Bank at school teaches Taneytown pupils thrift


Adam Schaum felt pretty good Wednesday when the bank teller recognized him and pulled out his account records before he even got to the head of the line.

She recognized him because they are both fifth-graders at Taneytown Elementary School.

This is not a pretend bank. It's not even a class project. Children open real accounts and deposit their U.S. currency, which earns interest.

"Not every school gets to have a bank come in every Wednesday, every week, so we're lucky," Adam said.

Taneytown Bank & Trust Co. operates seven branches, but its newest unofficial satellite began Nov. 9 in the library that Taneytown Elementary School shares with Northwest Middle School. Every Wednesday, the bank sets up a table of six tellers so children can make deposits from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.

So far, 119 of the 400 students in the school have opened the simple savings accounts.

The tellers are fifth-graders who spent the first two Wednesdays training by professional tellers from the bank. The students had to fill out real job applications, but they were nominated by the fifth-grade teachers based on their math ability.

The project was born last year, when Taneytown guidance counselor Betty McDermott read about First National Bank in Gaithersburg starting a banking project with several Montgomery County elementary schools.

In the spring, she approached Taneytown Bank & Trust, which has its headquarters just down the street from the school, to ask that it join in a similar venture.

A real bank operation in an elementary school is unusual, said bank Vice President Donna L. Oliver. But the bank readily accepted the offer, she said.

"We have certain regulations we have to follow for community involvement, so when the opportunity came up, our president was very supportive," said Ms. Oliver, who has a son in fourth grade at the school.

Just as it does for adults, the bank provides some incentives for students to participate. Every student who opened an account got an automatic $1 deposit. Every time a student makes a deposit, the child's name is entered in a monthly drawing for a $50 U.S. Savings Bond.

Adam has been making his deposits small and frequent, to have as many chances as possible at the savings-bond drawing. He has accumulated $13 in his account. His deposits come from his earnings making dream catchers and selling them at craft fairs. "When I'm 16 and get my driver's license, I want to pay for a car. A decent car," said Adam.

He doesn't worry about the safety of his money just because the tellers are fellow fifth-graders.

"Since the adult is there, I feel pretty safe," he said.

Fifth-graders Morgan Linthicum and Trent Miller are among the student tellers. After their teacher nominated them, they had to fill out a job application.

"They asked about your previous job," Morgan said. She actually has a job, helping to stamp mail, make copies and shred paper at the medical office of her father, Dr. William Linthicum.

"I left that blank," said Trent, although he does sometimes help his older sister care for a neighbor's horses.

Ms. McDermott said the project came with some unexpected benefits, including the boost in self-esteem when students take an active real-life role, working as a teller or having their own accounts.

Many students, like Trent, already had bank accounts of their own. But the bank required them to open a separate one if they wanted to bank at the school, for security reasons, Ms. Oliver said.

For this project, the bank is keeping the deposit books, so children won't risk losing them in school. Students may not withdraw money at the school, and the bank and school are discouraging them from withdrawing money at all.

"I like it because it's teaching the art of planning ahead, not instant gratification," Ms. McDermott said. "They're planning to save money."

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