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Parents & Students Await Back To School Assignments

The August ritual is underway, with parents and kids racing to the mailbox  lately..

" 'Do you know what teacher I'm getting? What teacher do I have ? ', That's what I've heard all summer from my kids." says Sarah Kos, an elementary school parent in West Seneca

Whether it is the phone calls to request certain teachers or just the anticipation of those class room assignment letters, this is the time of year when a lot of parents - and maybe even more kids-- start to wonder about who will be their teachers next school year.

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Do you think parents should be able to make specific teacher requests for their children?
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Only in special circumstances.
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And while most districts in Western New York try to discourage -or outright disallow requests- educators and observers say at the elementary levels especially, more parents are starting to press in on the process.

"I think it has got a little out of control. Not in my district, but talking to parents in some other districts, it's like 'my goodness, just let your kids get who they get."  says Kos, president of the PTO at West Elementary.

Across the nation, the Wall Street Journal reports that several districts are struggling with new policies to limit the role parents have in the ongoing teacher-student matchmaking, adopting policies that for the most part are already in place around here.

" I really do think more and more schools are saying we don't honor requests, " says  James Knowles, a retired teacher and principal who has served as an interim  superintendent for districts from Warsaw to Wheatfield in recent years . " And I think that a lot of times when making up schedules, if you know the students well enough, you can seem to match them up with teachers."

From the Wall Street Journal:

" August brings high anxiety for many parents awaiting big news for fall: Who will be their child's teacher? Will it be someone creative and inspiring? Or will they get stuck with a burnout, a bore or a scary drill-sergeant type?

Now, that angst is being further intensified by a combination of factors, including a less experienced teacher pool, faster gossip grapevines and schools' increased strategies to limit parents' involvement in the teacher-placement process.

In fact, school officials are sending a strong message to parents: Don't ask. A growing number of principals hold parents at bay by sending questionnaires in the spring that ask for general information about a child, but prohibit requesting a specific teacher. More principals are skipping parent input altogether, setting firm policies that teacher assignments are up to the school."       READ MORE

Shoppers are holding off on back-to-school shopping, and those who delay long enough might be rewarded with some steep discounts from desperate retailers.

Revenue at stores open at least a year - an industry measure of a retailer's health- rose 3.5 percent in July, the slowest pace since March, according to a tally of 11 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The figure, which excludes drugstores, was below a 5.5 percent increase in June.

Costco Wholesale Corp., typically a strong performer, was among the retailers reporting disappointing figures.

from the National Retail Federation:

Shop Early, But Not Often: Families are already out and about shopping for school items: 23.9 percent of families with children in grades K-12 say they will begin shopping at least two months before school (i.e. right now), up from 22.3 percent last year and the highest percentage seen in the survey’s 11-year history. Half (49%) will shop three weeks to one month before school, 21.8 percent will shop one to two weeks before school, 2.8 percent will shop the week school starts, and 2.6 percent will shop after the start of the season.

Get Dressed: The biggest portion of back-to-school shoppers’ budgets will go toward new apparel and accessories: 95.3 percent of those with school-age children will spend an average of $230.85 on fall sweaters, denim and other chic pieces of attire. Additionally, families will spend on shoes ($114.39) and school supplies ($90.49).

Unplug:  Fewer families with children in grades K-12 will purchase electronics (55.7%), and those that are going to invest in a new tablet or smartphone are going to spend slightly less than last year ($199.05 vs. $217.88 in 2012).

Where To Go: Though most school shoppers (67.1%) will visit their favorite discount store for school items as they did last year, department stores will be popular with teens and their parents this season as well: 61.7 percent will shop at department stores, up from 59.9 percent last year and the highest in the survey’s history. Additionally, 51.5 percent will shop at a clothing store, 40.6 percent will shop at an office supply store, 37.3 percent will shop online and 25.9 percent will shop at an electronics store. One in five will hit their local drug store (19.6%) and 13.7 percent will look for goods at thrift/resale stores.

Many stores were already offering discounts and other come-ons to get shoppers to spend on the new shipments of fall clothing that started flowing in mid-July. But experts say even more deal are coming this month as stores try to boost sales for the back-to-school season, which runs from mid-July through mid-September.

"It was a lousy start," said Walter Loeb, a New York-based independent retail consultant. "There will be even more discounts to make up the sales."

Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics LLC, a research firm, agrees.

"A vast number of shoppers are sticking to their shopping lists and are being very deal-driven," he said.

Only a sliver of retail chains now report monthly sales figures, and the list doesn't include Wal-Mart and many other large chains. But Thursday's tally adds to evidence that shoppers are being frugal about their purchases, particularly clothing. The back-to-school season is the second-biggest selling period behind the winter holidays.

On Monday, teen retailer American Eagle Outfitters Inc. slashed its second-quarter outlook because of weak traffic and sluggish sales of women's merchandise. The teen retailer cited a highly promotional environment that only got tougher in July.

On Thursday, rival Aeropostale Inc. warned that it would have a wider loss than expected when it reports its second-quarter results later this month. It also blamed weak traffic and lots of discounting.

A clearer picture of how the back-to-school season is faring will emerge next week when major retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Macy's Inc. report their second-quarter financial results. Analysts will dissect the outlooks merchants have for the fall quarter.

Overall, the back-to-school season faces a big challenge: Shoppers are shifting their spending away from clothing and toward bigger-ticket spending on their homes and cars because they have more credit available, says Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe.

He says they're using this "fiscal freedom" to spend on the more expensive items, cutting into lower-priced impulse buys like clothing. That has stores competing hard for dollars.

July is when stores clear out summer merchandise to make room for goods for back to school. Slow sales indicate that shoppers are holding off on buying clothing as they face other expenditures. A heat wave helped clear out discounted summer goods but did little to move warmer fall clothing among shoppers who are sticking to what they need immediately.

While jobs are easier to get and the turnaround in the housing market is gaining momentum, the improvements have not been enough to sustain higher levels of consumer spending for most Americans. Most are juggling tepid wage gains with higher costs of living.

Americans are still trying to digest the 2 percentage-point increase in payroll taxes, which took effect Jan. 1. That means that take-home pay for a household earning $50,000 a year has been sliced by $1,000. Gas prices are rising again, and on top of that, shoppers are being increasingly forced to pay for more of their children's school supplies, sometimes including books.

That has forced parents to stick to necessities. Major retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have noticed that they're staggering their purchases instead of having one big back-to-school shopping spree.

Against this background, Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers, expects that total sales for the back-to-school season will rise 3.1 percent from last year to $42.2 billion. That would be less than the 3.6 percent gain in 2012, but near the 3.3 percent average annual increase for the past 10 years.

Families with school-age children are expected to spend an average of $634.78 on clothing, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year, according to a survey of about 5,600 shoppers from the National Retail Federation that was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

From The National Retail Federation:

BTS-BTC_2013 Final

08/09/2013 6:33AM
Have you ever asked for a specific teacher for your child?
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