Stacks of composition notebooks, towers of Kleenex boxes and piles of No. 2 pencils — the sight alone would make any teacher's eye sparkle. Teachers and staff in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School system had the opportunity to shop for all this and more during the 13th Annual Teacher Supply Store on Monday and Tuesday.
Over 600 teachers and staff filled the American Legion Hall in Chapel Hill, shopping for supplies for the upcoming school year. Each teacher was given a voucher for $75 to shop with, and the store was stocked with items such as pens, pencils, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, backpacks and storage boxes.
Clare Matusevich, a CTE teacher at Chapel Hill High School, has been with CHCCS for five years and this year's sale was her third.
"It's amazing," Matusevich said. "We are very fortunate in this district — we have so much support from the PSF, from our PTSA, and this is a huge help, and it shows how much the teachers are really appreciated, and it's just one big stress off the beginning of the year."
Over the past 12 years, more than $420,000 in supplies has been provided to CHCCS teachers at this annual event, according to a press release by CHCCS. Lynn Lehmann, executive director of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation, said the store is made possible by efforts from the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club and the foundation, as well as support from Chapel Hill-Carrboro Sunrise Rotary Club and the Rotary Club of Chapel Hill.
Lehmann said the rotary clubs raise the funds for the supplies, while the foundation shops for the items and takes care of making the store run on the logistical side. This year, CHCCS said approximately $45,000 worth of supplies was distributed.
Over 60 volunteers staffed the store, helping to set up and working the check out stations for the shoppers. The store was opened to select teachers and staff from 4-8 p.m. on Aug. 19 and Aug. 20.
Lehmann said the store cannot serve all the teachers in the district every year, so they rotate yearly, inviting teachers from pre-K through fifth grade one year, and sixth through 12th the next. This year, teachers of grades six through 12 were invited.
Every year, however, the store invites all teachers who are straight out of college, and all school social workers who come to shop for students who cannot purchase their own supplies. School nurses are also invited every year to stock up on basic health supplies.
"There have been such cuts that even the basic supplies are not being met," Lehmann said. "Or if they are being met, there's not enough."
CHCCS Board of Education member James Barrett and Superintendent Pamela Baldwin attended the ribbon cutting event.
"It's an awesome opportunity for our community," Barrett said. "It's not just the schools, but it's the community showing up to support our teachers and giving them what, honestly, our General Assembly doesn't give them."
Anna Lewis, a science teacher at Carrboro High School, has been with the school system for four years. She said this sale, which she has attended three times, is helpful for teachers in the public school system who often pay out of pocket for their own supplies and materials.
"We often give everything that we have to our kids," Lewis said. "So, it's really nice to have this be one thing we can check off our list, something we don't have to put a lot toward — not that we wouldn't do it in a heartbeat."
Joel Smith, a seventh grade social studies teacher at Culbreth Middle School, said it feels nice to be so supported by the community and to have the opportunity to help meet the needs of his students.
"It recognizes that we're not always able to cover expenses of certain things," Smith said.
Smith added that the annual event is also a nice way to reconnect with teachers and staff in the district who he hasn't seen in a while.
Baldwin said she was excited to show her support for teachers and staff members as they prepare for the beginning of the school year.
"This is something that I've never seen before in any district I've been in in the state," Baldwin said. "But I will also say with what's coming out of Raleigh often, and even at the federal level, in support of or not in support of teachers, anything that we can do to support our teachers and other staff and educators in our district to make sure that they have what they need to serve our students well, I think is wonderful."
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