PTSO, seeing slump in donations, urges parents to support students, staff

March 30, 2023 — by Jonny Luo and Michelle Wan
Photo by Michelle Wan
Falcon families come together at the SHS Parents Holiday HAPPY HOUR event hosted by PTSO on Dec. 11th.
Lower budgets this year have forced the organization to cut down on its events and source funds from alternate methods. 

As the second semester winds down, leaders of the Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) have been reflecting on this year’s budget, which had a shortfall of $15,215 (not including matching donations) that prevented the organization from hosting many events.  

This year, the PTSO set aside $71,450, with the added donations carried over from the previous year, to help fund classes and programs on campus. The PTSO helps fund lunches with teachers, grants that help teachers buy necessary school supplies, school library needs and senior graduation night. For example, the PTSO gave a $500 grant to the school’s Soundings Art and Literary Magazine to showcase student literature and art on March 3. 

While the PTSO receives funding from its memberships and matching donations, it relies primarily on donations of $150 from families, said  Lingling Sun, the group’s current president and mother to a class of ‘21 alumnus and a current freshman.

This year, the program received a total of $39,785 in donations from 246 families, an increase from the 209 families that donated in the 2021-22 school year. This number does not include company matches, which increases the amount raised to around $53,000. The target was to reach $55,000 in donations, not including company matches, which is equivalent to donations from around 400 families — a third of the student population.

“I’ve realized that there are some parents who don’t really feel the need to donate, while there are some that will donate regardless, and others that do not even know the PTSO exists,” Sun said. “It was different at Saratoga Elementary — parents seemed more involved and this information was shared amongst the community. It doesn’t seem that way here.”

As such, the PTSO has been attempting to solicit donations through PTSO emails, Friday letters and messages through platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook to target parents active within the community. They have also been hosting fundraisers, such as a Hong’s Gourmet Fundraiser on Jan. 18, which raised over $400. 

With less money in its coffers this year, PTSO had to cut and downsize on multiple planned events. For example, the organization normally hosts mental health seminars called the Parent Education Panel for parents, and they had hoped to budget around $2,000. However, since speakers normally cost $2,000 to $10,000 and they were unable to reach their target goal, they had to stop the program.

The organization has instead been leaning more on the school’s mental health program to educate parents, given the difficulty of bringing in speakers.

Inflation has also affected the program, with events costing more than it had in previous years. Usually, it costs the school around $2,000 to host the teacher’s lunch for Lunar New Year, but it ended up actually costing $3,000 this year. For the Holiday Lunch at Saratoga Inn, which was an event for parents to come together and get to know one another, the cost totaled to approximately $2,500 while the budget was set to $2,000.

Although the school eased back into in-person learning over two years ago, lingering effects of the pandemic have continued to impact the PTSO’s outreach efforts, as fewer parents are aware of the PTSO or what the organization does, Sun said. 

This slow ease back into everyday schedules and lack of donations has led the year to conclude with a shortage of funds. Sun urges families to pitch in small donations so that the PTSO can continue providing financial support to improve the quality of the school’s education.

Parents can donate through the school website or support fundraisers that various sports and programs organize in order to fund the rest of their seasons. Students benefit greatly from these donations, improving their educational opportunities and school experience.

“I hope more parents can become more involved in their children’s education through donations,” Sun said. “As a parent myself, once I started donating money, I began to pay more attention to where that money went. I hope that I can motivate families to pay more mind to the PTSO and our own students too.”

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