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An Ode to My PTA’s School Supply Fundraiser

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Well, it’s August already, summer is over. For my kids, back-to-school means seeing all their friends again and settling in with a new class. For me, back-to-school means shopping, which includes the surprisingly arduous task of procuring school supplies. 

If you’ve done this before, you’ll sigh empathetically, knowing how hard it is to check off every last item on those carefully-prepared supply lists. But I’m lucky; our school PTA is run like a Fortune 500 enterprise, and some genius came up with the idea of creating a fundraiser in which the next year’s supplies can be ordered in May. The whole lot of office materials for each of my kids’ classes, from clothespins and Ziploc bags to disinfecting wipes and golf pencils (?!) can be purchased with a few quick clicks on the PTA website. It’s incredible, and way better than Amazon because you don’t even have to browse for hours to find the exact 5.5” lined composition book the teacher requests. You just enter your info and select your kids’ grade and class, and once you’ve placed the order in May, you happily sit back and enjoy your summer. Lounging by the pool, you breathe easy knowing you’ve got that box being delivered straight to your kid’s class in August. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say the greatness of this idea ranks alongside the invention of the printing press or the aqueducts of Rome.

The only caveat is that you mustn’t overlook the School Supplies Fundraiser email sent in May amidst a flurry of other PTA communiqués about end-of-year fun runs, assemblies, and nut-free store-bought mini cupcakes needed for the kindergarten graduation party. Woe betide he who overlooks that School Supplies email, and this year, it’s me. Now I’m looking forward to shopping the old-fashioned way, at Target.

When I get to the store I’m both mad at myself for overlooking the PTA email, and also irritated by the difficulty of the task. Not only are they hard to find, but all these supplies aren’t cheap. I keep a running total as I shop, and when I get to “60 #2 pencils, sharpened”, I feel defeated. I need to feel triumphant somehow. I can’t win on organization, but maybe I can win on price. I compare pencils: there are boxes of 24 unsharpened pencils for around 50 cents and boxes of 24 sharpened pencils for $1.50. Victory! I’m sticking it to the man and the whole Establishment, including the PTA with its clever fundraisers. I get the unsharpened pencils for three times less than the sharpened ones. 

It’s only when I go to sharpen these 60 pencils that I realize doing just one box of 24 pencils takes at least fifteen minutes. I’ve bought three boxes of pencils for approximately one dollar and fifty cents, plus about $30 dollars in labor.

Oh well, I guess I need a few more years of school before I outsmart the PTA.

Elizabeth Senouci is a software localization engineer, translator, occasional writer, and mom of two boys. She enjoys traveling, running, and also sitting on the couch.

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  • comment avatar Lisa August 10, 2016

    Oh my gosh, I’d be kicking myself too. I HATE school supply shopping and it’s brilliant yours does a fundraiser for it.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 10, 2016

    My kids are going to new schools this year and I almost wept tears of joy when I learned they don’t have a supply list. Hate hate hate all the nitpicky things that are required. I.e. white erasers, not pink; a certain size of lined notebook etc.

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