Where To Get a Date With an Olsen Twin

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The New York Sun

Parents looking for a Swiss watch, a date with one of the Olsen twins, or perhaps a few nights at the Fairmont Southampton Princess hotel in Bermuda need just go to school.

With more upper-middle-class parents moving their children into the city’s public schools, the annual auction season is becoming increasingly serious.

In areas of Manhattan and pockets of Brooklyn, some schools are pulling in upwards of $100,000 a night offering everything from rides on private jets to handmade art projects by 5-year-olds.

“There are really only so many bake sales and book sales you can do,” the president of the Parent Teacher Association at P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village, Mindy Garelick, said.

Earlier this month, an afternoon tea with actress Ashley Olsen went for $5,000 at the annual benefit for P.S. 87 on the Upper West Side.

“It was really loud and hectic, but from what I remember my husband was bidding back and forth with one other person,” the winner of the Olsen tea, Wendy Halperin, said about her winning bid. “The way we look at it, it’s our donation to the school for the year. … We feel like our kids are getting a great education there and we don’t pay for private school.”

Ms. Halperin’s 6-year-old daughter, Emily, will take Ms. Olsen for afternoon tea at Alice’s Tea Cup on 73rd Street.

“In the past 10 years you’ve seen a lot more people using the public schools in Manhattan who a generation ago would have sent their children to private school or moved to the suburbs,” the author of parent guides to the city’s public schools and director of insideschools.org, Clara Hemphill, said.

“You’re seeing more well-off people in the public schools and they’ve certainly brought with them the fund-raising prowess – you have women who ran Fortune 500 companies before they had children throwing themselves into the PTA,” she said.

For some schools, the auction has become the most important fund-raiser of the year. It can raise enough money to hire teachers for enrichment programs like art and theater.

This year’s P.S.41 auction, held at the Puck Building, raked in more than $130,000.

Ms. Garelick reached out to a friend, actress Julianne Moore, who donated two tickets to the red-carpet premiere of her new film and invitations to the after-party. The package went for $1,000.

A watch by the Swiss company Breitling that normally costs $2,500 garnered $1,000.

Two collages donated by artist Stephen Kroninger, whose work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, sold for $1,500 each. Mr. Kroninger has a child at P.S. 41.

Designer Cynthia Rowley offered up her store for a children’s birthday party. While there, the youngsters can design their own clothing and parents can enjoy a 20% discount on clothing.

It’s not only luxury goods that bring in the big dollars: Lunch with the principal or a day with a teacher can fetch thousands of dollars, and class art projects have been known to kick off bidding wars.

Only a select group of public schools, typically those with wealthier parent bodies, are able to generate six digit results. Most PTAs must rely on bake sales and smaller auctions, which usually bring in only a couple hundred dollars.

Even the highest-grossing auctions at public schools don’t come close to raising the kind of money raised at the private schools, where some parents offer up weekends at their villas in Italy or beachfront homes in the Hamptons.

At the auction for Riverdale Country, a private school in the Bronx, one parent paid $30,000 for a round of golf with Larry David and a weekend at one of Andre Balazs’s hotels, according to the editor of the Private School Insider, Sandy Bass.

“Most private school these days can pretty easily rack in $500,000 at these benefits and a few are doing considerably better than that,” Ms. Bass said.

The New York Sun

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