Back-to-school packets to switch back to paper

Kate Marinkovich, Author

Penny Ellson, chair of the PTA's Traffic Safety Committee, introduces the traffic safety improvement project to Paly PTSA at the Feb. 21 meeting. Photo by Christina Chen.
Penny Ellson, chair of the PTA’s Traffic Safety Committee, introduces the traffic safety improvement project to Paly PTSA at the Feb. 21 meeting last year. Photo by Christina Chen.

Next year’s back-to-school packets will revert back to paper format, according to next year’s Parent Teacher Student Association president Linda van Gelder.

The 2013-14 school year’s transition to paperless packets caused a significant drop in donations, negatively affecting the multiple Palo Alto High School programs that rely on these contributions, including as the Paly Theatre. The web format produced less parent involvement and contribution, according to van Gelder.

We noticed that donations from people who have chosen to write checks instead of making online payments were way down, so we would like to make it convenient for everyone,” van Gelder said. “The packet was available to print out from, but even I didn’t go to the trouble of printing it.”

In an attempt to restore participation, the back-to-school packets will be printed next year and will include both a paper and online payment options. Items in the packet include a checklist for donations, a Partners in Education donation letter, a list of booster clubs, a site council ballot, a photo order form and a new addition called the “Welcome to Paly” brochure. The new brochure is meant to increase parent involvement by informing them of the programs that benefit from their donations, according to van Gelder.

“With the new Paly brochure and a letter describing the exciting and meaningful plans we have for next year, I think parents will see the benefits of contributing to organizations their children benefit from,” Van Gelder said. “In addition, having more information on events and opportunities for involvement will improve the school climate.”

Van Gelder says she hopes that the paper packets will bring in the necessary donations at the beginning of the school year, to allow easier PTSA budgeting.

“Donations to PTSA were down last year, causing the PTSA to revise the budget mid-year,” van Gelder said. “We were able to collect more with a second letter during the year, but that is a lot of work.  It is much better to raise the money at the beginning of the year, so we can plan our spending to enhance the learning and school community in the best way.”

The online donation option will also be improved due to the switch in the school’s web store operator to a new system called ASB Works.

It will be more secure and will work well for school fees,” van Gelder said. “Since it was just announced last week, we haven’t figured out the details of how everything will look, but we will do our best to make it as convenient as possible.”

The paper back-to-school packets require more work by PTSA throughout the summer, according to van Gelder, however she is confident that the work will pay off.

“We want parents to be active in the school and community,” van Gelder said. “We do plan to keep the amount of paper used to a minimum and look at ways to cut back on paper usage each year.  If sending a packet helps parents to connect with the school, it is worthwhile.”