Pride in a New Marquee

Citrus Heights, CA  |  By Jacqueline Fox
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Carriage Drive Elementary School: We want to thank all of our sponsors for helping with the new marquee. This is also a wonderful way of showing our parents how their efforts are paying off. Photo by Jacqueline Fox

Carriage Drive Elementary Raises $17K for New Marquee

Citrus Heights, CA (MPG) - After two years, countless fundraisers and a boundless supply of good, old-fashioned stick-to-itiveness, Carriage Drive Elementary school is now sporting a new $17,000 digital marquee.

Jim Cowger, past-president of the Carriage Drive PTA, instrumental in leading the cause to raise funding for the school’s new marquee, says he won’t be missing the days when, rain or shine, he was outside hand-changing the messaging on the older sign to keep messaging to students, parents and staff up-to-date.

“I used to call it a gas station sign,” says Cowger, who fought during his two-year tenure to convince the PTA board to spend the $17,000 for the new marquee, surprisingly the middle bid for the new sign.  “The old sign was just two pipes and a plastic board with stick on letters. I used to get out there every day or two and put up the new letters to change the messaging. We won’t have to do that anymore.”

Cowger said he and other members obtained three estimates for a new marquee as they were shopping around. One bid came in higher than the $17,000, one lower and, PTA officials are apt to do, the decision was made to go with the middle bid.

“Believe me they are not cheap, so I wasn’t surprised by the sticker price,” says Cowger.

Cowger, who has a fourth-grader currently enrolled in the school, as well as two children who previously attended, says it was the need for a new sign that spurred interest in serving on the PTA board, which he did from 2015 to 2016.  During his tenure, Cowger learned that the school’s budget for a new, digital marquee was nowhere near where it needed to be. He’d have to get busy finding a way to generate the funds.

“I ran for PTA for the purpose of getting involved and helping to get the money in place for a new sign,” Cowger says.  “But I learned that we couldn’t take the money for it out of the PTA fund because we are required to leave a $10,000 prudent reserve in place and that would have depleted the fund.”

Once on board, Cowger and fellow PTA members rolled up their sleeves and started planning fundraisers for the new marquee.   Ice cream socials and a sock hop were held. Box after box of See’s Candy was sold, and funding for the new sign started to come in.  In January of 2016, upon review of the effective fundraising efforts and a pending plan for a spring 2016 classic car show featuring The Classic Chevy Club, Cappuccino Cruisers and Ironworker’s Motor Cycle Club #118, the full PTA board approved the expenditure of $15,000 for the sign.  The car show ended up generating $5,000 for the new marquee, Cowger said, and additional funding came from the other fundraisers and outside donors.

“We showed the entire board, the school and district that we could get the funding in place for the new sign and they finally approved the purchase in January of last year,” Cowger said. “It was a long time coming.”

Brooke Thomas, principal of the school and PTA board president said the new marquee will be used as a support tool for staff, as well as a way to offer and update school announcements more efficiently.

“Were so proud of our PTA and all of our donors who made this possible,” Thomas said.

According to Cowger, the former president of the San Juan Unified School District made a promise in 2015 to pay for installation of the new marquee, once a purchase was made.  Unfortunately turn-over within the district meant putting the new marquee in storage for roughly a year.  Cowger and other PTA members meanwhile spent months pleading with the district to make good on their promise to pay for the marquee installation.

Finally, with more determination, the district agreed to provide funding for the installation, which was completed in early August, just in time for the start of the new school year.  Now, instead of seeing Cowger outside as they drive up, diligently spelling out words and dates one letter and or number at a time, a warm, red digital readout will be reminding students and parents alike about upcoming events, holiday dismissal times, and wishing a student a happy birthday, among other things.

“The whole reason I got involved with the PTA,” says Cowger, “was to see the school get a new marquee. And we couldn’t have done it without the help of our supporters and the parents and families that make Carriage Drive the special place it is.”

Those include All Awards Trophy and Plaques, Bubba’s Car Wash, Bill McAnally Racing and the publisher of this paper, Messenger Publishing Group.

“We had D.J. services donated by the Hinsley family,” says Cowger.  “Can’t say enough about D.J. Rob. He performed at every fund raiser we held and his ability to get the crowd involved is priceless. He even donated his tips back to the PTA.”