published Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Old socks, rain poncho, other oddities on school supply lists

 A various assortment of school supplies including shoes laces, Play--Doh, playing cards, tennis balls, a digital timer and Glade Plugins are displayed in the studio of the Times Free Press.
A various assortment of school supplies including shoes laces, Play--Doh, playing cards, tennis balls, a digital timer and Glade Plugins are displayed in the studio of the Times Free Press.
Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Click here to see all Hamilton County school supply lists.

Selected required items in Hamilton County schools

* 1 box of cereal, 10 ounces or larger (Daisy Elementary)

* Head phones (several schools)

* Personal CD player (Apison Elementary)

* Flash drive (several schools)

* 2 pack of AA batteries in Duracell, Energizer or Rayovac brands (Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts)

* Paper plates (Clifton Hills Elementary)

* Candy and treats for rewards (several schools)


Items banned in some Hamilton County schools

* Trapper Keepers

* Backpacks

* Gel pens

* Rolling backpacks

* Flexible rulers


Fast Fact

The National Retail Federation estimates that families will spend $22.8 billion on K-12 back-to-school shopping this fall — an average of $603.63 per family.

An old sock, a box of Band-Aids and a rain poncho — sounds more like a MacGyver tool kit than items on a back-to-school shopping list.

But those items, along with other oddities such as tennis balls, digital kitchen timers and plain white T-shirts appear on school supply lists throughout the region as kids head back to class.

While such items may not seem like classroom essentials, teachers and principals say there’s good reason for requiring them, especially in a time when schools are strapped for cash.

“I think the bottom line on this is that schools are not funded adequately,” said Ray Swoffard, Hamilton County’s deputy superintendent of elementary education.

Falling Water Elementary School Principal Lea Ann Burk said many principals are being more prudent with the lists they approved because of the struggling economy.

“We really do try to look at it with a critical eye — more so now than we ever did,” she said.

Along with the occasional wacky requests, most Hamilton County students will bring paper towels, household cleaners and disinfecting wipes when they arrive for the first day of school today. A review of all Hamilton County supply lists available online showed cleaning supplies and other general supplies such as copy paper, Band-Aids, dry erase markers and sticky notes are common.

“We don’t get a goody bag of school supplies from the district,” said Sandy Hughes, president of the Hamilton County Education Association. “That’s why we ask for those things.”

Teachers receive $100 from the state to purchase supplies, but that doesn’t go far in stocking a whole classroom, Hughes said.

“We have a classroom. We have lights,” she said. “But they don’t provide cleaning supplies for the teachers. They don’t provide markers for the boards.”

As for the odder items, tennis balls are on some supply lists at Chickamauga Elementary School in Georgia because staff members place them on the feet of chairs to avoid damaging the floors. Some Hamilton County schools count headphones as necessities so kids can listen to educational software individually. And digital kitchen timers are used to time certain classroom activities.

Copy paper is a coveted item, because each Hamilton County school is required to purchase its own stock of paper with the supply fees it collects, said Falling Water’s Burk. Most students will go through an entire ream of paper in homework alone, she said, so teachers need more than what’s available at the school.

  • photo
    Falling Water Elementary School Principal Lea Ann Burk

Burk said supply lists have changed vastly since she entered the world of education 30 years ago. Back then, basics such as crayons and markers were the norm, she said.

But even though today’s lists contain some nonacademic items, most requests are necessary for running a classroom, she said.

“It’s pretty much things we want our kids to have that the district doesn’t supply,” she said.

But Tamika Taylor, who has a third-grade daughter and fifth-grade son at Lakeside Academy of Math, Science and Technology, said the long lists can feel like a financial burden.

She said she spends more than $100 on her children’s supplies and ends up spending more on the requested cleaning supplies than she does on actual school supplies. Given the poor economy and the separate supply fee that many schools require from parents — fees that range from about $5 to $65 — Taylor said either the supply lists or the fees should go.

“Why both of them?” she said. “It’s just a little too much.”

Swoffard said teachers generally spend their own money on classroom supplies, and today’s lists show that they’re probably now starting to ask parents to chip in.

“Teachers over the years have taken a lot of this out of their pockets,” he said. “As things get tight, I guess they try to get the parents’ support.”

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about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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inquiringmind said...

"They don't supply (to teachers) markers for the boards?????" Flexible rulers are banned???? "County students have to ring cleaningsupplies?????" Is this April 1???

Everyone gripes about the quality of education and teachers and then expects the teachers to teach and the students to learn well in this kind of environment?

What on earth is Rhonda doing?

What are the citizens of Hamilton County doing electing such a school board that refuses to fund the schools at a level that promotes learning?

Good grief!

August 10, 2011 at 7:28 a.m.
PaulWilson said...

My biggest problem with this is that they say that the supplies are "required" from each student. Not every student can afford the "required" supplies. Why are more parents not outraged at the idea that they are "required" to provide anything more than the basics? When a school system can not provide the most basic cleaning items for its' sutdents and teachers...pathetic. I know this is normal across the entire country..but it is pathetic and quite honestly, it's appalling. Things like this are why more and more people are refusing to send their children to public school.

August 10, 2011 at 10:42 a.m.
esaletnik said...

Personal CD player (Apison Elementary) ??

Do they make those any more??

What's the poncho's for "Gallagher Day"

August 10, 2011 at 10:43 a.m.
SavartiTN said...

Actually, by state law, fees are not "required" in any school. They are strictly voluntary. This includes students of any income level.

