Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guess I didn't expect that....

Last night we had our 5th grade meeting to discuss fundraising, options, etc for this year.  The night before, I went through the closed PTA budget just to pull some numbers from years past of what other classes spent on the "core" items.  I came up with some proposed numbers that 1) cut things back, but still included the main things, 2) showed how different contribution levels impact the whole budget, and how much more or less fundraising needs to be done, and 3) at least were a starting point to get people thinking.

CLARIFY: All of this is not PTA. This is only 5th grade parents. I reference the PTA budget because PTA is the one who "writes the checks" to pay for things. The 5th grade collects it to the PTA to fund the checks they write. PTA is the middleman....decisions about these things have nothing to do with PTA.

PTA does separate fundraisers for PTA funded activities.  This includes but isn't limited fieldtrips, staff appreciation, community things, and books/materials.

I flat out said....this is just a jumping off point. Somewhere to start.  ALL of these numbers are up for negotiation between parents.  Just wanted to show what was previously spent, and how the trend over the past years have been going.

The teachers appreciated.  Maybe a few parents.  The

Some parents didn't get what was involved in fundraising.  Several times the teachers and some more vocal people (me!) said if we do 10 small fundraisers, over time they become less effective because people just see them as a nuisance and don't want to participate.  This concept seemed lost.

But the two big surprises....

1)  Class Gift.  I proposed including a "class gift" as part of the budget.  The kids all get soooo much.  It is a nice gesture to "give back."  My idea was to use whatever money we decide to purchase something the school needs.  I proposed $100 per $300 total (and is just a jumping off can be more or less).  Again....all of this is under the main umbrella of "money needed for everything."  I got 1 person who thought it was a good idea.  The rest sort of nodded....but were non-committal.  The feeling was....well, yeah....but isn't this about MY kid....why are we going to give something away???

CLARIFY: The class gift is NOT to the teachers, it is to the school. If individual families want to say thank you to a teacher, go right ahead. My thought was that the class would present a gift to the school, for all to use. Something that the teachers and staff have expressed "gee, it would be nice to have XYZ." There are many things in our school that need to be replaced, and year after year, they aren't. This would be something to help out with that. Similar to a high school "class gift" to a school...but on a smaller scale. The decision of WHAT would be purchased would be made by the 5th grade parents.

Le sigh.   And....

2)  PARTY!  A parent (whom is not the nicest person) suggested we just raise money to through a big party.  A $2000-$3000 PARTY.  Nothing else.  Just give them a big blow out party.  I disagreed and she muttered under her breath.  I felt that was over the top, and that it could easily get out of hand (budget wise).  And it set a precedent that future classes would try to do the same, but would also add in more.  This is opposite of "less is more."

I am NOT saying I am right.  I am NOT saying that there isn't room to compromise in everything.  I was just surprised that a parent felt it was appropriate to spend that much money (largely other people's money) on a party for 10 year olds.

In the end....nothing was decided.  Now people want to ask the other 40 people who weren't there what they want. Well, that was what this meeting was for.  Whatever.

I will say.....if the large majority decide to throw a big party.....I will not help with that.  I can't support that.  I will financially pay whatever my kids' share is, but I am not planning to fundraise for an over the top party.  I can compromise....but I am not going to give up ALL my values.

And for those who will tell me....well you do this that and the other.  Yes I do.  But I don't agree with that idea.  And I don't have to "support it" with time and energy.

CLARIFY:  One fundamental problem at our school among parent run events is understanding a budget.  Most just want to spend what they want to spend, and don't consider where that money comes from.  They say "well, it just costs that much."  Since I came to this school in 2010, this has been an ongoing struggle.  No one sets limits on things, and just figures that someone will take care of it in the end.  Many people have no idea how much an event actually costs, nor do they consider how much money is available to run the event.  I was trying to show that we don't have to spend the same amount of money, and can still have great things.  But people aren't used to starting with a budget.  They are used to raising money, then spending it, and if they don't have enough....they figure someone will pick up the slack.


  1. there is never no clear winner in these situations and there is always going to be one person who NEVER EVER agrees with the rest of the crowd.

    Good luck and I hope things work in your favour as it seems like the way to go in my humble opinion.


  2. Our PTA is doing just two fund raisers this year. We're raising money for classroom I-Pads, not for parties. We have a silent auction of child-made and donated items (cards/photos of items on a table at school NO party) and a community spaghetti dinner and movie night so we can all commune, not partaayyy. Last year it was BBQ.

    I don't get the parties thing. Why is your PTA responsible for that? Here each child buys his own yearbook (about $15) and the entire school has an outdoor field day to celebrate the end of school. The graduating 5th graders are honored by being allowed the 'grown-up' privilege of helping the adults with the younger grade events. We are big on healthy activity not $3,000 cake and punch.

