DISD reduces student supply list

Burlon Wilkerson

Parents of Diboll ISD students should be able to keep a little more money in their pockets when school starts in the fall.  Because of extensive work by administration and staff and support from the local school board, student supply lists from previous years have been greatly reduced for the upcoming school year.
Superintendent Gary Martel indicated that the process began 10 months ago after conversations with parents.  The idea was that the school could possibly buy necessary supplies in bulk and have them for the students.
“These conversations were constructive, and the parents had a good attitude,” Martel said.  “They were simply concerned with how much had to be spent on supplies and were hoping something could be done to ease the burden.”
Administrators began checking with vendors to see how much supplies would cost if they were bought in bulk.  They used the figures they gathered to see if it was possible to cover the costs within the district budget.  With the district allocating bout $25,000 for supplies, parents will be responsible for a much shorter list.
Martel explained that the district will purchase things like pencils and pens, crayons, scissors and glue.  Parents will still supply more “personal” things such as backpacks, binders, composition books and folders.
“This way kids can still have some things to suit their individual tastes,” Martel said.  “Even if we could afford to buy everything, all the items would be just alike, and students would lose some of the uniqueness that makes each one feel special.”
Several benefits will result from this move, according to Martel.  The most obvious one is the cost savings for parents.  However, it also addresses discrepancies between high- and low-income groups and helps level the playing field for all district constituents.  In addition, it eliminates overkill on supplies.
“Our teachers have big hearts.  They want to be sure every child has what he or she needs, so they sometimes had to ask for more than each child would use, or buy it themselves, in order to make up for those who might not be able to provide certain supplies,” explained Martel.  “This way, teachers don’t have to worry about it.”
Back-to-school giveaways by charitable organizations will be easier too because they can focus on certain items and not have to worry about special things for different grade levels.
Martel insists that he doesn’t think parent concerns are just about money.  “It’s about collaboration and listening.  People always appreciate when you have an open-door policy and listen to them.  Even when you can’t do everything they want, they like to be heard.”
He said that his goal is continued collaboration.  He wants parents to know that their voice counts more with the state legislature than the superintendent’s does.  As long as parents let their voice be heard in support of public education, the district will be better able to address local concerns such as the school supply list.
A note that was sent to parents with next year’s school supply list stated, “We hope we can do this every year, but it depends on school funding that is passed by our legislators every two years.  We need parent support and help as we communicate with our legislators in Austin.”
School board members will continue developing the budget over the next two months, so some figures could change as they work through the process.  Initial feedback from the community has been positive.