OAKLAND -- School teachers constantly dip into their own pockets to ensure their classrooms and students have adequate school supplies, said Evelyn Horng, whose company, Roonga, is teaming up with the Oakland Schools Foundation to sponsor the first "Oakland Back-To-School Supply Drive" through September.

"A study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association shows that teachers spent $1.6 billion out of pocket last school year, about $500 per teacher," Horng said. "A big chunk was for the most basic supplies, including pencils and paper."

Horng said the foundation would like to reduce the financial burden on teachers by making sure they have basic classroom supplies such as pencils, paper, glue sticks, Scotch tape -- as well as facial tissues and hand sanitizer for the inevitable flu and cold season.

Brian Stanley, executive director of OSF, said the partnership with Roonga -- whose mission is to help nonprofits secure donations from the community and businesses -- makes donating easy. Donors can simply go to www.supportoaklandschools.org and click on the items they want to purchase.

"This is the first time we've used this technology -- it's very fast and efficient," Stanley said. "For the cost of two lattes, you can buy supplies online that will directly help teachers and students as well. Once the drive is over, we will look at what we've got and distribute to schools with the highest needs."

As of Sept. 3, online donations were at 24 percent, with more than 1,300 items still needed. Nancy Bloom is the principal of Montclair Elementary School and knows firsthand how much money teachers spend to supply their classrooms.

"Teachers hemorrhage money every year for classroom supplies," Bloom said. "In this school, we are fortunate because parents are very generous, but there are many schools less fortunate."

Bloom said it takes money to educate a well-rounded child.

"As everyone knows, schools are dramatically underfunded in this state," Bloom said. "Volunteer hours are wonderful, but kids need pencils, too. I think this is a great way for the community to contribute to schools."

Laurie Jacobson Jones, whose daughter is a third-grader at Crocker Highlands Elementary School, just donated 50 boxes of No. 2 pencils.

"I just bought school supplies for my daughter to be sure she has everything she needs for a great school year," Jacobson Jones said. "Not every family is in a position to do that, but every child deserves to have the supplies required for productive learning."

Karyn Moss Veneklasen, whose daughter also attends Crocker Highlands, donated pencils as well.

"It's patently wrong that teachers have to go without basic school supplies," Moss Veneklasen said. "The inequality in Oakland public schools is appalling. This is one small way to make a difference."

Moss Veneklasen said she feels lucky to send her daughter to a public school with an active PTA that makes up district budget shortfalls through a variety of fundraising efforts.

"We raise a huge amount of money each year and 'all' we get is what most people would consider a solid baseline -- art, vocal music, gym and computer lab," Moss Veneklasen said.

Stanley said his goal is to get the word out on how the community can connect to their schools.

"This is the first time OSF has tried this kind of online drive," said Stanley, who wants it to become an annual campaign. "If it works, it will be terrific."

FYI
To see a full list of needed supplies and their costs, go to www.supportoaklandschools.org. For information on Roonga, go to www.roonga.com. The drive ends Sept. 30.