Winters teachers turn to donations for classroom funding

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The first day of school is looming. Many Winters teacher are prepping their classrooms and working toward finding funding sources for special projects and classroom enhancements. Some of them are turning to DonorsChoose.org to help get funding for special projects and tools. The DonorsChoose website About Us page claims they empower public-school teachers from across the country as a tool to request much-needed materials and experiences for their students. Kali Slusser, a Winters Elementary instructional coach, was formerly the transitional kindergarten (TK) teacher at Waggoner Elementary. She is stepping into the new instructional coach role to help support staff. She said the five years as a TK teacher she received about $10,000 in grants from DonorsChoose. Slusser is going to provide training to teachers on how to best utilize the DonorsChoose platform and to give support and experience in writing the grants. Slusser said DonorsChoose is a great way for the community to support local teachers, because donors can choose what type of project they are funding at the school. They can choose technology, science, literacy or more categories. Donors can also see that the money being donated isn’t just being spent on anything. Donors can see the actual items that the money will be spent on in the cart on the teacher’s DonorsChoose campaign page. Joanie Bryant has been a teacher with the WJUSD for 12 years and is moving into the role as a kindergarten teacher. This means a new classroom, curriculum and material needs. Bryant said for her new kindergarten classroom this year she was supplied with the necessary curriculum from the district and a kindergarten level classroom library. She said she also received quite a bit of hand-me-down materials from kindergarten teachers who are retiring or moving on to other roles. Bryant is currently using DonorsChoose to request funding for her new classroom and expects to post one more this fall. She said she’s requesting grant funding for an art drying rack, art trays, new Kiwi Packs or other take-home books bags for homework, as well as some wish list items like new materials to update her classroom cubbies, bookshelves and hanging hooks. She plans  to paint the inside of her classroom door with magnetic chalkboard paint. “Moving into a new space always comes with some extra expenses,” said Bryant. “Hooks, paint and “choice time” materials are all things that I will hopefully not have to purchase again for several years.” Greg Moffitt, principal of Winters elementary schools (WES) said some teachers have found  success using DonorsChoose to bring new things to their students. “DonorsChoose has also been a way our teachers can get specific projects funded, often so that they can try new things or enhance their classroom libraries or technology,” said Moffitt. “DonorsChoose can be a great way for families and individuals (near and far) to support teachers.” Moffitt said that, while DonorsChoose is a good resource for the community to find local teachers to support, a simple thank you note or an email can be just as supportive.   “I think it’s important to remember that supporting teachers means showing our appreciation for the great many things they do,” said Moffitt. “Sometimes it’s as simple as saying thank you or asking the teacher what they need or how we can help.” Moffitt said teachers also receive money from other organizations like the Winters Combine PTA and Winters Education Foundation. “We’ve always felt that teachers know what’s best for their students, so we allocate approximately $250 dollars for each teacher to spend on classroom materials and supplies,” said Moffitt. “Our teachers stretch it as far as they can, but can always use more. We are lucky that our PTA is, and has been, incredibly generous, and often donates additional classroom supply money to each teacher each year, along with supporting field trips and assemblies and all of our Family Nights.” Doing the math, Slusser said she usually recieved about $450 annually from the school, PTA and WEF. Moffitt said most grade level teams work together to request funding from the PTA for something the entire grade can use. Bryant agreed the PTA not only provides teachers with an annual amount, but is sometimes able to give a small additional amount. In addition to gifts to each teacher the the PTA gave each grade level $1,300. “Most grade levels use these funds to help defray the cost of transportation from field trips,” said Bryant. Slusser says that each teacher asks for support differently and will ask for different types of donations. Many teachers will ask for classroom snack or art supply donations. Winters teachers utilize post-it notes outside classrooms, weekly newsletters or online apps to request items. However, many teachers also use their own money to purchase classroom supplies. Slusser said she normally budgeted for $200 of her own money to pay for supplies and classroom extras. Bryant says she usually budgets $100 a month of her own money, but depending on that year’s needs she does not always stick to it. When a teacher doesn’t have a live campaign on the DonorsChoose website, donors have the option to donate money for that specific teacher’s future campaigns. Donors can search by topic, teacher and school at anytime to find local live campaigns. At press time at least four WES teachers had live campaigns on the DonorsChoose website. Todd Cutler, WJUSD superintendent, said each school site is allocated an amount of funding for additional supplemental materials. Each school site creates a budgeting plan and determines an annual amount each teacher will get for classroom enhancements and supplies. This amount is separate from Block Grants the district allocates for the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) areas and for basic operations. LCAP areas that are delegated funding supports students, teachers and academics. Cutler said classroom-wise, the district funds things like furniture, curriculum, air conditioning, staff salaries and more. When someone asks for something it is assessed with a cascading financial structure to see if it aligns with the district mission and vision, LCAP process and board priorities, LCAP goals and actions and department goals. “A site gets an amount for curriculum. If it’s adopted the district buys the curriculum,” said Cutler. “If the site wants additional supplemental material, the site may be purchasing or the district will purchase. Each site has its own plans and structures similar to the district’s LCAP.” Moffitt said his school sites utilize a Block Grant to pay for the operations of the school. However, they also use Block Grant money so teachers can get the items they need for their classrooms. “It covers the costs of paper and pencils, ink and toner, and all the many other supplies and licenses we renew each year to keep things working and functioning,” said Moffitt. Winters Middle School teachers receive $100 and Winters High School teachers receive a little over $100 each year budgeted outside of the LCAP Block Grants. We were unable to confirm the exact amount for high school teacher by press time. WES receives additional funding each year from Lottery Funds to support music programs and other arts and literacy initiatives according to Moffitt. They also receive Title 1 dollars from the federal government of which a large portion goes to support their Reading Intervention program and after-school tutoring for students that need additional supports.]]>

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