Six months after discovering thousands of dollars in unpaid bills and more thousands in missing funds, the Monte Vista Elementary School Parent Teachers Organization has bounced back into the black.
As a result of the generosity of parents and families, teachers and staff and local businesses and community members, the PTO’s officers announced, “We have managed to pay off our last remaining bill and are now cash-flow positive.”
Now they’re trying to compensate for the grants the PTO traditionally gives at the beginning of the school year but couldn’t because the officers – who were elected in May – had no money for them.
They’ve teamed up with an unusual nationwide fundraising company called Apex Leadership in order to raise money and simultaneously introduce students to a special two-week program.
The program – which started on the Monte Vista Campus on Tuesday is open only to Monte Vista students – it involves a kickoff assembly as well as daily classroom and playground events built around positive messaging for kids concerning physical fitness, character development and leadership.
It culminates Nov. 22 with an obstacle course peppered with unusually shaped or oversized slides, monkey bars and other inventions that are as much about having fun as they are about instilling leadership qualities and a commitment to physical fitness.
“Apex is an interactive leadership program that helps schools all over the country raise money, while promoting leadership, good character and fitness,” PTO Co-Vice President Robin Barrett explained.
She said students will “learn the habits needed to be a game-changing leader,” getting pledges for the 30-minute run on Nov. 22, including 26 to 36 obstacles.
Through Apex’s top-notch pledging system, sponsors around the globe can pledge any amount of money they wish for each obstacle the student conquers.
“The fundraising goal during this Apex program is for teacher grants and to support school programs, such as the Family Reading Program,” Barrett said.
“The Reading Program awards almost 600 books monthly. We particularly need books for fourth- and- fifth-graders because those books tend to be more expensive.”
In a joint message, the PTO officers said APEX would “bring positive messaging to our students while also serving as our one and only major fundraiser for the year.”
Noting teachers have used the grants of $300 to $500 in past years to ready their classrooms for the new school year, the officers noted, “Unfortunately, teachers did not receive the grants so it is our goal to make Apex a success to give the teachers the grants they deserve.”
The PTO’s arrival at a positive balance in its bank account was no small feat, since the officers took over at the end of the school year, saddled with $11,000 in debts and as much as $20,000 in missing funds.
When members of the Monte Vista community heard of the PTO’s plight, they rallied in a number of ways.
“Each and every penny fundraised made a difference, such as BoxTops clipping and scanning, shopping at Fry’s and earning through the Community Rewards Program, family dinner nights, business sponsorships, gifts from local families, company matching programs, shopping on smile.amazon.com,” officers said in a joint announcement.
Their last big fundraising success was a “Pumpkin STEAM Fest” last month that incorporated Halloween themes into an event that stressed science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
“Our PTO Board has been successful thanks to all the amazing volunteers, generosity of local businesses and organizations and overall positive support from Monte Vista families, teachers and staff,” they added.
Barrett said Phoenix Police have not kept the PTO apprised of their investigation into the apparent theft.
“They told me they have a lot of cases ahead of ours and that it could take seven to 10 months,” Barrett told AFN earlier this fall, adding she was told by detectives not to bother them for updates.
“They definitely aren’t interested in us calling them for updates, so we wait,” Barrett said. “They have all the evidence and it’s fully in their hands. Hopefully, they will be able to get us some closure soon.”
A police spokesman told AFN the department would not discuss the case and declined comment on Barrett’s report, except to say that detectives had to determine if a crime was involved and proceed from there.
“Keep in mind these investigations can be very complicated,” the spokesman said. “Investigators have to wait for documents from the banks and in this case documents from the PTO or the school. I am sure the audit process takes time, not to mention the other cases investigators can be working on.”
While mystery surrounds the investigation, there’s no mystery about the PTO’s return to fiscal stability and its dedication to Monte Vista students and staff.
According to its website, APEX builds its programs around principles such as “every child can change their school, and the world, in a profound way” and “serving others brings the greatest joy and contributes to the greatest good.”
APEX claims on its website to have helped dozens of schools raise funds that help teachers stock their classrooms.
It tells schools that “learning by doing and exercise are both undervalued and underutilized in fundraising today... Encouragement and enthusiasm build others up – we will help build leaders.”
“Raising money for your child’s school can also serve as a positive learning experience,” APEX also says. “Many people giving a little reduces the individual burden on the typical givers and donors.”
Barrett said the PTO is “asking parents and family members to volunteer on Nov. 22 only. Volunteers will help cheer on all students, hand out wrist bands and water.”
The obstacle course Nov. 22 is not open to the general public, but Barrett added, “However, we’d welcome donations.”