Sat, March 28

Area PTOs need more parents involved
Even an hour or two a year helps make a difference

Michelle Ebel is president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Tavasci Elementary School.

She is also vice president. And secretary, and treasurer.

"Last year it was just three of us," she said. "We haven't had the parents' support."

Even so, last year the PTO managed to buy a popcorn machine. The idea is to have popcorn sales at school every Friday. That raises some money and adds a little fun for the kids. Unfortunately, the PTO is so short of members no one is available to operate the popcorn machine.

But this year things are looking up -- a little. Ebel thinks the PTO membership has climbed to five. An improvement. But still far short of the numbers needed.

In its second year of operation, Tavasci Elementary's PTO may be the most desperate for members of all the schools in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. But its needs aren't much different than the PTOs at other schools. All five PTOs in the district need more parents to volunteer some time.

At Cottonwood Middle School, PTSO President Tania Simms says that organization is also short of members and volunteers. The shortage of members reduces the PTSO's ability to raise money.

"The only fund raiser we have is the advertising banners in the gym," she said. Concession sales at basketball games raise some money. "We have to share that with other activity groups, though."

But the lack of fund raising actually reduces the need for more money. Kind of a Catch 22. "Because there's not a lot of involvement at the Middle School, there isn't a lot of money going out," Simms said.

Lori Simmons, PTO president at Cottonwood Elementary, said specific skills are not required for parents to be of help. "Most importantly, we need warm bodies," she said. Her PTO has a goal for the money it raises. "We'd like to put one new computer in every classroom."

Things are about the same at Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary School. PTO President Lynette Prouty needs volunteers to help in the school's office, in the library, in some classrooms and on field trips.

At Oak Creek School in Cornville, PTO President Sue Williams has become accustomed to getting by with a few people during the eight years she's been in the organization. "Many of those years it was just two or three people," she said. But Williams has seen a big jump in interest this year. She said that about eight new parents have stepped in to help with PTO.

Williams said that even though the PTO can always use more people, the support from the school's parents has always been strong for special events or issues. "I've never been left high and dry," she said.

The presidents of each PTO all agreed that parents could help a lot even if they can only put in an hour or two from time to time.

"You don't have to make a lifetime commitment," Prouty said.

Simms agreed. "If we had a bunch of people doing only one thing each, we'd have a lot of people doing a lot of things," she said.

Simmons thinks people will be surprised after they volunteer the first time. "Once they come, they'll enjoy it so much they'll want to come back," she said.

In spite of the shortage of parents who are active, the district's PTOs have accomplished much. Playground equipment and picnic tables have been purchased and installed. Teachers have received money for necessary classroom supplies, and some field trips have been subsidized. Even at Tavasci Elementary the PTO bought an expensive climbing dome, and money was donated to the school nurse and library. In short, the district's schools are all better off because of the dedication of their individual PTOs.

But there's no shortage of needs. Each PTO has goals for its school, and that takes money and work. It also takes more parents getting involved.

For information or to volunteer, contact individual schools directly.

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