School calls on ‘Simpsons’ writer for help

Sports programs killed, libraries closed, teachers given pink slips — as Homer Simpson might say, “Doh!”

But as districts across the state make such cuts to cope with their budget crises, the students, parents and teachers at Ralston Middle School are taking matters into their own hands. And in this case, they happen to be yellow, four-fingered hands.

Michael Reiss, a longtime writer on “The Simpsons” and several other animated series, will be speaking at a fundraiser tonight at the school. Students from the school’s advanced animation classes will also present their work, while the student government will stay busy selling food items and tickets at the door — all to shore up the district’s shrinking budget.

The event one of the “out of the box” fundraising tools the school community has thought up to offset the $870,000 inanticipated cuts the district will face next year, said parent Kennon McDonough.

When the budget cuts were first announced in March, parents involved in the district’s foundation teamed together to think up ways to boost contributions, said parent Brad Jung. They decided to make contact with every parent in the district, sold the school’s art class’s paintings in exchange for donations, and held a Read-a-thon that earned over $100,000. In total, Jung said, the foundation so far has earned $570,000 —twice what they earned last year and two-thirds of money needed to offset the budget cuts.

In a moment of inspiration, McDonough thought of asking her husband’s college buddy Reiss to help.

Reiss said he didn’t think twice.

“I was free, and being in L.A., I’ll jump at any chance I can to get out of there,” he joked.

Though he was happy to help, Reiss said he was “shocked” to hear that parents must raise funds for their children’s public education.

“I’m sort of appalled that it’s come to this. I’m a product of some of the most famously under-funded schools in Connecticut, but we had everything — art and music and field trips,” he said.

The event will be held at the school’s multi-purpose room tonight at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for children, $10 for adults.

kworth@examiner.com

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