In schools’ time of need, Volunteer Lee steps in

Aug. 23, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

Volunteers and tutors within the local school system, which were once a luxury, are now a necessity.

The steering committee of VolunteerLee.com — a website platform dedicated to linking schools, nonprofits and businesses to local individuals looking to volunteer — met Wednesday and reaffirmed its support for Lee County Schools in light of state and local budget cuts.

Volunteer Lee Coordinator Ron Hewett said it’s important to connect all civic organizations to interested volunteers, but addressing the school system’s needs should be a top priority.

“This is an opportunity to mobilize the community,” he said. “We can’t continue to trickle along in the next few years. We are in desperate straits, and it’s going to take desperate measures.”

Lee County Superintendent Andy Bryan said funds for tutors and graduation assistants were cut, administrative positions were frozen, the renewal of some older laptops that have been given to students through the district’s 1:1 Laptop initiative were delayed, and state funding typically used for supplies and professional development were reallocated to maintain the number of teachers and teaching assistants within the school system.

“It has created an opportunity,” Bryan

said. “We could use Volunteer Lee to fill in some of those holes. I talk about Volunteer Lee at every meeting because that issue comes up.”

United Way of Lee County Executive Director Jan Hayes said the cuts to the public school system are catastrophic, and Volunteer Lee, which is a United Way initiative, may be able to lessen the burden on teachers.

“What is happening is the demise of our school system by not funding (it) at adequate levels,” she said. “Classrooms that could have 35 or 40 students and no teaching students, that is a catastrophe for students and for teachers. There is no way around that.”

Bryan said he’ll continue to work with Volunteer Lee and nonprofit Communities in Schools to organize volunteers, churches and businesses to support local schools and address the school system’s needs.

Hewett said each individual school is registered on VolunteerLee.com and are posting their volunteer needs for interested people to find.