    And a yearbook signing party? Are you serious? LOL Uhm, a few minutes at the end of one of the last days of school is more than sufficient.

    In past, more affluent years, we raised money for benches on the playground, art on the walls, EXTRAS that benefit the entire school not some dumb forgettable party. PARENTS volunteer to bring treats and perhaps a craft for holiday parties otherwise kids you are on your own, let your mommy throw you that private graduation party you so *deserve*.

    I also don't get your classroom gift to teacher idea. Isn't it a personal choice whether to give a gift and what that gift should be? Personally I would never stand for being told that I had to give a gift nor would I take kindly to being solicited for a suggested specific group gift. Ten years ago I made cookies to express my thanks to a special teacher, today they (or room moms) expect gift cards to their favorite restaurant.

    As for fund raising at school, I don't allow my kids to sell anything. Period. Ask me for cash and I'll give it but quit trying to make me sell cookie dough and wrapping paper to the same neighbors who are trying to sell me the same crap so the school can get 50% at best.

    The other parents in your PTA sound like a bunch of self-absorbed brainless snobs. Perhaps you might suggest to them that an evaluation of their group purpose be revisited.

    (maybe you should tell them that your opinion is right; compromises aren't always useful and it seems like a lot of wishywashyness is going on so they might like a stronger leader who tells them whats what)

    1. First off...this is NOT PTA....this is all about the parents of the 5th graders. PTA does put some money toward 5th grade activities, but as a whole, it is the responsibility of the 5th grade parents to decide what will be done, and how to pay for it.

      As I have said...this stuff is way over the top. Which is why I am advocating cutting back!

      Lastly...the class gift is NOT to the is to the school. The idea is that it is somthing that the school can use (example...last year the teachers needed a new digital camera, which the PTA purchased...the total cost ended up being about $150 with sales).

      If we did a class gift, the parents would decide what to give based on information we have gotten from the teachers and principal about things the school can use. It would be similar to buying a piece of playground equiptment (although not as $$$!!)...something everyone would benefit from.

    2. Some parts of your posts obviously weren't clear to me. Never heard of parents getting together to plan parties and fund raisers of the type you describe but I only have experience with NM and CO school districts. 30 minutes and $50 bucks for pizza and yearbook signing sounds like plenty to me. What in the world would cost $3,000?!! (seriously, I'm really curious) I have 3rd, 6th and 9th graders, none ever had a "graduation" unless you count preschool and we were paying tuition there. We live in the best district and we don't do stuff like that...

      Curious, why do the parents have a say in how fancy the yearbooks are? Why doesn't your district or principal handle that?

      You sound snippy and defensive sometimes when you reply to people (& people think I come across as stuck up because I have as and am reserved) but you do understand that my post was in support of most of what you had to say and very negative towards the very type of parents you're writing about? Except for the class gift. The way you've clarified it now I would simply send a note home to all parents explaining your idea and asking if they'd like to contribute or not, check the box. Then buy whatever you can afford after donations, whether it's 20 or $200. That's how I'd phrase it at the next meeting - "I'm going to send a note explaining this gift thing and ask for donations." Bet ya anything that you'd get the same blah response while getting exactly what you want.

      You haven't talked much about advocating for cutting back. You said that you brought up your idea and that most hemmed and hawed (if they uttered anything at all) and wanted to postpone the whole thing for later. "Piss or get off the pot" my dad used to say... meaning, make a decision one way or the other. Those parents need someone to make them get their XXXX together and most people really don't like having to make decisions, they want the easy way out (sadly imho). I suggested previously that you might want to consider helping them do that (because it sounds like you think your view/this issue is important and because those parents sound like idiots, like silly Snooki Housewives of wherever).

      For myself, no way I would pay my kids supposed share of an event that I didn't agree with but I've given myself strict rules about school $ over the years else we'd be broke because we like to do it all. Like you said, no need to support with time and energy either, we all have to decide individually what really matters when it comes to our children's education and our own finances and that's what we put our effort into. Anyway, hope it works out for you in a positive manner.

    3. Alot of posts reference things I have already talked if you haven't read everything, or if you skim some things (I know I do!!), it is easy to miss a few of the finer points.

      I am sorry if you think I am snippy. Sometimes I have limited time...and if it comes across as short, then I apologize.

      You asked why parents have a say in yearbooks....because they are the ones who put it together. Our school has nothing to do with it. It is a group of parents who volunteer to put it together. If no one wants to put it together, then there is no yearbook. No "school" money goes towards it. It is generally paid for by the families who wish to purchase one (I have never bought one for my kids). The price of the yearbook is based on how "fancy" it gets. If the people who put it together go fancy...then the price goes up.

