Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Parents raise money to keep strings program going at two elementary schools

TAMPA

They held a ring toss at the fall festival and donated profits from a jewelry party. And when their kids perform, they pass a hat. Parents pool pocket change with more generous donations to pay the salary for a violin teacher shared by Mitchell and Gorrie elementary schools. Five years ago, the district cut the strings program in traditional elementary schools, as fiscal austerity strained culture budgets across the country. So the parents at the two South Tampa schools decided to pick up the tab for Todd Jefferis. He had been teaching their children nearly 10 years at that point.

Now, each school raises $36,000 a year and sends a monthly check to the district, which covers Jefferis' salary and benefits.

It's a fairly rare arrangement for the district, said spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

Mitchell Principal Joanne Baumgartner is grateful to have Jefferis and brags about his talent, dedication and humility.

Ask Jefferis about the value of kids learning violin and he points to second-graders slipping between curtains and onto the stage next to a converted storage room where he teaches.

"They're skipping recess to come here," he said, as he tuned a tiny violin.

Jefferis splits his time between the two schools, teaching more than 600 kids. He knows every one of his students by name, he said.

He worried at first that he wouldn't have time for them all, so he's taught them to work together. The children pair up at music stands and practice Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Pepperoni Pizza, a hybrid of the Suzuki method, Jefferis said. He starts teaching before the bell and continues past the bell, so kids won't miss any of the academics offered at other schools.

At the end of the class, Jefferis tied blue yarn around the scroll of 8-year-old Wes Proulxes' violin, a reward for mastering Go Tell Aunt Rhody. Wes knows 18 songs, and he said he can't wait to try a cello, because he loves the deep sound.

The schools perform throughout the year in the community, including today at a nursing home and in a Sweetbay Supermarket at noon. Next week, Gorrie students plan to play at the Tampa International Airport. A few years ago, they played in Hyde Park with other strings students from Wilson Middle and Plant High schools, many of them former students of Jefferis.

To raise money to keep the strings program, Mitchell parent Julie Pellecchia started the HeartStrings committee, which falls under the nonprofit Mitchell Foundation.

"I don't want to sound desperate," she said, "but we barely make it every year."

All kindergartners get a chance to play, and after that, students choose. Parents of those who choose to play are asked to pay $200, but not all can.

Some parents pay extra and the Gobioff Foundation, which supports the arts, gives a generous donation.

Even so, last year the pot was $10,000 short. The foundation filled in the gap.

Ultimately, Pellecchia said, the goal is for HeartStrings to fully cover the program. She said they're always looking for help. She worries that parents are tapped out.

Currently there are no plans to restore the program to the district, said Hegarty.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at eparker@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3431.

>> if you go

String section

Catch a performance by Mitchell students at noon today in the produce section at Sweetbay Supermarket, 2100 W Swann Ave.

To donate to HeartStrings, contact Julie Pellecchia at (813)787-1659 or jtruster@yahoo.com.

Parents raise money to keep strings program going at two elementary schools 12/11/13 [Last modified: Friday, December 13, 2013 5:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Housing starts fall in July

    Real Estate

    WASHINGTON — The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts fell 4.8 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.16 million. Groundbreakings for multi-family buildings such as apartments slumped 17.1 percent, while single-family house construction slipped 0.5 percent.

    On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported on U.S. home construction in July. 
[AP file photo]
  2. Pasco doubles tourist tax to finance sports complex

    Tourism

    DADE CITY — Pasco County is doubling its tourist tax to 4 percent to build an indoor sports complex in Wesley Chapel and improve its outdoor boat ramps in west Pasco.

    Pasco County's plan to double its tourist tax on overnight accommodations to 4 percent is intended to help finance a $25 million sports complex in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel. It  would include a 98,000-quare-foot multipurpose gymnaisium of eight basketball courts and dedicated space for gymnastics, cheerleading and a fitness center. Shown here is the four-court fieldhouse with 50,000-square-feet of space for competitions at  Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.  Times photo by James Borchuck (2007)
  3. 5 things to do under $5: Where to see solar eclipse, Bucs training camp

    Events

    1 Solar eclipse: Turn around, bright eyes. Monday brings a total eclipse of the sun, and you'll need protective eyewear to see it. The bay area won't be plunged into darkness for a few minutes like the middle of the country, but with solar lenses you can see this rare event. The Museum of Science and Industry, …

    This photo shows a “diamond ring” shape during the 2016 total solar eclipse in Indonesia. For the 2017 eclipse over the United States, the National Science Foundation-funded movie project nicknamed Citizen CATE will have more than 200 volunteers trained and given special small telescopes and tripods to observe the sun at 68 locations in the exact same way.
  4. Florida man has some of Princess Di's wedding cake, plus 13,000 other royal items (w/photos)

    Human Interest

    John Hoatson recalls the day it all began with perfect clarity.

    John Hoatson poses with a photo taken in 2006 when he met Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, the Duchess of York, for tea at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in California.
  5. Les Miller on Charlottesville: 'This is not what we should about'

    Blogs

    TAMPA -- In the aftermath of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., and ahead of today's continued conversation on Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller on Wednesday looked to inspire unity in an invocation that a colleague called "inspirational."

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.