parnell is all too aware of the funding challenges the schools face.

“We know schools have not received as much money, and this is our way of helping the children of our children and our community.”

In the past, the Elks have used grants as a way to provide funding to schools.

“Teachers would write proposals for specific equipment or supplies,” said Parnell. “We also help the Tahlequah High School cheerleaders, and help fund Girls and Boys State and Special Olympics. We do a lot for schools in many ways. We just decided to add this new event to provide supplies. The Johnson-O’Malley program, as well as other entities, used to provide lots of supplies, but don’t do as much these days. We just wanted to help.”

Tahlequah Middle School eighth-grade language arts teacher Shelly Bailey said she sees students who need help with supplies on a daily basis.

“Although JOM is a wonderful program for helping families obtain school supplies, not all students in need qualify,” said Bailey. “Fundraisers, such as the one the `Elks Lodge will be hosting Thursday, are necessary avenues for meeting some of those needs. It’s important for the school system to involve the community members to help make it more successful and to promote student learning.”

Presley agreed, saying fundraisers will continue to play an important role for not only the district, but local families.

“School fundraisers will continue – especially those that directly impact the pocketbooks of families,” said Presley. “Tahlequah Public Schools is financially sound, but the Oklahoma State Department of Education is not projecting more revenue for public schools. Going forward, this district will need to be mindful of its increased operating costs and remember there has never been enough revenue for public education, and there never will be.”

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