      I thought it was clear that I advocated cutting back. My posts about how over the top these things are which end on the "no way" note were meant to express that. And as a PF blog (that has veered off into the personal), I do talk about the budget of those things.... and my frustration with it.

      I would love to get people to make a decision and then act on it. However, I am in the minority. I have to pick and choose where to be more aggressive. If they want to take a survey....fine. I would rather save my "chips" for another area.

  3. Here's the thing: Public school is supposed to be free. Or it's supposed to be paid-for via taxes paid by the citizenry, more precisely. Asking parents to contribute so much money (and fund-raisers are parent shakedowns, primarily) so that parties can be thrown and so that extra money may be given to the school for their general budget (or even for some needed item that benefits the whole school) gets really burdensome fast for people who don't have room in their budget for constantly feeding money into the PTA/class budget/gifts/party funds, or whatever.

    1. Education in a public school is free. A basic education.

      However, the enrichment stuff...the extra not. At our school, the PTA fundraising is mostly aimed at the enrichment stuff....field trips, programs. Additionally, our state has changed it's curriculum to "the common core", which the majority of states follow. This change also means that many materials that are currently used are out of sync, and need replacing. The school budget covers the basics....again, the enrichment of the curriculum is not covered.

      Teachers spend ALOT of their own personal money trying to round things out. Our PTA tries to help the teachers as we can.

      Yes, parties are certainly not necessary. They are a bonus. Most of the 5th grade stuff is not is bonus. People want to do I am trying to start the ball on cutting things back, so eventually it is something that becomes a smaller deal.

      CT is one of the highest taxed states....I certainly pay my taxes, and I doubt I get much more as a citizen than the rest of the country.

      I am not sure you have ever really looked at a school budget (not PTA...the district budget). Well, I have....and it is amazing how little money the schools actually get and what they are expected to do with it.

      As a parent, I volunteer because I can't just pay a ton of money. I give my time. We do not participate in the fundraisers for the most part. But we give what we enrich our kids education.

  4. PS> never heard of a high school class gift to a school either. Guess we are cheap here or it isn't our tradition. Hard for me to understand this idea as I don't have a reference point.

    What would happen if someone decides on the specific item to be purchased before collecting the funds and then not enough $ is raised? Do they return donations since it is only for one specific class year?

    For instance, when we bought a rock wall and also freshened up the playground we had a $ goal for the year but didn't reach it. So it was rolled to the next year when we catered a less expensive movie & dinner night so the extra $ could go for things we still needed.

    We're so experienced w/the dinner now that we can predict the # of tickets sold and money raised last year goes for this years event for many years now. Otherwise, how would we pay the caterer if not enough tickets were bought? Some years we have enough for face painting, magicians and the like or they are donated. Otherwise we can cut them out to save cost.

    Our auction raises a LOT of money; some parents become quite competitive over bidding on things their kids class made. I remember one year someone turned an old dresser into a sort of gardening stand. Inserted a sink and painted it and the class kids made flowers on it with their thumb prints. It would probably be ruined in the 1st rain? But sold for over $1,500!!! Most class stuff sells for several hundred, I can never afford it.

    1. I grew up in VA, and the senior class always gave a gift to the school. My class purchased a very large boulder, designed for "art." The gift was always designed to be something that the school could use, or get some benefit from. Other classes in my county (we had 26 high schools), purchased computer equipment, signage, or contributed to other larger projects that were being fundraised for (one school was trying to upgrade their football the graduating class made a donation to that fund).

      Since this is the first year that a class gift is on the table...we will have to see how it goes. Nothing would be decided in terms of what to get until much later in the year. Many times teachers are able to get grants to cover some items, so no sense in agreeing to buy XYZ, and then they are able to buy it themselves.

      The first step would be getting people to agree to the concept. Then we would figure out how much we would like to put toward it. And lastly, decide on the actual product. If we are shooting for $300...and only have $200...then we have to pick something that is in that price range. I am guessing that it would be March or April before the actual item would be decided.

      I actually brought up an auction idea last night...and it was mostly shot down. The people there didn't want to do the work that the auction would require. Some of the items you mentioned sound lovely. I doubt anyone would pay $1500 at our school though!

  5. Thank you for all the explanations. I appreciate all you said. Quite interesting. Too bad about the auction idea being shot down. (maybe something for you to suggest: our elementary yearbook is handled by one teacher volunteer and the volunteer 'yearbook club' made up of kids 3rd - 5th. It's a learning experience for them - they take photos, write the stories, etc. Parents may also submit photos but no guarantee they're accepted. Middle and high school do the same way.)

  6. I think giving a gift rather than a party is a great idea. Our local school district does golf outings and outdoor festival type activities rather than the traditional candy or junk fundraising, which I like.

    I think you have the right idea, but if you can't get any of the vocal parents to support you then I would take a deep breath and let it go. You don't need the extra stress.