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Students walk to bridge budget gap: Schools organize fundraisers to help pay for supplies, books

MANATEE — Students at Moody and Williams elementary schools will walk for school supplies this month.

To make up for funds lost in budget cuts this year, the two schools are holding walk-a-thons to raise money to help shore up their supply closets and book shelves.

“It all goes back to the classroom,” said Judy McKie, the secretary and walk-a-thon organizer at Moody Elementary, 5425 38th Ave. W., Bradenton. “Teachers use that for reading materials and supplies.”

Because of statewide budget cuts, schools have lost half of their school improvement dollars and to some extent, their operating funds, said Ann Clayton, a teacher at Williams Elementary in Parrish.

In Manatee, the school board in December slashed the improvement money that schools typically use to buy materials, supplement field trips and help send teachers to training sessions, from $10 to $5 a student.

“A lot of money has been taken away from us that we weren’t expecting,” Clayton said.

Instead of asking the schools’ parent-teacher organizations to head the fundraisers or parents to supply the materials, the staff and faculty at the schools decided to raise the money themselves.

“Our parents don’t have it and schools don’t supply everything. It’s up to us to ask for help,” McKie said.

It’s not the first time staff at both schools have raised money on their own.

Moody Elementary typically organizes two fundraisers a year, said Principal Tom Wailand.

The school’s walk-a-thon April 24 will “help pay off some bills,” he said.

Moody hopes to raise $9,000, similar to what was raised last year, McKie said. The idea is to get donations and sponsors for the students’ walk.

But times are hard.

“It’s our fifth year (organizing the walk-a-thon), and we have always had success with it,” McKie said. “This year, it’s a struggle to get businesses to participate. Several have called and said they couldn’t donate because they’re in a pinch.”

At Williams, Clayton hopes to raise $20,000 by asking each student to raise at least $25 in donations. Each student will be given a T-shirt as a prize and if they hit the goal, the school’s principal Nancy Beal and assistant principal Barry Dunn have promised they would kiss Rosie, a pig belonging to three students.

“We had a big assembly and their grandmother brought Rosie out on stage. The kids screamed and hooted and hollered,” Clayton said.

With days left until William’s walk-a-thon Friday, Clayton said students have collected about $17,000. She hopes they reach their goal.

“I know it’s a lot of money we lost so we hope we can recoup some of that through the walk-a-thon,” Clayton said.

But the budget woes aren’t over for most schools. School district officials anticipate more cuts as lawmakers in Tallahassee hash out a budget. Wailand fears the next round may cost jobs.

“I am more concerned about next year,” Wailand said. “There’s no fluff in our budget here.”

For those interested in contributing to the walkathons, contact Moody Elementary at 741-3170 or Williams Elementary at 776-4040.