Schools OK $5,000 gift for Branchville furniture

A $5,000 grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation will mean little kids’ legs won’t dangle from their library chairs at Branchville Elementary next year.

The grant, which was acquired by the Branchville PTA as a gift to the school, is meant to cover part of the “innovative furniture” that was cut from the schools budget request by the board.

Branchville Principal Keith Margolus, who was in the audience at the board’s June 11, meeting, said the school library’s current furniture in the commons area is adult-sized — leading to some dangling legs and difficulty for the smaller students. The grant will replace that furniture with five child-sized tables and and 27 tiki stools sized for children.

“I don’t want to give the impression that we’re failing students, but smaller students feet are dangling,” Margolus said about the current furniture.

Some board members expressed concern that by accepting the gift, the district was signaling to the PTA’s that they were being asked to cover budget shortfalls in leaner years.

Board member Sharon D’Orso, who like the other nine members of the board voted in favor of accepting the grant money from the PTA, said the board should go back and examine its gift policy.

She expressed concern that in tight budget years, the town finance board would make cuts and tell the board, “Don’t worry the PTAs will just pick up the tab for that,” D’Orso said.

Margolus said he understood the board’s hesitations.

If the board made the cuts to both the proposed budget and then also prevented PTAs from making up some of the distance through gifts, he feared the school would “miss out on both ends,” he said.

“We can draw a line to the exact meeting when we cut that from the budget,” board Secretary Margaret Stamatis pointed out.

“At some point we need to have a conversation with PTAs,” said Chairwoman Fran Walton “Because we can’t say ‘oh, we can’t have that money off you, but oh, we just cut that money there’ — it’s horrible.”