Fundraising study leads to revised policy

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

In an effort to save families money, Spring Lake Park Schools has re-evaluated how fundraising requests will be considered going forward.

New policy will require groups within the Spring Lake Park School District, like booster clubs and parent-teacher organizations, to seek permission before hosting fundraising events. An application will help district staff discern whether the district can fund the need; whether a community partner, such as the Lions Club, Rotary Club or Panther Foundation, may be able to help; or whether a fundraiser truly is the best course of action. File photo
New policy will require groups within the Spring Lake Park School District, like booster clubs and parent-teacher organizations, to seek permission before hosting fundraising events. File photo

The School Board approved a first reading of a revised policy on fundraising last month, and a second reading is tentatively on the agenda June 13.

Over the past two years, the district has taken a closer look at what families are asked to financially support in the district.

Director of Community Education Colleen Pederson, who has facilitated the fundraising study, came up with the following and more: book fairs, booster and parent-teacher organization fundraisers, field trips, musical instruments, school supplies, yearbooks and more.

Though booster clubs are technically outside of the district’s control, strictures are appropriate as they use school resources to fundraise: district students.

“Of the PTO presidents that I’ve talked to, they’re 100 percent on board,” Pederson said.

By and large, “our fundraising groups really don’t want to fundraise,” Pederson said. They believe there is a need to fundraise or feel compelled to do so because it has been tradition.

“The school district’s in a much different place than we were 10 years ago, 15 years ago,” Pederson said.

To protect parents’ pocketbooks and utilize district supply budgets more efficiently, staff developed an application that will help discern whether a particular fundraising effort is necessary.

“That application is going to be super simple,” Pederson said.

It will help staff decide whether the district can fund the need; whether a community partner, such as the Lions Club, Rotary Club or Panther Foundation, may be able to help; or whether a fundraiser truly is the best course of action.

The high school supply budget has not been depleted once in the past five years, according to Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg. But teachers do not necessarily know to request supplies through that account, and some staff members wind up appealing directly to community partners.

District staff has developed a list of core equipment for extra-curricular activities and classroom learning that Spring Lake Park Schools is responsible for purchasing – for example, bats for the baseball team.

If groups are requesting fundraisers for core items, they will be denied.

Additionally, if fundraisers fail to check desirability, feasibility and viability boxes, they will be denied.

Outside fundraisers, such as Jump Rope for Heart and Pennies for Patients, will be axed with no direct tie to schools.

“We will no longer be an avenue for those organizations,” Pederson said. But she noted that exceptions can be made.

For example, if someone in the school community was affected by disease or disaster, a fundraiser might be approved to honor that individual, Pederson said.

A master fundraising calendar will be kept for the first time with an intention to black out time two weeks prior to school starting and two weeks after the school year concludes, again with possible exceptions.

“There’s so many start-up costs at the beginning of the school year,” Ronneberg said.

Work to reduce parents’ expenses has been successful so far, Pederson said, noting cuts to school supply lists ahead of the 2015-2016 school year, among other measures.

Once new policy is in place, “I do think fundraising efforts are going to be reduced,” Pederson said.

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