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Proposed fund-raising restrictions draws fire

509-J School Board tables proposed policy that would limit some types of fund raising due to liability
General Editor
   March 12, 2003 — A proposed policy to set rules for student fund-raising activities drew a crowd of concerned PTA and Parent Club members to the Monday night meeting of the School District 509-J Board of Directors.
   The district's lawyer and administrators suggested a policy due to concern that the school district would be liable if any of the children were put at risk during fund-raisers. For example, if they sold items door-to-door children could possibly be harmed or kidnapped. Student safety was the emphasis, administrators said.
   Parents active in fund-raising drives objected to one clause of the policy in particular which said: "No agreements should be signed with professional fund-raisers unless at least 50 percent of the money raised stays in the community."
   Parent Letty Goodson told the board the standard money split with the Nichols Company that has been used for years is a 40-60 split, with 40 percent going to the school and 60 percent to the company providing the products. Students have sold wrapping paper, candy, inexpensive Christmas gift items, and magazines.
   Goodson, who began helping with fund-raisers when her children were at Madras Elementary, gave some background. Previously, she said money for extras the teacher's and schools could not afford out of their budgets was raised at an annual school carnival.
   "The carnival took six months to do jointly with Buff Elementary, took many parent volunteers and we made $2,000, which we had to split with Buff," she said.
   Then they heard about Metolius Elementary PTA's success with using Nichols, a professional fund-raising company. Eventually three schools, Madras, Westside and Metolius elementaries all ran their fund-raisers simultaneously.
   "We made way over $5,000 the first year, ran the campaign with three parents, and didn't have to go around getting donations from local businesses (for carnival prizes)," Goodson said.
   She and Michelle Wilkinson from Metolius PTA emphasized that during fund-raising campaigns students are told not to go door-to-door, just to sell to parents and friends.
   Money earned by students has been used to buy things including computers, a highway reader board at Westside that lists school activities for the public, playground equipment, a rock climbing wall at one school, field trips, assemblies, art supplies, two-way radios for school hall patrol, and computers.
   Wilkinson pointed out, "Fund-raisers at Madras, Westside and Metolius netted $23,000 this year alone."
   She objected to the policy saying it would even eliminate Scholastic Book sales, and because parent clubs were not included in discussions before the proposal was drawn up.
   Board member Tom Norton commented, "These are after-school activities. Where does our responsibility end? Pretty soon we'll be doing bed checks."
   Board Chair Bob Ringering, who is a member of Madras High's Buff Boosters parent club, admitted, "I wondered how this will affect Buff Boosters, because we don't make 50 percent on our sales."
   Student Board Member Nathan St. John suggested that students be required to sign permission slips to sell in which they agree not to sell door-to-door.
   Agreeing to discuss the matter further with parent club members, Ringering said, "My main concern is the safety. With a little bit of work I hope we can work out a way to overcome that problem."
   Assistant Supt. Keith Johnson reported that all 509-J elementary principals and their staffs had completed work to standardize all elementary report cards. Up to now, schools have been using slightly different symbols on report cards.
   A policy was adopted which will make it easier for students to earn a General Education Development (GED) certificate.
   Supt. Phil Riley and MHS Assistant Principal Brad Sperry explained that before, some students actually had to drop out of high school in order to take GED courses.
   "This program allows them to take the GED program while still in school," Riley said. The program is still facilitated by Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC).
   Sperry said MHS has 120 to 140 students per year take the battery of five tests to pass their GED, and of those 40 to 50 earn their GED.
   In the past, Sperry said, "The rest of the students who don't pass all five tests are counted as dropouts if they don't re-enroll in school."
   With the new program, he said, students don't have to drop out. They continue their enrollment at MHS until they pass all five GED tests and are not counted as dropouts.
   The board voted to accept the new GED program.
   Under personnel, MHS Principal Sean Gallagher officially submitted his resignation effective July 1. Teacher Caryn Duryee was denied a one year unpaid leave of absence request following the birth of her child, with the guarantee of her job being held for her when she returned. Another request was approved to allow Koby Ann Cook and Cheryl Johnson to job share a first grade class next year. Due to PERS, Cook will retire in May 2003, but be rehired on a contract as a half-time teacher the following year.
   In regards to the MHS principal vacancy, the board decided to advertise the position, but indicated that some local administrators had also shown some interest in applying. The position will be advertised with a salary between $80,000 to $84,000, depending on experience.
   In a joint funding request, 509-J will join the Confederated Tribes in applying for $1 million from the Administration for Native Americans (ANA) for funds to "support planning activities for a joint project to build a kindergarten through fifth grade school in Warm Springs."