Community Chest Spotlight: Sewanee Elementary School

This week’s spotlight is on the Sewanee Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.

Since 1867 there has been a long-standing relationship between the community and the public school. For years this voluntary community commitment maintained the educational system, such as St. Paul’s on the Mountain school and the school on Billy Goat Hill.

When the Sewanee Civitan Club (now the Sewanee Civic Association) was first organized, its objective of good citizenship included “a comprehensive program for the betterment and improvement of every phase of community activity.” (Chitty) This included providing school facilities. At that time, the Franklin County Board of Education agreed to pay the salaries of teachers, but did not provide the buildings. The University at that time was unable to help with the expenses. Funding for a new public school became a community goal. The school building would be on University leasehold land, owned by the Sewanee Civitan Club, and operated by the Franklin County School Board.

Funds were raised in the community and the Sewanee Public School was completed in 1927 through volunteer efforts. In 1933, the community built the Roosevelt Addition. In 1943, more than half of the town’s Community Chest budget went to the maintain the school, and fund programs for enrichment and the purchase of supplies. The county took over the maintenance of the school in 1955 when the building and land were turned over to the county as long as a school remained on that site.

The Sewanee Elementary School (SES) continues to rely on yearly funding from the Community Chest to meet the school’s needs. Money from the Community Chest is used for technology and software purchases, professional development, classroom supplies, and new books for the library and school operations. This funding commitment “has served the intentional purpose of eliminating the door-to-door fundraising.” (Chitty)

“Sewanee’s Community Chest goes far beyond what any public school could imagine,” said SES principal Mike Maxon. “While most schools are seeking ways to raise additional revenue by having their students participate in magazine sales, candy sales, etc., the Community Chest raises money for us. The teachers can concentrate on teaching, not collecting money each morning. The students can concentrate on learning, not selling products. Donations through the Community Chest do support the school,” said Maxon.

The Sewanee Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (SES PTO), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, requests and disburses the Community Chest funds each year for SES. All money received from the Community Chest is used for yearly support to the school. The SES PTO works with teachers and staff to find solutions to specific educational needs of the school that are not met by the Franklin County School system funding or services.

The Community Chest currently funds almost 90 percent of the SES PTO operating expenses for the school. The SES PTO also receives money through annual dues and small fundraisers such as t-shirt sales. SES receives additional money from school pictures, two book fairs, and BoxTops. This year the SES PTO will receive $20,000 if the Community Chest goal is met. SES always welcomes community members to art shows, musicals, and science fairs. Volunteers are always needed to help in the library, teach Friday School or read to the children. For more information, click here.

The goal of the Sewanee Community Chest is to help citizens by funding the community. The Community Chest is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and donations are tax-deductible. Send your donation to Sewanee Community Chest, P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375. We also accept PayPal for donations.
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For complete information on the history of Sewanee public schools, see the “Sewanee Sampler” by Arthur Ben and Elizabeth N. Chitty, 1978.

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