IRON STATION – During the school board’s committee meeting earlier this month, 30 cards circulated the room for board members to sign, thanking Parent Teacher Organization members across the district for their support.
“We could not be as successful without the support of our PTOs, PTAs and boosters,” Associate Superintendent Aaron Allen said. “It’s a definite partnership.”
Allen said not all schools have a PTO or other types of boosters, but schools in the east Lincoln area have the “most active” in the district.
Allen said Lincoln County Schools ranks 115th out of 115 public school systems in the state for total funding (a combination of federal, state and local contributions), so they don’t have much wiggle room to provide anything above the minimum requirements, unless the school receives Title I funding.
But none of the Denver area schools qualify for that type of need-based funding, so having PTOs that “know how to raise some money” has been beneficial, Allen said.
The PTOs help raise money for what Allen dubbed the “above and beyonds,” like new technology, special science kits and anything else “extra.”
Allen said when a school does have a PTO, the principal of that school is able to meet with those members and brainstorm ways to better serve students.
North Lincoln Middle School Principal Kqisha Dagenhart said this is certainly true of the NLMS PTO.
“I could not do the job that I do without a supportive, involved parent group like our PTO,” she wrote in an email. “They are essential to the success of NLMS.”
At the start of school year, PTO members sat down with NLMS administrators and decided on doing a Community for Chromebooks Campaign.
“When school ended last year, we had 13 chromebooks on a cart shared throughout school – we have 720 kids,” NLMS PTO President Christina Sutton said. “That’s a huge deficit.”
“As a school we have a budget just like most of us do at home, and we use this to provide the must-have instructional needs of our students and teachers,” Dagenhart wrote in an email. “But we also have things that we would like to have for our students that are not always in the budget.”
Sutton said the PTO felt the Chromebook campaign “was something we could absolutely get behind” because students use technology for anything from research to presentations to math programs.
“Improving students' access to devices like Chromebooks supports STEM education initiatives and improves digital literacy skills for students,” Dagenhart wrote. “Limited access to technology means that teachers must plan instructional activities that use technology around a computer lab schedule or rely on students to bring their own device, and not every student has a device. “
Each Chromebook costs $250 and the PTO hopes to raise $40,000 this year for the cause.
“By the time they do everything they need to do for the school to operate, there’s not but so much money to go around,” Sutton said of why the PTO sets big goals. “Technology is ever changing, so by the time the county purchases computers, they already could be obsolete.”
And Dagenhart said having technology readily available allows “teachers to further individualize and differentiate instruction to meet the learning needs of students by allowing students to work at their level.”
Sutton said being on the PTO is something she feels obligated and privileged to be able to do as a parent.
“In some districts there’s a 1:1 ratio with iPads and technology, and we don’t have that in Lincoln County,” Sutton said. “It seems like there’s not enough to go around, especially for a need this big. So for me, as a parent, I want my child to be equipped and have the best opportunities to succeed at school that they can possibly have.”
Sutton said the Chromebook campaign has several possible revenue streams, including business sponsorship opportunities, a powderpuff football game and a money-raising competition between students.
The idea behind inviting businesses to sponsor the campaign is to bridge the gap between the community and schools, and “making it known there’s a huge need,” Sutton said.
The powderpuff game is from 3:15-5:30 p.m. on Oct. 26 at NLMS. Admission is $3, and there will also be $10 T-shirts, $2 bandanas and concession goods for sale.
For more information on how to help raise money, go to the North Lincoln Middle School PTO’s Facebook page.