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Tuitt Elementary Gets Emergency Funding with Strings Attached

Feb. 4, 2009 — After months of officials complaining about a shortage of funds, money is finally on its way to Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School — but because of some past financial issues, the check is going to come with some conditions.
Faculty and staff members at Tuitt have recently campaigned for the immediate release of some emergency funding to get them through the next few months. Only a portion of the imprest fund money slated to come through at the beginning of the school year has been released, and for some time, Tuitt has been functioning without a budget, said school officials, faculty, staff and concerned parents during a recent interview.
At this point no emergency funding is needed, according to Government House spokesperson Jean P. Greaux Jr. School officials will have a check in hand within the next few days, but a recent internal review conducted on the school's finances has prompted the need for some specific "spending parameters," he said.
"The next amount of money for the school will come by the middle of next week," Greaux said Wednesday. "However, an internal review by the Education Department on how the money has been spent in the past did raise some serious red flags, so the administration there will have some specific parameters they will have to comply with. Although there have been some glaring problems raised, there is no need to penalize the school and the students, so the money is going to be released. And at this point, the financial review of the funding, specifically for Tuitt School, has been completed."
The shortage of funding has fueled a number of operating problems since the beginning of the school year, according to Tuitt principal Sidney George. While "hamstrug" by the lack of money, Tuitt "will not be going down for the count and will continue to fight" for the resources needed to meet adequate yearly progress standards in reading, math and other core subjects, he said.
Walking into the entrance of the school, nestled in the heart of Savan, it is apparent that the campus is well maintained. There is no trash in sight, save the bins right outside the courtyard fence still filled with garbage collected recently during a weekend cleanup sponsored by Sunrise Rotary. Housing, Parks and Recreation is charged with maintaining the school's recreational facilities, but has not been consistent in showing up, George said.
The classrooms are decorated with bright paintings, posters, rugs and the smiles of students who anxiously raise their hands and shout out during the lessons.
But if you look closely enough, the bright picture starts to dim once other pieces begin to fill in: the legs of many classroom chairs are propped up by tennis balls, while the walls of the school's basketball court are lined with graffiti. Tuitt's telephone system has been inoperable for months, while the copy machines work sporadically, sometimes only pushing out half a photocopy.
The boys bathroom was also recently vandalized — an upturned container of green paint lies on the floor, while its contents have been spilled over the counter tops, urinals and doorways. The students walk in and out of the main office during the day, carrying bottles of soap and rolls of toilet paper on their way to use the staff bathroom. There's not enough money to fix the perimeter fencing around the school, so outsiders can always make their way in, according to Tuitt officials.
Tuitt's afterschool program has been cut, and administrators are now looking for volunteers to help students with their homework. Meanwhile, the end of each class period is heralded by the ringing of cow bells, which have replaced Tuitt's ailing intercom system. Spend the day on campus and it's easy to notice the out-of-the-ordinary things that have become commonplace over the past few months.
In addition to apprising parents of the funding situation during a recent PTA meeting, school officials have also made their case to various members of the 28th Legislature, who have said they will continue to push for some more money for the school.
"There is a general consensus of outrage and uproar from the staff," George said. "We have continued to use our own money for supplies. We have a dedicated and experienced staff, but without the money, we can't buy the materials we need to implement the school curriculum. We need to get the services and support from all the government agencies, because we have a problematic situation here that cannot be ignored. We're putting on a full-court press now, and will continue to put forth our best efforts."
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