MONTPELIER — Parents of students at Main Street Middle School in the Capital City are raising concerns about a request to raise money to pay for out-of-school activities.
Parents wrote concerns on social media and voiced them at a meeting of the Montpelier-Roxbury Public Schools Board this week.
They questioned why students were being pressured to help raise money for field trips and other activities, and wondered whether children would be penalized — as in not participate — if families did not help raise funds.
The issue came to a head Tuesday when students were informed at a school assembly that they would be asked to join in the new fundraising promotion. Some parents took exception to the request and took to the Friends of Montpelier School Facebook page to vent concerns.
But school officials and members of the MSMS Parents Group said the initiative was simply a new model for raising funds for out-of-school activities, as in previous years.
The new fundraising model uses a reusable plastic card with the names and logos of supporting businesses that offer discounts to customers.
The card is sold for $20, of which $10 goes back to the school. If the school sells more than 500 cards, the return to the school increases to $12 per card.
Students also win prizes for the number of cards sold.
“Students were shown the fundraiser (Tuesday), came home with the cards, and some parents were not pleased with that process,” said Superintendent Libby Bonesteel on Thursday.
“Are other parents as furious as I am about the fundraising assembly that was held at MSMS (Tuesday)?” wrote parent Jill Guest Remick on social media. “As a child who grew up in a poorer part of the state, I am particularly sensitive to the pressure this puts on children of lower socio-economic status. I also think it is a disgusting message of consumerism that has no place during the school day.”
Kelly Lynch added: “As an advocate for kids who live in poverty, these fundraisers are shaming. I know what you’re going to say... but we have funds for these kids! Yes, but the families are shamed into having to ask for more money. Public school is called public because it is supposed to be free. Why do we have to PAY? It isn’t equitable.”
But Lynnea Timpone, president of the MSMS Parents Group, said the group had simply signed up a new vendor to raise funds for the school after previous efforts using a coupon book had failed badly and cost the group $1,000 in printing for books that were not sold.
Instead, the parents’ group has forged an alliance with Adrenaline Fundraising, a national, for-profit based in Washington. The MSMS parents’ group is working with a local representative based in Williston.
According to Timpone and Bonesteel, there are many Vermont schools that have had success with the vendor, including local schools like U-32 Middle and High School and Spaulding High School in Barre.
Bonesteel also acknowledged that the Adrenaline Fundraising model was popular in other schools in Vermont.
“Quite honestly, it’s the fundraising mechanism that schools across Vermont do use,” Bonesteel said, adding that it is common for all four schools in the district to raise funds for out-of-school activities.
But in an effort to address the concerns of parents, she said the School Board Policy Committee would look into it and return with recommendations on fundraising district-wide.
Timpone took to social media this week to explain how the new fundraising model worked. Timpone noted that the parents’ group had held many meetings in recent months but few parents had attended.
“What I preached over and over again is, ‘Please we would have love to have your input,’ we talked about it for three months at parents’ group meetings which are noticed by the school, but nobody ever shows up,” Timpone said. “We would love more opinions and energy.”
Both Timpone and Bonesteel stressed that no student would be excluded from field trips or other extra-curricular activities if they did not raise funds, and there was no pressure to do so.
Timpone said she had done much of the work herself to organize the fundraising effort before forming the MSMS Parents Group Committee with three other members to help coordinate activities.
Last year, the parents’ group raised more than $80,000 that funded two long-distance trips to Montreal and Boston, as well as a teacher appreciation breakfast, the eighth grade graduation dance, photo booths at school dances and graduations, among other offerings.
MSMS Parents Group meetings are held in the MSMS library on the first Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m.