PTSA auction: An opportunity to give back

Bonnie McAllister and Susan Lofland are two of the auction
Bonnie McAllister and Susan Lofland are two of the auction's organizers.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

Spend two weeks in Mexico. Have a private house party with an acclaimed Island musician. Or deck out your home with student-crafted art pieces. And do it all in the name of supporting the Vashon public schools.

Those are just a few of the items and experiences Islanders will have a chance to bid on at the annual Vashon PTSA Auction on Saturday, with all proceeds benefiting Island education.

Nearly 200 volunteers have spent thousands of hours preparing for the 2010 fundraising event, the Island’s seventh annual PTSA auction. And they’re looking forward to what they say is both the most unique and crucial auction to date: It’ll be a Japanese-style auction — called “Ageru,” Japanese for “to give back — and it’ll raise money for items the school district would otherwise have to do without, officials say.

For the first time ever, the event — featuring four silent auctions and one live auction — will follow the tradition of Japanese antique auctions, where bidders who come in second are given cash for helping drive up the winning price of the auction item. The “ni-ban” auction will see Vashon’s Open Space given over to Japanese accents and decor — from 1,000 paper cranes folded by Island students to a candlelit entryway, kimono-clad greeters and bento box dinners.

“This is going to be an auction that no one on the Island has ever been to before,” said PTSA President Susan Lofland. “It’ll give back to Islanders a great new fun event. ... And PTSA auctions have made a fairly large-scale difference” in Vashon schools.

The auction comes at a critical time for Vashon Island School District, which is currently grappling with a $750,000 shortfall for the 2010-11 school year.

PTSA organizers have decided to allocate funds from this year’s “Raise the Paddle” — when Islanders give their financial support to something by raising their auction paddles — to high-school mathematics textbooks that the district needs to purchase because of new state graduation standards.

Traditionally, proceeds from the PTSA Auction have paid for textbooks, curriculum units and “professional development,” or training for Vashon teachers. This year will follow that tradition.

“We’re completely dependent on the PTSA for professional development and curriculum,” said Superintendent Michael Soltman. “They have made it possible for us to move forward with curriculum alignment and for our teachers to get training for years.”

If the PTSA didn’t raise funds for teacher training and curriculum materials, the Vashon schools would likely go without, Soltman said.

The school district issued lay-off notices to eight teachers last week and is considering cutting other staff positions. Soltman said the district would be forced to cut even more if necessary curriculum and training needs could not be paid for with PTSA funds or “stick with what we have for another year.”

“If the PTSA weren’t there, we’d be in a bad way,” Soltman said.

Other funds raised at the auction will be spent on school district expenses as determined by an allocation process that involves PTSA and school district officials.

Some Vashon parents have questioned the PTSA’s decision to allocate auction funds to math books when teachers’ jobs are on the chopping block.

But PTSA President Lofland said the PTSA has examined the things it contributes to, and has determined the nonprofit gets “the most bang for our buck” by spending money on curriculum materials and teacher trainings.

“We’ve identified that we could make a bigger impact for more students by addressing curriculum as opposed to paying one person’s salary for one year,” Lofland said. “What is the best bang for our donation? If you can do something that’s across a whole grade level or a whole school or K-12, then you’re really optimizing the opportunities for all students. It’s something that’s been proven.”

The event will be a fun one that makes a difference, said Vashon High School Principal Susan Hanson.

“PTSA has been an incredible supporter of education on Vashon — they have supported our professional development; they have supported purchase of classroom materials and textbooks,” she said. “This is an opportunity for people to give practical support to our schools.”

The auction begins at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at Open Space. To buy tickets or view a catalogue, visit

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