Picture this, private industry

Parent volunteers from Marsh Junior High School have come up with a way to save parents money, make cash for the school—and undercut big business.

Using today’s technology of digital cameras and corporate print labs like Costco and Wal-Mart, members of the Parent-Teacher-Student Organization figured they could take sports team, prom, graduation and other student pictures themselves and pass the savings along to their peers, who shell out $40 for a package the parents could produce for $3.95 and mark up to $10.

Supporters of the idea, which was originally conceived by Marsh Principal Jeff Sloan, made their case March 19 before the Chico Unified Board of Trustees, which opted to wait until its next meeting to make a decision.

As it is, the school pulls students out of class on Picture Day, lines them up, collects the money and, later, delivers the photo packages. “We do everything except click and develop,” said Lisa Reynolds, the activities director at Marsh, who spoke at the board meeting with parent Liz Thomas.

They’ve already taken shots of students in club basketball and have plans for spring portraits. They look pretty good, although some well-placed artificial lighting could add studio-style catchlights to the subjects’ eyes. “Lighting is the most important element in composing pictures,” pointed out Trustee Anthony Watts, who works in television.

Reynolds and Thomas said they’d be glad to invest in some lights—or even buy another digital camera with PTSO money if there’s an issue with using taxpayer-purchased equipment to, as Superintendent Scott Brown put it, “supplant a private-sector activity.”

They’d also be willing to share Marsh’s equipment with other schools.

The volunteers have already found two photography outfits willing to take over the jobs currently done by Lifetouch and give Marsh 50 percent of the profits. Currently, “none of it comes back to the site, and we’ve never questioned that,” Reynolds said.

Lifetouch’s Chico Facility Manager Bob Evans didn’t return a call for comment and in the past has refused to be interviewed for a feature about the Minnesota-based business, which has 17,000 employees nationwide and shows $750 million in sales annually. Many of the company’s 475 Chico workers are employed seasonally.

Hail César

A variety of activities are planned in the coming days to celebrate the life and efforts of César Chávez. Educational efforts inspired by the late farm workers’ rights leader will take place on César Chávez Day on March 31, including a “teach out” at local schools.

On March 27 in Chico State University’s Ayres 120 at 4 p.m., people who marched from Merced from Sacramento in August 2002 will talk about their support for binding arbitration for farm workers. That same day, at 7 p.m. in Trinity Hall, three United Farm Workers documentaries will be shown. On March 28, UFW Education Day, there will be presentations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Free Speech Area, and at noon at Trinity Hall one can learn Chicano/a labor movement protest songs. On March 30, there’s the annual César Chávez march in San Francisco, and it’s also Volunteer Day at the Gridley Migrant Labor Camp.