Field day. Field trips. After-school activities and events. They’re all pretty much a given in the public school system and have come to be expected from parents and students alike.
However, if parents don’t have to put any money down for the bouncy houses, snow cones and other entertainment synonymous with a field day, or don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for their child to visit Jamestown and don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars for travel to sporting events all throughout the region every season, where do those funds come from?
In many cases across the United States, schools set up booster clubs and parent-teacher organizations to help offset or fully fund the costs of various educational activities. Henry County Public Schools and Martinsville City Public Schools are no different.
Although there aren’t booster clubs or the like at every single school in the area, many educational institutions participate in fundraising through such organizations.
In Henry County Public Schools, there are 20 booster clubs, parent-teacher organizations and parent-teacher associations – and at least one of the three is present at each school.
“We have support groups in elementary, middle and high because we know that their support of students helps to enhance the educational experience at each level,” said Monica Hatchett, HCPS director of communications and organizational learning.
These groups can be as formal as parent-teacher organizations (sometimes known as PTO or PTA or even PTSA) that forge relationships between parents and staff on a variety of causes.
They typically are operated by bylaws and practices established by the groups – some affiliated with national practices – and generate and spend money as they see fit. They may help pay for teams and coaches and travel, but they also can provide special treatment for teachers and spread kindness.
School divisions don’t control or even structure booster clubs, but they do have to sanction them and ensure that practices and programs meet with the best interests of the schools.
And there’s an opportunity to sprout and grow such groups. If there’s a school activity that doesn’t have a booster club, both city and county divisions encouraged students and parents to bring the idea to their attention.
“Meet with coaches and directors of activities,” Martinsville High School Athletic Director Tommy Golding said.
In Henry County, new groups must receive approval before Aug. 1 to operate during a school year. This practice helps to ensure that they receive formal training prior to the start of the school year. Groups forming after Aug. 1 must wait until the next school year.
Each booster club or organization must review and comply with all IRS regulations governing support groups, including assuming the responsibility for meeting all tax requirements and making the appropriate annual filings. Most groups are not sales tax exempt unless they have a 501(c)3 designation.
“In conjunction with school board policy, support groups must also comply with annual audit requirements and the support group leaders – president, treasurer or any person signing a check – have to attend our annual finance training,” Hatchett said.
And because of this, not every school will have the same or even equal groups, despite sometimes having the same name.
In Martinsville, there aren’t any booster clubs at Clearview Early Childhood Center, for instance, but there are parent-teacher organizations at both elementary schools and the middle school.
At Patrick Henry Elementary School, Principal Cameron Cooper said funds raised in her school benefit the students in many different ways.
“PTO [Parent-Teacher Organization] meets monthly,” Cooper said. “It conducts fundraisers to support plays, programs and field trips for all students.”
At Albert Harris Elementary School, the focus of the parent-teacher organization doesn’t solely place a spotlight on the students. They also strive to honor the hard work and dedication of others at the school.
“Albert Harris Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization has been instrumental in working with our faculty and staff by providing meals and treats for teacher work days and holidays,” Principal Renee Brown said. “Additionally, our PTO organization partners with AHES home school correlate in providing monetary donations for student activities and field trips. Also, our PTO in collaboration with AHES, has sponsored fundraisers, skate nights, family nights and other family engagement events.”
At the city’s middle school, the funds raised through the parent-teacher organization go toward a multitude of avenues.
“They hold fundraisers and review the School Improvement Plan to find ways to support students and staff in meeting school goals,” said Cynthia Tarpley, principal at Martinsville Middle School. “They work concessions at sporting events. They provide student incentives for PBIS and money for field trips for students in need. They provide occasional meals and special recognitions for teachers and staff throughout the year. They are a valued part of the middle school family.”
Martinsville High School hosts a variety of booster clubs, including basketball, football, soccer, wrestling, baseball, band and an after-prom party.
“Boosters at high school help out with many projects that would never get done without them,” Golding said. “They feed the players during regular season, pay for tournaments and other items that the school cannot afford. They also allow us to have smaller activities.”
While band and soccer booster clubs at Martinsville High School are the largest because the most students are involved, there’s not a clear-cut forerunner in Henry County.
“They are all very active groups, contributing volunteer hours to help raise funds for our students,” said Ben Boone, HCPS director of finance. “Each support group’s contributions of personal time being donated to help support our schools is greatly appreciated by our staff and students. They are all very active, and we cannot thank them enough for all they do.”