The Payson School Board Monday once again accepted an outpouring of support from the community, especially for homeless and displaced students.
The board acknowledged the donation of some $7,000 in cash plus clothes, cell phones, gift cards and other items to help the roughly 400 district students that are homeless or living in unstable situations with friends and relatives.
These donations are just crucial,” said Superintendent Casey O’Brien. “Literally every week people come with donations. It seems that the list is so impressive every month.”
Many of the donations this week focused on the number of displaced students, which has risen dramatically in the past four years, along with the number of students whose families are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced lunches.
Unfortunately, the district this year lost out on a $30,000 state grant that had helped pay the salary of a district employee who could help make sure those homeless students didn’t fall behind in school and had access to supportive social services once they left school.
State evaluators never explained to the district why it lost out on the grant this year, while rich school districts in the Valley with few homeless students had their grants renewed.
The district cobbled together other left-over grant funding and other district money to continue paying the salary of the homeless services coordinator through June, but fear those students may have a much harder time getting help next year.
Fortunately, many individuals and groups have come to the rescue of those struggling students, with big donations from NGCSD employees, the Mountain Bible Evangelical Free Church and the Payson Senior Center.
The board on Monday also accepted more than $7,000 in donations to support the schools’ sports and music programs.
That includes a $3,000 donation to support the high school’s music department, close on the heels of the Payson High School Marching Band’s triumph in performing at Pearl Harbor ceremonies in Hawaii. The music program also wrapped up its sparkling season of holiday concerts, with big crowds and standout performances.
The Payson F.A.N. Club also donated more than $3,000 to support a variety of sports programs.
The district’s sports programs have been battered by the budget cuts of the past several years, which have significantly increased class sizes, forced pay freezes and layoffs and prompted the board to close and mothball Frontier Elementary School.
The sports program that several years ago produced a state champion football team and still involves more than a third of all high school students has struggled to survive, relying increasingly on the $200 per student fee and donations through the tax write-off Credit for Kids program.
So the thousands in additional donations will provide a boon to the hard-pressed program.
Donations for homeless and disadvantaged kids
Joel Goode, NGCSD employees, $1,410; Mountain Bible Evangelical Free Church, $1,000; Payson Senior Center, $2,400; R.B. McDougall, $50; Robert Brill, $25; Rim Country Garrett Retirees, $450; Shirley West, $50; Jeff Johnston, $100; Vanda Millien, $100; G. Roy Haupt, $100; John & Carole Shevlin, $100; Payson Jewelers, $200; John Griffith, $85; Donna Lindstrom, $200; Judy Tennin, $200 in Pizza Factory gift cards; Jan Owen, underwear, razors, candy, two $10 Walmart gift cards
Clothing and other items from Kaye Trammell, Carol Von Barandy, Hallie Overman, Jan Owen, Joan Young, the Payson area Girl Scouts, Dr. Christian Alexander, Joni DeSzendeffy, Bob Hoyt, Sandra Knapp, Mary Brown, Get Wireless, Sandra Knapp, Lois English, Jean Royer, Char Schaeffer, Janet Vidnovic, Shirley Johnson, Chuck Ybarrondo and the Community Presbyterian Child Learning Center.
PAAG, Scantron Machine for gifted testing, $361; Byron McKean, PHS Music Department, $3,000; Geraldine Costello, PES, Maryann Runzo’s Classroom $400; Payson F.A.N. Club, PHS Volleyball $400; Payson F.A.N. Club, PHS Football, $1,500; Payson F.A.N. Club, PHS Soccer, $300; Payson F.A.N. Club, PHS Cheer, $460; and Payson F.A.N. Club, PHS Cross Country, $845.