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PCEF ‘imagines’ better schools

Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

The facts: If you haven’t already heard, as a state, Utah ranks No. 51 in the country for public school funding. Research released this October by Utah Foundation also found that while Utah students achieve around the national average on standardized tests, the state’s demographic characteristics suggest it should score much higher than the national average.

According to the report, if Utah performed in the middle of its demographic peers, it would be ranked in the top 15 in math and the top 10 in science nationally. Elevating Park City to becoming one of the top-10 school districts in the country is the continuing goal of Park City Education Foundation (PCEF).

The possibilities: This year, PCEF launched its Imagine Campaign, asking the Park City community to imagine what it would be like if every child could be supported with $1 more per day in the classroom, raising $180 per student to sustain the 4,400 students in the district. "It costs less than your daily cup of coffee," Abby McNulty, PCEF executive director, said.

While Park City’s per-pupil spending is higher than the state average $7,743 per pupil compared to $5,397 for the 2005 2006 school year according to a report from the Utah Office of Education it is still well below the national average of $9,185.

"We do have a good district," McNulty said. "But we need to care for and nurture it. We need a world-class education to complement everything else in this city that’s world-class."

The campaign strives to raise more than $750,000, which would benefit programs during the 2008 2009 school year. Half of the monies raised would go to School Site Grants, a new PCEF initiative, "which gives schools the ability to ask for funds directly and allows principals and parent leaders to submit specific requests," McNulty said.

"We’ve found that each school is very diverse," PCEF committee member, Sally Tauber, said. "so that what McPolin Elementary School might need, might not be the same as what another school needs."

According to Monika Guendner, marketing and public relations coordinator for PCEF, the rest of the money will go to PCEF’s other established granting programs, like teacher grants and district-wide initiatives.

For the 2007 2008 school year, PCEF’s funding was divvied up among the following programs: $30,000 for teacher grants, $4,500 to a summer reading program, $30,000 to establish full-day kindergarten, $70,000 went into the International Baccalaureate program, $18,000 for the superintendent housing stipend, $19,000 for a community scholarship program, and $37,500 for an elementary art specialist.

Guendner said money from the campaign will be allocated in alliance with district needs, the needs of individual schools and teachers, as well as PCEF’s goal to improve Park City’s public schools for every student.

To get the word out, PCEF’s annual calendar was designed to promote the idea of "imagine" with each month designated to something money raised could do to help improve children’s education. December’s dream: "Offering Mandarin Chinese, Latin, German, Japanese, Spanish and French language classes in all of our schools."

Along with the calendar, PCEF had tables at back-to-school nights. "It was surprising how many people stopped by and had already learned about the campaign," Tauber said. A brochure was also sent out in October as another PCEF initiative.

Parley’s Park Elementary School’s PCEF liaison, Jean Tabin, said taking this kind of action is important. "You get so much literature coming home with kids from schools, it’s hard to pay attention to everything," she said. "But it’s a wonderful foundation, and we need to let parents know that if all of us supported it, there’s just so many things they could fund."

PCEF has also hosted several marketing campaign events like golf tournaments and movie prescreening. A sneak peek of the latest Harry Potter movie this past summer was quite a success, Tauber said.

A more recent initiative brought up in the Nov. 20 school board meeting by Superintendent Ray Timothy, is appealing to Realtors through the idea that a person’s desire to live in a community is heavily based on what kind of school system exists there.

In previous years, fundraising for PCEF was limited to a phone-a-thon for getting donations. But this year, committee members decided to do it differently. "We’ve been choosing 10 names at a time, and then each board member will call those people, and we’re just going to continue that until January," Tauber said.

The campaign runs until Dec. 31, however, according to McNulty, PCEF will never turn down a parent or community member’s donations. For her, the campaign is really focused on trying to raise awareness about the needs of the district.

An imagine campaign pamphlet spells some of these needs out like the need of more funding for teacher training. Park City and other Utah school districts spend about $575 per teacher for staff development, while the national average is hovering near $4,000.

Another need is increasing funding for English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, which receive $40,000 in federal and state funding per year, but in order to be effective, should be receiving around $500,000.

These are just a few of the area’s PCEF’s imagine campaign hopes to directly effect. "It really is such an exceptional campaign," Timothy said. And it’s a campaign that, according to Tauber, is trying to get as many parents involved at each school to help with the program as possible.

"I encourage people, if they have questions and are interested, to get involved," Tauber said. "This Imagine Campaign has brought in new parent volunteers, and they have all been fantastic in getting the word out."

If you would like to be involved in PCEF’s Imagine Campaign, contact Abby McNulty at (435) 615-0235. To donate online, go to http://www.pcef4kids.org .

PCEF Imagine Calendar

August 2007

an educational system achieving excellence for every child.

September 2007

a flourishing music program spanning a student’s educational experience.

October 2007

all teachers having the same resources to elevate learning in the classroom.

November 2007

every child not just active in Park City, but participating in the global community.

December 2007

offering Mandarin Chinese, Latin, German, Japanese, Spanish and French language classes in all of our schools.

January 2008

all children having the opportunity to explore and nurture their artistic talents.

February 2008

every child having the option to attend full-day kindergarten at no cost.

March 2008

challenging all children to stretch academic boundaries.

April 2008

our community celebrating the accomplishments of every student and teacher in our district.

May 2008

every English Language Learner having the resources to become a proficient reader, writer and speaker of English.

June 2008

every Park City High School senior receiving the financial support to pursue higher education.

July 2008

every third grader reading at or above grade level.

August 2008

every school having fully-equipped, state-of-the-art math, science and technology labs.


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