On Tuesday, November 27—billed this year as "Giving Tuesday" after Black Friday and Cyber Monday—the PS 9 Parent-Teacher Organization kicked off its 2012 Holiday Fundraising Challenge. In addition to seeking new donors from within the school community, the PTO is addressing the larger Prospect Heights community with the slogan, "Invest in Prospect Heights. Donate to PS 9!"
The campaign speaks specifically to area residents who do not have kids at the school, but who may have a stake in having a great public school in the neighborhood. "No kids? Grown kids? PS 9 needs you!" the flyer says. (Downloadable PDF here.) It also asks for donations from parents with infants and preschool children, so that the school can gear up to accommodate the Prospect Heights baby boom.
The PTO is looking for end-of-year contributions, but they’re also asking residents to consider setting up automatic monthly donations of at least $5, using a credit card. "It’s easier on your cash flow, it adds up, and it's tax-deductible," they say, sending potential donors to their website at http:/www.ps9brooklyn.org/donate.
This is a bold new fundraising approach for PS 9, which has traditionally not asked directly for donations the way many public and private schools do. But parents there say the school is facing a new reality. "The next 24 months are a critical time of transition as the school shifts from being a majority low-income (Title I) school," says School Leadership Team (SLT) parent cochair Matt Fleischer-Black. The appeal references the school’s loss of $160,000 a year, since PS 9 no longer meets the 60 percent low-income requirement to qualify for federal Title I funding. (See article in the New York Times.)
PTO leaders point out that PS 9 is now a socioeconomically diverse community--still 59.1 percent low-income, according to the latest official figures--that must raise a large amount of money each year (at least $160K, just to make up for the loss of the Title I funding). In fact, Fleischer-Black says, "the PS 9 PTO must raise between $400,000 and $700,000 over the next 2 years to bridge the loss of major funding and make the kind of longer-term changes needed to keep the school growing."
Because of the school's economic diversity--which is a great educational and cultural asset, parent leaders say--the PTO cannot raise that kind of money by only looking to the PS 9 parent community, which is still majority low-income. "NOW is when PS 9 needs ALL its stakeholders to help," Fleischer-Black says.
"We're stepping up our direct-appeal fundraising as a matter of necessity," explains PS 9 parent Faye Rimalovski, cochair of the PTO communications committee. "But we're also continuing with our traditional methods of fundraising such as our Election Day bake sale. We want to make sure all parents can participate in our fundraising in a meaningful way, regardless of their family financial situation. Our diversity is our strength, and we don't want to lose that."
In addressing the PTO’s reasons for appealing to the larger Prospect Heights community, Fleischer-Black cites an October 2004 PHNDC/Pratt study in which Prospect Heights residents said that improving schools was their number one concern. PS 9 HAS improved, he points out, and in its most recent report, the DOE says that Prospect Heights' only K-5 school is now performing among the top 30 percent of elementary schools in the city.
The PTO outlines the improvements in its flyer: "A fantastic principal. A progressive, inquiry-based curriculum. Enrichment classes for all students based on their individual interests. A commitment to the arts. A Spanish dual-language program. And a state-of-the-art library and a beautiful new playground--crucial capital improvements that benefit both PS 9 students and the neighborhood."
The PTO leadership expresses gratitude for the community work that led to the recent capital improvements. Now, the group wants to focus more on the direct needs of current and future students. Donations in 2012-13 will be used to bring the school better staffing levels and to provide more support for the neediest students, among other goals.
"We're asking our Prospect Heights neighbors to invest in the community by becoming PS 9 donors," says PTO Treasurer Chris Meissner. "An excellent public school benefits everyone in the neighborhood."
The PS 9 PTO is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Donations are fully tax-deductible and eligible for corporate matching funds.
Donate online via credit card or sign up to make automatic monthly donations: http:/www.ps9brooklyn.org/donate
Checks made out to "PS 9 PTO" can be sent to 80 Underhill Ave., Room 132-A, Brooklyn, NY 11238.