Community Chest Spotlight: Sewanee Elementary School

The Sewanee Elementary Kindergarten Friday Forest School is one of the place-based educational and enrichment opportunities sponsored by the Sewanee Parent Organization, with annual support from the Sewanee Community Chest.

The 2021-22 Sewanee Community Chest (SCC) Fund Drive is underway. Sponsored by the Sewanee Civic Association, the SCC raises money yearly for local charitable organizations serving the area. This year’s goal of $102,291 will help 20 organizations that have requested basic needs funding for quality of life, community aid, children’s programs, and those who are beyond Sewanee but still serve our entire community.

This week we shine the spotlight on Sewanee Elementary.

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 SCC budget went to 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 SCC to meet the school’s needs. This funding commitment “has served the intentional purpose of eliminating the door-to-door fundraising.” (Chitty)

The Sewanee Elementary Parent Organization (SES PO), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, requests and disburses the SCC funds each year for SES. All money received is used for yearly support to the school. The SES PO 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 SCC is the primary source of revenue for the SES PO’s general operating and project-based support. The SES PO also receives money through annual dues and small. This year the SES PO will receive $25,000 if the SCC goal is met.

The money raised for the school will help to fund classroom supplies; the library for new books, and material purchases to make the library more reading friendly; enrichment funds for Friday School, Field Day, and TCAP Carnival; place-based learning opportunities for more outdoor classroom experiences; the work study University of the South program to pay part-time student classroom helpers; technology purchases; and professional development funds.

Since 1908, the goal of the Sewanee Community Chest has been to help citizens by funding the community. With Community Chest donations, local organizations provide for basic needs such as books, food, recreational spaces, elder care, children’s educational needs and more. The Sewanee Community Chest is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and donations are tax-deductible. Send your donation to Sewanee Community Chest, P.O. Box 99, Sewanee, TN 37375.

For complete information on the history of the public schools, see the “Sewanee Sampler” by Arthur Ben and Elizabeth N. Chitty, 1978.


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