Back to school: Supplies and demands

I support schools, staff, and students every day. I am also very much a “suck it up buttercup and do what the teacher says” type of person.

Nonetheless, sometimes I have to wonder, if only for a moment, if many of our public schools are TRYING to shoot themselves in the foot or if that kind of blunder just comes naturally for most government run organizations?

It’s as if some schools have never learned one of the most fundamental, golden rules of interacting with the taxpaying public: try not to borrow all your public-relations moves from the IRS.

Supply

School supply lists are a herald of autumn more reliable than the changing of the leaves. All around us the back-to-school colors of goldenrod and manila flutter down as parents storm the aisles of numerous discount retailers looking to save six cents on a glue stick.

Most parents will purchase the school supplies, pencils, notebooks and crayons without question. Eyebrows, however, have begun to raise, ever so slightly, over seemingly non-educational items that seem to be slipping on to supply lists across the nation.

Items such as copy paper, facial tissues, bottled water, and hand sanitizer, just to name a few. One friend dryly noted that she’s waiting for the request to send in toilet paper, floor wax, and chicken nuggets for the cafeteria too.

Now, before everyone writes me, en mass, to remind us that if parents don’t supply it, teachers do so out of their own pockets, let me assure you I hear you. I understand. I am friends (and family) with a few teachers myself. I fully concede that it is a sad state of things when employees have to provide their own office supplies.

Demand

Meanwhile, over at deforesting-the-continent-one-copy-at-a-time-middle-school, students bring home reams of paper in the form of one multiple page syllabus per class.

Each teacher has regulations and expectations for both parents and students to sign. I applaud this. I can only imagine that this became a necessity after one too many my-child-can-do-no-wrong parents said “but you never made CLEAR that Precious had to actually turn IN the homework!”

I embrace the use of the syllabus as a way to foster communication but have come to the conclusion that I should never attempt to “communicate” in the morning before I’ve had my coffee.

Reading up at 6:00 a.m., I saw that one instructor had noted – in bold no less – that all notes sent home to parents must be signed “IMMEDIATELY” or result in detention and/or call to the home. It wasn’t clear if I was to get detention, or my son. Suffice to say my first thought, pre-coffee, was “Excuse me but IMMEDIATELY?” I have people I actually owe money to and even THEY don’t get to demand “immediately.”

Granted I’m not asking for 30 days terms on a teacher’s note, but 36 hours seems more than fair.

Pay

Finally, having provided personal school supplies, tissues, hand sanitizer, and copy paper parents are further told to write a check for some seemingly random amount (each district seems to vary).

Generally called a “Supply Fee” parents are rarely told what, exactly, this fee supplies. I dutifully send in my check because it’s all for a good cause, but the threat of punishing a child for parental non-payment by withholding grades makes me sad.

Are they saying a child will actually not receive a grade if a parent fails to pay up? Or that they WILL advance but the school will refuse to share the grades, thus forcing parents to guess?

How can they sign and return report cards “immediately” if they don’t receive them at all? Is knee-capping anyone involved? I end up feeling complicit in a mafia-esque scheme somehow.

Last year, one teacher dunned students for it EVERY SINGLE DAY starting on day three until all the kids paid up. Consequently, our daughter was beside herself until we received the receipt proving that we had paid. As if her first year in Middle School wasn’t stressful enough, she was led to believe she’d be booted for non-payment before the week was out.

“You, blonde with the cheapskate parents, you gotta go!” I keep telling her that if we get asked to leave it’s going to be because of something mommy WROTE, not because she doesn’t pay her bills.

Silly girl

Still, I wonder if I’ll ever get brave enough to buck the system – if only for the sake of a really great story? Probably not. Can’t you just see it? “Well we THINK our son is in the 8th grade but we’d have to cough up $15 to really know for SURE …”

About the Author

Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless. More Stories by Kymberly Foster Seabolt

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