Friday, September 7, 2007

Stafford County Schools Take National Honor for Adopt-A-Classroom Fundraising

By Jennifer Buske
Stafford County Sun Newspaper

The Adopt-A-Classroom program is thriving in Stafford as two local schools finish top in the nation in terms of raising money for teachers and their classroom.

According to the Adopt-A-Classroom "year in review" report, Winding Creek Elementary School finished first in the nation while Margaret Brent Elementary School finished third when it came to monetary support received through the Adopt-A-Classroom program during the previous school year. The schools brought in $17,000 and $14,086, respectively.

The other schools that received the most support during the last school year were located in the Bronx, N.Y.; Rockaway Park, N.Y. and Kingsland, Texas.

"Hats off to the two Stafford schools," said Robert Belman, chairman of the Stafford school board and Adopt-A-Classroom advocate. "In both cases the PTOs got behind the program and worked hard to get community support."

According to Stafford County Pubic Schools' finance department, the Adopt-A-Classroom program brought in $100,901 in the 2006-07 school year. This was up from the $85,000 raised during the 2004-05 school year when the program was first implemented locally.

Nationwide, during the 2006-07 school year, $660,000 was donated to roughly 1,800 classrooms, according to the report. The money impacted more than 55,000 students at 869 schools.

"We had 34 classes officially adopted last year," Winding Creek principal Elliot Bolles said. "We had amazing parent support and by working together, each classroom could get a $500 gift. It was a great thing and our PTO really helped facilitate it."

Dottie Truslow, principal at Margaret Brent, also acknowledged that the PTO was "instrumental" in getting people to participate in the program and adopt a total of 31 classrooms last school year.

Founded nearly a decade ago, the Adopt-A-Classroom program is implemented in 46 states and has raised more than $6 million, according to the Adopt-A-Classroom year in review report.
The program officially began in 1998 when founder James Rosenberg was mentoring a student at a school for physically- and mentally-delayed children.

Rosenberg was surprised by the lack of resources in the classroom, so he made it his goal to get community members to raise money to help teachers adequately supply their classrooms, according to Nicky Hommen, spokeswoman for Adopt-A-Classroom.

Stafford implemented the Adopt-A-Classroom.program in 2004, according to the finance department. Although initially asking that each donation be at least $500, the county changed the minimum to $25 in 2006 in the hopes of getting more people involved.

"When we learned of the program it was really a no-brainer as to whether or not to get started with it," Belman said. "This creates a win-win situation with 100 percent of the donations going to the teacher."

The program allows individuals, businesses and families to donate money to a specific classroom or teacher. All money is then used for classroom supplies.

Bolles said the funds also help at the administrative level.

"If a teacher is given $500, that is $500 they don't have to come to me for so I can do more big-ticket items," Bolles said.

Belman said Cannon Ridge Golf Club hosted a captain's choice tournament in June to raise money for Adopt-A-Classroom.

The event raised more than $4,000 and Belman said the money will be distributed among all of Stafford's public schools.

"As a parent, board member and taxpayer, I am very grateful to all those that have supported Adopt-A-Classroom," Belman said. "Anything I can do to promote community partnerships with schools, I'm an advocate for - I always have been and will continue to be."

Throughout my own campaign for School Board in the Salem District of Spotsylvania County, I feel like a door-to-door salesman for this program. Though I ring the doorbell thinking I'm going to solely ask someone for their vote, somehow I bring this topic up and end up talking about it for five minutes.

I've seen this program in action and it really works! It's simple and parents and small businesses can give anything they want (and can afford), and 100% of the proceeds go directly to the classroom. What's not to love?

If only the government spent money this efficiently, we would all have lower home taxes, and wouldn't even need programs like this. Until that day comes, I hope everyone takes a look at Adopt-A-Classroom.

I will continue to be a big supporter of this 100% voluntary program. Stafford has blazed a trail in this region and thanks to its example of more than 1,000 classrooms adopted in three years now compared to Spotsylvania's 56 in seven years, I'm hoping enough people read this to get involved and pass the word.

I had a great time at the Cannon Ridge golf tournament in June where my score was 'just over' Belman's for the day.

We had a full-house turnout and raised not only cash, but also awareness for the program.

With the new clubhouse facilities being open at Cannon Ridge, I'm sure next year's event will be even better attended.

We can do better for our kids and teachers, as Stafford proves here! Leaders on the county School Board like Robert Belman can make all the difference to a community's spirit as well as their wallets.


At September 8, 2007 at 5:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonder if Bellman will move to Spotsy and straighten up this mess of a school board? Does anyone know him?


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