Students fill budget gaps themselves

Patrece Otero remembers when the Glendale Unified School District used to give her $200 a year to buy classroom supplies for her 20 or so students at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School. This year, Otero received $100 for her 36 students.

That's one reason Otero sat at a table outside the Franklin Elementary auditorium Saturday afternoon, selling homemade desserts to raise funds for the Benjamin Franklin Elementary Foundation during the Yard Sale Palooza.

Bargain hunters found an auditorium full of clothing, appliances and toys, fresh tacos made by Franklin Elementary parents and a car wash staffed by sixth-graders seeking support for their upcoming field trip to Catalina.

"We're trying to teach the kids to work for what they want and not just wait on their parents to pay," Otero said.

Norm Ellison and his wife Leigh Collette, whose daughter Jessica is a first-grader at Franklin Elementary, are among those who launched the foundation last year. He said the effort is an important supplement for the cash-strapped school, a Spanish-language immersion school recently designated as a magnet campus for Spanish learners.

"It's not like this kind of thing can make or break a school," he said. "But it creates an opportunity for parents to get involved and do some nice things that would not get done otherwise."

"There's a real synergy here," he said. "There are a lot of parents who are well off and a lot who aren't. Everyone gets something out of this."

The foundation created the school's community garden, has paid for school supplies and staged special events. Parents now hope to bring a shade structure to cover part of the blacktop playground of the Lake Street campus.

The yard sale is a major fundraiser for the group, bringing in about $4,000 twice a year.

By noon Saturday, Ellison said, he had seen half the items at the sale disappear.

On the playground sixth-graders and others were hosing down cars for a $5 donation. The money will help pay for their visit to Catalina.

"I just think it's pretty cool, and I'm helping pay for the sixth-grade trip," sixth-grader Connor Cruz said.

Sixth-grader Guillermo Monte said car wash duty had its perks. "I like to squirt people and make them run away from me," he said.

Fifth-grader Iscaret Negrete's goals were not entirely altruistic. Her brother, Jorge, is planning to go on the Catalina trip. "I'm helping because I want him to leave faster," she said.

For more information on the Benjamin Franklin Elementary Foundation, call Ellison at (323) 708-6775.

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