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Clark County parents respond to schools’ appeals to save teacher jobs

At least four Las Vegas Valley schools that appealed to parents and donors to help them avoid a new round of staff cuts have raised enough money to save teaching jobs.

Twitchell Elementary School in Henderson had faced the loss of three teachers after student enrollment came in lower than projected. But thanks to its “save our staff” fundraising initiative, the school raised $63,026 in just over one month. That was enough to spare one of the three teaching positions.

“It certainly wasn’t easy, but you know what, people gave whatever they could,” said Twitchell Principal Michelle Wooldridge. “People were so supportive. It brought the community together in a way that I’ve never seen.”

Twitchell is one of at least four Clark County School District schools that were able to raise enough money to keep staff members after facing budget cuts because of low enrollment or districtwide spending reductions in the spring.

Vanderburg Elementary, right next door to Twitchell, raised $86,493 to cover its $80,548 loss, allowing the school to keep one second-grade teacher and increase its funding for supplies and other resources.

“There has never been a time when we reached out to you, our families, and you didn’t just amaze me with your generosity,” Principal Catherine Maggiore said in a letter to parents. “The staff and administration will be forever grateful to our families for stepping up to make this happen.”

Lamping Elementary, which also sought donations, announced this week that it collected a total of $70,654. That money saved one fourth-grade teacher, leaving it with one kindergarten teaching position to cut.

The money left over will fund instructional aide supports in kindergarten classes.

“Thank you for your overwhelming support,” Principal Robert Solomon wrote to parents in a letter. “We are extremely fortunate to be part of such an outstanding community.”

At least one school launched a fundraising drive even before enrollment numbers impacted some school budgets in September.

Vassiliadis Elementary raised $69,890 to save one teaching position in May, after a $60 million shortfall in the district’s budget forced cuts before the school year started. It garnered individual donations that went as high as thousands of dollars.

That included a $2,000 donation from Assistant Superintendent Jesse Welsh, whose daughter attends the school.

“I knew probably several (people) in our community would step up as well, so I was happy to write that check,” he said.

Parent Annalise Castor, who has two children at the school, also gave $2,000.

The only reason she gave, she said, is because of her trust in the school’s administrators.

“You know they run a good ship and you trust them,” she said. “When they say jump, then you jump.”

The fundraising efforts highlight the divide between schools in more affluent neighborhoods and those in poorer areas of the Las Vegas Valley with families that can’t afford to give.

“My personal feelings are that I find it really uncomfortable that this is happening,” Trustee Chris Garvey said at a School Board meeting in September. “I think it will again be one of those things, especially kids in the middle are going to be hurt because their parents can’t write checks.”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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