**Student Activity Funds – Fees (Interpretation) Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) is our State law. As such, all other local laws, State Board Rules and Regs, the Internal Uniform Accounting Policy Manual, and any local Board policies must comply with TCA. TCA 49-6-3001 (a) The public schools shall be free to all persons above the age of five (5) … TCA 49-2-110 (c)

The school shall not require any student to pay a fee to the school for any purpose, except as authorized by the board of education, and no fees or tuitions shall be required of any student as a condition of attending the public school, or using its equipment while receiving educational training.

Interpretation: Students may not be forced to pay a fee or educationally restricted in the event that they refuse to pay a fee charged by the school.

Internal School Uniform Accounting Policy Manual Section 1, Title 4, General Principals 1. Since Tennessee public schools are referred to as being “free” (Section 49-6-3001, TCA), money raised by students must be used to finance normal and legitimate extracurricular activities. Interpretation: Money “raised” by students is intended to indicate student activity funds secured through donations or fund-raising events. This is not intended to refer to fees.

What is a fee? State Board Rules and Regs. 0520-1-3-.03 Part 14 c. Defines school fees as: 1. Fees for activities that occur during regular school hours, including field trips, and portion of which fall within the school day; 2. Fees for activities and supplies required to participate in all courses offered for credit or grade, including interscholastic athletics and marching band if taken for credit in accordance with local board policies; 3. Fees or tuition applicable to courses taken for credit or grade during the summer by a student; except that nonresident students regularly enrolled in another school system may be required to pay fees or tuition for such summer courses; TN Department of Education:K-12 4. Fees required for graduation ceremonies; 5. Fees for a copy of the student’s record; and 6. Refundable security deposits collected by a school for use of school property for courses offered for credit or grade, including interscholastic athletics and marching band if taken for credit in accordance with local board policies.

August 10, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.
SavartiTN said...

This Statement on Fees continues with:

Part 14 d: School fees do not include the following, which must be paid by every student if incurred: 1. Fines imposed on all students for late-returned library books; parking or other traffic fines imposed for abuse of parking privileges on school property; or reasonable charges for lost or destroyed textbooks, library books, workbooks, or any other property of the school: 2. Debts incurred pursuant to Rule 0520-1-3-.03(13), Withholding of Student Grades for Debts Owed to the School; 3. Refundable security deposits collected by a school for use of school property for participation in extracurricular activities; 4. Costs for extracurricular activities occurring outside the regular school day including sports, optional trips, clubs or social events; and 5. Non-resident tuition charged of all students attending a school system other than the one serving their place of residence. Rule 0520-1-3-.03(13) Withholding of Student Grades for Debts Owed to the School. (a) Local education agencies are authorized to withhold all grade cards, diplomas, certificates of progress or transcripts of a student who has taken property which belongs to a local education agency, or has incurred a debt to a school, until such student makes restitution in full. (b) No student shall be sanctioned under the provisions of this rule when the student is deemed to be without fault for the debt owed to the local education agency or the school. (c) Local education agencies shall afford the student and/or the student’s parent the opportunity to appear and be heard if such student and/or the parent disputes the debt, the amount of the debt, or the application of sanctions**

August 10, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.
SavartiTN said...

Hamilton County School Board Policy 2.40 states:

"FEES School fees are to be kept to a minimum and may be expended only for the purposes for which they were collected. The purpose and amounts of all fees must have the approval of the Board. No fees shall be required of any student as a condition to attend the school or use its equipment.3 School fees shall be waived for students who receive free or reduced-price lunches.4 No student will be penalized for nonpayment of any materials fee. Equipment and supply costs for elective courses such as art, band vocational studies etc. are not subject to fee waiver. Fee requirements should be met for elective courses."

You can request a paper called a fee waiver from your school. They don't usually volunteer that they have these. Last year, the school board was told by the Tennessee Department of Education Attorney in Nashville that they were violating state law by not making these waivers available.

This issue arose when there were several seniors who wanted to walk across the stage at graduation but could not afford the $75 fee to do so because their parents had lost their jobs. The school board refused to follow state law and they either paid or did not walk.

August 10, 2011 at 11:26 a.m.
HannaBeckman said...

You want to know where most of this crap ends up a week after school opens? The garbage can,lost somewhere, or tossed away as redundant BS>Nothing will change until parents get together and tell these schools and teachers to quit milking students for un needed supplies.Until then deal with it and SHUT up!

August 10, 2011 at 6:19 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

We need to ignore people like the commenter above.

We need to get on with funding and supplying these schools. We do not need teachers performing janitorial duties. We need to get some service staff in there.

As I noted in previous posts, the service staff would be among the first to get cut.

What kind of expense account do we provide these teachers with? Is there no departmental credit or debit account that can be used for the purchasing of sundry items? We should not have to play scavenger hunt for basic supplies when the City gives out $328,000 websites to political cronies. We should not see the HCDE underfunded when they splurge over $500,000 to appoint a tool, who will approve anything Republican, as Superintendent.

Pay the teachers. Fund the schools. Extend the school year. Stop drowning in stupidity. We need an educated workforce, not a slipshod substitute for baby sitting. Recent reports imply that maybe as many as 40% of our public school students might need to be held back in order meet basic standards in reading and in math. We can't get more ignorant without actually studying or working for it.

Pay these people and stop griping.

August 10, 2011 at 10:42 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

We already "pay" these people, 328K, that is the problem. We already "pay" for the schools. But, we also "pay" for the mismanagement of funds that they receive.

When I went to my child's high school last year to ask for an accounting of the fees that they had collected, they COULD NOT provide that data. This raises a huge red flag for me. How about you?

August 12, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.
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