By Curt Yeomans
Sign a contract to return to Clayton County Public Schools as a teacher next year, and you will receive gifts that were originally intended to entice new educators to the district.
School System Spokesman Charles White said $52,500 worth of merchandise was distributed to 3,500 teachers, who renewed their contracts to teach in the district during the 2010-2011 school year.
The gift sets included a canvas tote bag, with the school system's logo on it, as well as a medium-sized umbrella and a "bullet" thermos, which feature, both the logo and the district's slogan -- "It's all about the children," according to White. He added that the school system's human resources officials estimate the gift sets to be worth approximately $15 per person.
"These are gifts of appreciation from the district to the teachers for deciding to sign their contracts, and return to Clayton County Public Schools next year," White said.
The gift sets are being handed out, however, at a time when the school system, like many others across the nation, is having to make deep cuts -- such as eliminating some employee positions -- to balance their budgets.
The district's spokesman counteredby saying that while Clayton Schools is eliminating hundreds of employee positions in its fiscal year 2011 budget, the gifts were paid for with federal Title II-A funds that can only be used for the recruitment and retention of teachers. "They cannot be used to pay salaries," White said.
He also said the district had kept the gifts in storage for months, and in some cases, years, to hand out to potential new teachers at recruiting fairs.
"I can remember we gave the bags to members of the first [Southern Association of Colleges and Schools] review team that came to visit us a couple of years ago [in 2008]," White said.