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Support Public Schools raises $40,000

A new group set up to support public schools said it wanted to help bring them up to the same standard as the private sector.

Support Public Schools, based on a US model, added it aimed to support teachers as well as pupils with donations of teaching equipment and other school supplies.

Juliana Snelling, founder of Support Public Schools, said the group's goal was equality of opportunity for the island's public schoolchildren. She added: “We want to give public school students the opportunity that private school students get.”

Ms Snelling was speaking after the organisation held its first donation drive this month, which targeted supplies for youngsters aged 6 and 7.

The appeal brought in more than $40,000 worth of donated supplies, including marker pens, printers, headphones and even cricket bats, which were delivered to all 18 primary schools in Bermuda.

SPS is based on the US charity DonorsChoose.org, founded by a New York public schoolteacher, which was designed to help people make direct donations to schools.

Ms Snelling, who said the response from island school principals was enthusiastic, explained the group did not intend to replace government spending, but to supplement it.

She added: “If this project eventually, like it did with DonorsChoose in the States, galvanises public education reform one day that might be needed, then that's a happy byproduct.”

However, she added: “Even if it is just a Band-Aid initiative, it's helping. That's enough for us, at least at the start.”

Julica Harvey, an SPS volunteer, said: “It's still helping and that's the initiative.

“It's not about what anyone else is doing or not doing. We just need to make sure that we are doing our part.”

Ms Snelling said that a conversation with Charles Joynes, principal at Pembroke's Northlands Primary, had highlighted the need for the group's work. She added, she was told about a teacher at the school who had spent thousands of dollars on flexible seating for her pupils so they could feel comfortable during instruction.

Ms Snelling said the story had “tugged at our hearts”.

She added: “There's probably loads of stories out there like that.”

Kalmar Richards, the new Commissioner of Education, this month praised the creation of SPS as “a commendable and outstanding response” to a call-to-action for members of the public to support public schools in the Government's Plan 2022 education blueprint.

Ms Richards added: “I applaud their efforts to enhance and enrich the experiences of primary school students in the Bermuda public school system.”

Ms Snelling said she wanted to forge a closer relationship between SPS and the Ministry of Education to allocate resources more effectively. She added co-operation was needed so “we're not doubling over, or wasting resources, that could be better deployed in another classroom”.

Ms Harvey said that public schools had “the potential to be as good and as valued as private schools”, adding: “They just need the tools to be able to engage and to be able to deliver.”

Ms Snelling said that she wished there was no need for SPS. She explained: “One would hope we wouldn't need a homeless shelter that we desperately need, one would hope that we don't have beggars in the streets, like we have, or people working three jobs who can't make ends meet. But it's a fact that we do.”

Ms Snelling praised community activist Gina Spence and brothers Dwayne and Wayne Caines for their work to help schoolchildren.

She added: “If we can all harness this together, in an organised way, for the corporate world to feel comfortable to give, then we are giving a whole lot of hope.

“It's better than doing nothing and throwing up your hands and saying it's the Government's job, or somebody else's job.”

School supplies: Juliana Snelling, far left, and others drop off school supplies at Prospect Primary

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Published September 19, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated September 19, 2018 at 8:11 am)

Support Public Schools raises $40,000

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