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YUHSD's wish: more teachers, volunteers
As schools across the nation struggle with tightening budgets, the Yuma Sun staff sat down with area school districts to find out what Yumans could do to help out. This story is one in a series called “All I want for Christmas.”
More teachers and volunteers. That's what the Yuma Union High School District has on its Christmas list.
The district's “big” wish is to succeed in preparing every student for college or a career, said Associate Superintendent James Sheldahl.
But the district also hopes to persuade more community residents to volunteer as well as help recruit teachers. How, Yumans might ask, can they help recruit teachers?
“It's amazing to me how many people are teachers who came to Yuma because of a relative or friends,” Sheldahl explained.
He noted that someone might know a relative or family friend who is getting ready to graduate from college. “They can encourage a young professional to give Yuma a try.”
The district is currently short 6-1/2 teachers, including three English and three special education teachers.
Although the district has formed a partnership with local colleges, universities and state fellowship programs, attracting teachers is “always a challenge in the Yuma area,” Sheldahl said.
So he extends an invitation to all community residents to help them fill those positions.
Another way to support schools is by making a tax credit donation to YUHSD schools. Arizona law allows taxpayers to support their favorite student's school or extracurricular activities with a donation of up to $200 per single taxpayer or $400 per household.
“We believe Arizona taxpayers like to know where their tax money is going. This is one way to exercise choice in how our tax dollars are spent,” Superintendent Toni Badone said.
YUHSD schools depend on tax credit donations to support extracurricular activities like sports, music, theater, and a long continuum of extracurricular activities. However, the tax credit donation must be made to the school or district, not to a student club or a booster club to be eligible for the tax credit.
In 2011, YUHSD received $132,601 in tax credit donations, averaging more than $22,000 per school. So far this year, the district has received $60,087. Many of the donations come in during December.
“The Arizona public school tax donation is a dollar-for-dollar credit off your state tax liability,” Sheldahl said, adding that there are restrictions on how schools can use the money, but people can make specific requests.
“We've done our best over the last several years, especially with the state budget, to make extracurricular activities as self-sustainable as possible, with such things as small user fees,” he said.
However, he pointed out, this is a good way for parents and grandparents to support their children's and grandchildren's activities. “Say you have a grandchild in band, make sure to mention the band (when making a tax credit donation).”
Donations sent by mail must be postmarked by Dec. 31 or made online up until midnight Dec. 31.
To make a tax credit donation, deliver a check to the district office (3150 S. Avenue A) or directly to the school of choice. Donors will be issued a receipt for their donation.
Or donate online through www.yumaunion.org — click on the “Community” tab — or go directly to http://yumaunion.revtrak.net/tek9.asp.
Another way to support students' extracurricular activities? “Come to a game,” Sheldahl said. “Buy a hot dog, a season pass, a water bottle. All that money goes into the budget to support extracurricular activities.”
The associate superintendent also encourages parents, grandparents and community members to volunteer at sports games and events. “We're using a lot of volunteers to run games.”
Of course, potential volunteers must first pass a background check. “We have to make sure everyone is protected,” Sheldahl noted.
What else can parents do? Every parent should engage their children in a conversation about their future, he noted.
“Have a conversation about what's next — college, career, military. The more conversations they have, the more successful we will be as a school district.”
Sheldahl expressed appreciation to local businesses and educational and other organizations that regularly support schools. “We're grateful for their support.”
In addition, Sheldahl thanked teachers for “helping to make public education a great choice.”
“I hope this Christmas every teacher in the district realizes that their roles matter,” he said.
The district welcomes visitors to the schools by appointment. Campus tours are held on Fridays.
“We would love for people to come and see us,” Sheldahl said.
“We'll take them around the school campus. They can look inside classrooms and see firsthand the kind of classroom instruction students are receiving.”
Those interested in visiting a school should contact the school directly to make arrangements.
For more information about YUHSD, call the district office at 502-4600.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.