Budget-weary parents raise money for school

Posted 5/28/10

A local elementary school principal knew it would not be easy to explain to parents the dire situation in the face of major budget cuts, and she …

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Budget-weary parents raise money for school

Posted

A local elementary school principal knew it would not be easy to explain to parents the dire situation in the face of major budget cuts, and she never expected the reaction she got.

Stone Mountain Elementary School Principal Marie Unger presented the facts during a meeting with parents, complete with specific impacts of state cuts to the school district and the Highlands Ranch school in particular. Instead of taking the cuts lying down, parents and community members rallied behind the school to raise money to offset the budget shortfall.

“Several parents came forward and said ‘what can we do? We need to fix this,’” Unger said.

A group of motivated parents developed a subcommittee called “The Friends of Stone Mountain” and set off on a pledge drive that, in conjunction with fundraising efforts by the parent-teacher organization, has netted about $140,000.

Parents passed out fliers, conducted community meetings and reached out to neighbors and family members to collect money. One message correlated the health of the school to surrounding property values. A portion of the money was raised through a silent auction and the collection of soup-can labels. Several businesses in Highlands Ranch also matched the substantial community donations.

Because of the tough economy, parents who were not able to give financially donated school supplies or volunteered their time.

Stone Mountain is using the money in a way that will impact the most number of students. It will retain two full-time positions that would have been eliminated next year and hire another. The school will create a first- and second-grade combined class, along with a fourth- and fifth-grade combined class, and keep its technology instructor position. It will also retain classroom aides for kindergarten, third and sixth grades.

The parents involved in the fundraising developed a “good understanding of the budget and what it might take to maintain the current educational program and decent class sizes,” Unger said.

The final goal was to raise $500 per student, and with 420 students, the group knew it was an ambitious endeavor. Although it did not reach its goal, the school is ending its year June 4 on a high note, and will have room to breathe more easily next school year.

“I could never have dreamed when we set out with that lofty of a goal that we would come close,” Unger said.

All schools have the ability to conduct a similar fundraising effort through the Douglas County Educational Foundation, which has several helpful links on its website to guide parents through the process. Visit www.dcsdk12.org for more information.

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