School community uses its own money to pay teacher's wage
PARENTS of children at a Northern Rivers government school have started a fundraising campaign to pay the wages of one of their beloved teachers.
The Department of Education plans to radically reduce the size of Coorabell Public School by two-thirds by 2020.
When numbers dropped below 130 students at the start of term one this year, the department withdrew funding for the school's sixth teacher, Lee Keylock.
But the outraged school community has sprung into action to keep the teacher on staff.
The P&C Association launched a fundraising campaign, called Save Our Six, which aims to raise $21,000 each term to pay the teacher's wage.
P&C spokeswoman, Sybil Andersons, admitted it was an "unusual" situation.
"We really love our school in its current size but also in particular the current team of staff are all outstanding and work together so fabulously we do not want to lose any of our staff members," Ms Andersons said.
"The school community is prepared to fundraise, go into their own pockets, have cake stalls and sausage sizzles and raffles and try and buy ourselves more time while we continue to argue this case with the Department of Education and the minister of education."
The money raised would also pay the running cost of the sixth classroom, as well as the teacher's salary, Ms Andersons said.
Each term the funds required to retain the sixth teacher and classroom is $21,000.
A spokesman for the Department of Education said a number of P&Cs had made similar arrangements in recent years.
"Coorabell Public School will continue to be fully staffed and resourced according to statewide policies and principles. There is no requirement for parents of any NSW government school to fund additional staffing," he said.
"The Department values the support communities offer through volunteering and fundraising.
"A community, fundraisers or a benefactor may nominate how funds raised in the community are to be spent, or the school executive may determine the priorities, possibly in consultation with the school community.
"It is the Coorabell Public School P&C's choice to fund additional teacher time, based on their view of how community-sourced resourcing can best benefit their students."
So far, there has been almost enough raised to fund the teacher and classroom for term two, including two anonymous donations totalling $7000.
A further $5000 has been set aside for term three, and includes donations and funding matched by P&C.
Ms Andersons said Coorabell hadn't been a two-classroom school since 1988.
"Our kids love the school, we love the school and we don't want it to be changed so radically," she said.
"It's not a minor adjustment - we are talking about 89 students being taken out of our school community.
"Coorabell had nothing but demountable classrooms from the department.
"They never built a permanent classroom at the school in 128 years and we don't understand why a school that was grown with taxpayer funds to six classrooms is then being told to cut by two-thirds.
"The school community all wants the sixth classroom and all six of our teachers.
"Everybody supports the school and everybody wants the school to stay thriving the way it is.
"We feel if we let one teacher go that will be the beginning of the end, in a few years time there will be another teacher gone and so on and if the policy comes to pass we would be down to two classrooms and it will be a very different school to what it is now."
Ms Andersons said around $20,000 was what the P&C would usually manage to fundraise over the course of a whole year.
"It's a huge ask and we know that's going to be extremely difficult for some school families and everybody is coming together to try and keep it together," she said.