Several elementary schools in Sioux Falls don’t enjoy the benefit of having active parent-teacher groups. The schools’ students miss out on the volunteer help and the financial assistance that parent organizations typically provide.
Meantime, some schools in wealthier neighborhoods benefit from active parent groups that contribute tens of thousands of dollars as well as plenty of volunteers for projects.
Garfield Elementary School at 725 S. Roberts Dr., is among those without a Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) or similar organization. An active parent group would be nice addition because students there face challenges that go beyond school work. Approximately 80 percent of the school’s 580 students qualify for free or reduced-cost meals.
SDN Communications, which is based in the Garfield attendance area, has decided to help. SDN employees selected the school to be the primary beneficiary of their charitable efforts for the coming year.
“We plan to continue our support through at least the 2018-2019 school year, and from there, hopefully, we can set the foundation to get enough community involvement where we’d pledge a small amount of time and finances, but have a bigger impact as a combined effort,” said Susan Anacker, SDN’s liaison with Garfield.
Anacker is a commercial service delivery coordinator at SDN and a member an employee committee at SDN called the Great Ideas Group – GIG, for short. The committee has 17 members.
With about 160 employees, SDN is a relatively small company, but it has a strong history of civic engagement and community support. So its adoption of Garfield is not surprising.
SDN’s relationship with Garfield dates back a few months. The connection grew out of an informal conversation that Vernon Brown, SDN’s vice president and marketing and community relations, had with a member of Garfield’s faculty. That led to more formal discussions between company representatives and school leaders.
Principal Kristin Skogstad appreciated how quickly SDN employees came up with donations to buy bingo prizes to help the school with a student-parent event that unexpectedly drew more than 500 people.
Since the start of the relationship, SDN staff members also have helped the school by teaming up with a nearby Tomacelli’s Pizza & Pasta restaurant to provide pizzas and sodas for teachers for one of three evenings when parent-teacher conferences were held.
The money raised from a jeans fund is earmarked to help Garfield, Anacker said. SDN employees can pay $5 a day, Monday through Thursday, to wear jeans at work. (Friday is casual day, so there is no charge then.)
In addition to assisting with the bingo event, SDN employees recently conducted a drive for gently used winter clothing to benefit Garfield students that might need warm pants, hats, coats or other cold-weather apparel. They’re also participating in the school’s Read Across America Week by volunteering to read books to classes.
SDN employees also expect to volunteer their time to assist with school activities such as field trips. Meanwhile, the GIG will reach out to other businesses in the area to encourage them to assist Garfield, too. The GIG sees that as a good, longer-term way to increase financial support for the school, Anacker said.
“It’s good for the community businesses to get involved with their local school,” she said.
Jobs and other duties probably prevent some parents from getting involved in their children’s school activities. Teachers at Garfield fill some of the gap through a Lighthouse group, Skogstad said. But having the support of neighborhood businesses such as SDN is a big plus, she said.
“To know that our community cares about the school and our kids, it’s a huge benefit for our school,” Skogstad said.
“We’re just very thankful for our partnership with SDN. We’re trying to think of ways that our students can give back to them,” she said. “We try to be good citizens to our neighborhood as well.”