Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
More than 20 boxes of school supplies were presented to the Clayton County Public Schools, Tuesday, by Clayton County Solicitor General Tasha Mosley. Superintendent Edmond Heatley accepted the gift, just as school officials believe items donated in the fall are starting to run out.
Mosley said the items donated this week were holdovers, and additional donations from a school supply drive her office conducted last summer. She said some of the items collected at that time were held back for Tuesday's donation because the school system's Community Relations Liaison, Rhonda Burnough, had already told her there would be another need for supplies when the school district's spring semester began.
The school system's spring semester began Tuesday.
"I was like 'You know, that makes sense,' because if there's a need in August when school begins, there's also going to be a need in January [when the spring semester begins]," Mosley said. "So, we made sure we continued to accept donations for school supplies. We just put it off to the side, and I told her [Burnough] that when the school year begins, whatever we have left in our office [after the fall donation], its yours."
Heatley said the donation from Mosley's office was a "powerful" statement about the amount of support the school system is receiving from the community, as it continues to climb back from the black eye it gained when it lost its accreditation in 2008.
The school system regained its accreditation in May 2009, but it was on a two-year probationary basis, and the school district remains on probation with its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The superintendent also said the donation helps the school system start the new calendar year with a fresh set of supplies for the schools to use.
"This is perfect timing," said Heatley. "You start 2011 off with people saying 'We haven't forgotten you. We're still in your corner. We're still on the same team. Clayton County is going to take care of Clayton County.' That's how you go back to the top."
The items donated by Mosley's office ranged from reams of paper, to several forms of writing utensils, to Kleenex, to hand sanitizer.
Burnough, who has worked with several groups on school supply drives over the years, estimated that $3,000 worth of school supplies had been donated Tuesday, by Mosley's office.
The solicitor general joked that just about the only thing her office did not donate were calculators.
"It's running the gamut from pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, folders, the hard, three-ringed notebooks, [and] filler paper," Mosley said. "Everything we thought that the schools could use -- that kids need -- we put it on the list, so it's going from elementary school, to high school, so if a kid walks in and they say they need filler paper, you've got filler paper," the solicitor added.
Heatley said the donation is a form of "preventive maintenance," to break the so-called "schools-to-prison pipeline" theory that students who do not get support in school grow up to commit crimes. The school system superintendent said students need to be supported by the community early in their academic endeavors, to ensure they stay out of the court system, and become successful.
"Think about the organization that just came and said 'We know your need, so here,'" Heatley said. "We just talked about putting her [Solicitor Mosley] out of business [by] making sure our kids are educated, and going on to higher education, and start their own businesses, and going into the military, and doing those things, and not going to jail."
As part of that "preventive maintenance," Mosley pledged to continue collecting school supplies this spring and summer, and again in the fall, so the school system will continue to have a place to go to for supplies.
"We'll start back up next month collecting [school supplies] so when August rolls around, we'll have a good collection of supplies [to donate]," Mosley said. "Then we'll start back collecting again [for a winter donation], so we'll start to make this a year-round thing. Whenever they say I need, we'll have something. We might not be able to give it all, but we've got something to give."