Tue, Feb. 18

Valley elementary schools merge PTOs<br><i>Two groups will keep own officers, alternate meetings</i>

Staff photo by Philip Wright

PTO presidents Tania Simms (left) and Lori Simmons each represent one of the two elementary schools whose PTOs were merged. Dr. Daniel Bright and Cottonwood Elementary schools now have one PTO, but meetings will be alternated between the campuses, and each PTO will keep its own officers.

"This is one of the very positive things that has come out of the changes to CES and DDB," said Lori Simmons, president of the CES PTO.

Tania Simms, president of the PTO at DDB, said the merger is an important part of being able to help the schools. "We want our schools to be great schools," she said.

With the opening of Tavasci Elementary School on Del Rio Drive, the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District Governing Board made changes to the two in-town elementary schools. Dr. Daniel Bright was changed from kindergarten through fifth grade to K-2. Cottonwood Elementary, also formerly a K-5 school, is now third through fifth grades.

Simmons said many families have students in both schools. Some families saw that fact as a negative while others saw it as a positive.

The idea of merging the two PTOs was discussed and generally approved during a joint meeting in May, according to Simmons.

During summer vacation some parents expressed opposition to having the independent PTOs merge.

"Some parents worried about raising money for one school and having it used at the other school," Simms said.

Simmons said other parents complained that they work during the day when meetings used to be held. Childcare and language barriers were also expressed as problems.

But the structure set up for the merged PTOs eliminates most of the perceived problems. By allowing each campus to keep its own officers within the new PTO, the treasurer from CES and DDB will each maintain separate accounts. The money raised on each campus will stay on that campus.

In addition, the meeting times have been changed to 6 p.m. so working parents may attend, and an interpreter and childcare will be provided for each meeting.

The merger seems to be working.

"In previous years, we were lucky to get six parents at a PTO meeting," Simmons said.

She said the first merged meeting this year drew about 60 parents at Dr. Daniel Bright, and the second meeting, held at Cottonwood Elementary, drew about 35 parents.

Although the meetings alternate campuses, and even though each campus elects its own PTO officers, Simmons and Simms pointed out that the meetings are in fact joint, covering issues important to both schools.

"It truly is a PTO," Simmons said. "When we meet each month we have good representation from teachers, administrators and parents." She said the meetings offer teachers an excellent opportunity to communicate with parents. "They can be honest with us and let us know how they feel and what they need."

According to Simms and Simmons, meeting the needs of the schools is the primary purpose of the merged PTO. Fund raising is the key to meeting many of those needs. The annual catalogue sale is the largest fund raiser of the year. Simms said separate catalogues will be used so that each campus may sell its own items and raise its own money.

Other fund raisers during the year include Popsicle and popcorn sales on Fridays, carnivals, box-top collection and recycling ink cartridges.

"We're planning to have other fund raisers," Simms said.

But some of the schools' needs are best met through volunteers.

"We're always looking for volunteers and people to get involved," Simms said.

Anyone interested in doing so may contact Lori Simmons at 639-3731 or Tania Simms may be reached 634-3385 or

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