Business as Usual: No dent in spending for teachers' supplies
by staff reports
Jul 25, 2011 | 4129 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dana Bearden, a third-grade teacher at Oxford Elementary, shops for school supplies with her son, Mitchell, at Davie’s School Supply in Anniston. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
Dana Bearden, a third-grade teacher at Oxford Elementary, shops for school supplies with her son, Mitchell, at Davie’s School Supply in Anniston. (Anniston Star photo by Trent Penny)
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Third-grade teacher Leigh Twigg will be taking less pay home this year than she might have hoped.

But she still expects to spend $700 to $1,000 of her own money on supplies for her classroom at Ohatchee Elementary this year.

“I guess I’m just impatient,” said Twigg, an 18-year veteran of the profession. “If my students need something, I don’t like to wait.”

Twigg is one of thousands of Alabama teachers who will be flocking to school supply stores in coming days to buy classroom supplies with their own money.

The school supply business, like other businesses, has seen a slump since the recession began. But that slump seems to have bottomed out despite this year’s tight education budgets.

Summer supply shopping is a tradition among teachers, who regularly dig into their own pockets to supply whatever the schools can’t, or won’t, fund.

“If a child doesn’t have a pencil or paper, the teachers compensate for that,” said Karen Winn, deputy superintendent of Calhoun County Schools.

Back in the 1970s, the Legislature decided to help teachers out with an annual stipend for school supplies, one that was usually delivered in the fall after the school year started.

That practice ended three years ago with the onset of the Great Recession. Since then, counties and cities have sometimes pitched in with reimbursements. In this tight budget year, that money, too, is going away in some districts.

Jacksonville City Schools got local funds together for a reimbursement last year, said Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell, and there’s a plan to do the same this year.

But even if the teachers do get reimbursed, Campbell notes, they still have less money to spend on school supplies this year. That’s because the Legislature, seeking to stabilize the state employee retirement system, approved a big increase in the amount of money teachers are paying in to their retirement.

“It amounts to a 2.5 percent pay cut,” Campbell said.

So, with pay cuts and less assistance from state and local governments, teachers can be expected to spend less on school supplies this year. Can’t they?

Not as much as one might think.

Joy Jacks, manager of Davie’s School Supply on Wilmer Avenue in Anniston, said business so far is about the same as last year. Teachers are dropping an average of $200 to $300 each on supplies right now, Jacks said. Most will make repeat visits throughout the school year, she said.

“Our business has been off for two or three years,” Jacks said. “Ever since the state money went away.”

But Jacks said it’s hard to tell whether the slump is due to the decline in state money or due to the recession — which may have hurt the household finances of married teachers. At any rate, teachers seem to have decided they can’t cut their own school supply spending any further.

Twigg said she’ll just eat the cost if she has to. Or she may send out a letter to parents, asking for donations.

“I feel bad about that,” Twigg said. “A lot of parents don’t have that money, especially if they have four or five kids.”

— Tim Lockette

Construction company succumbs to economy

Anniston-based construction company DA-MAR LLC has dissolved its partnership after five years. The company’s owners. Mark Chesnut and David Ford, said a bad economy was the primary reason.

“There’s no one real reason to point to,” Chesnut said. “We just decided to not continue as a partnership and company. You could say the economy of Calhoun County might be the overall reason.”

— Brian Anderson

New use for old Quintard steakhouse?

Maybe a little Zen can liberate 1800 South Quintard from the cycle of birth and death.

According to records at the Calhoun County Probate Office, a business called Zen Hibachi Inc. was created earlier this month at the South Quintard address.

Like many Anniston restaurant locations, 1800 South Quintard has had a number of past tenants, each evoking its own set of memories among those who like to dine out.

The location — south of Sunny King Ford on the other side of the boulevard — is still listed in city directories as the Fried Green Tomato Buffet, a Southern-style restaurant that went belly-up a few years ago. Last year, Huntsville entrepreneur Ki Min tried to reopen it as the Angus Steak House, an eatery a la Golden Corral. Min’s hopes for the restaurant figured largely in a 2010 Star story about local hopes for reviving the fortunes of Quintard as a whole.

Apparently Angus Steak House is no more. A midday visit to the site found the parking lot empty, with weeds growing tall in the cracks in the pavement.

The property’s apparent new owner, Shang Lang Chen, couldn’t be reached for comment.

— Tim Lockette

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