As budgets shrink PTAs fill in the gaps for Covington schools
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
October 4, 2012 · Updated 10:57 AM
In an era of shrinking school district budgets the Parent Teacher Association has become more important than ever.
Look, for example, at three schools that serve Covington students: Jenkins Creek Elementary, Cedar Heights Middle School and Kentlake High.
Active PTAs and PTSAs provide critical support to school programs as well as in the classroom.
Juliet Perry, secretary for the Kentlake PTSA, wrote in an email interview why it’s important for these volunteer-driven groups to exist.
“PTAs are all about the kids, helping them reach their full potential,” Perry wrote. “Parents, teachers and the community all need to work together to reach this goal, and PTAs are at the intersection. We collaborate with all the stakeholders to promote the best outcomes for kids.”
Moms are at the forefront of PTA leadership at all three schools.
Cindy Carlson and Wendy Brooks are co-presidents of the Jenkins Creek Elementary PTA.
In the third week of September students at Jenkins Creek got the chance to peruse items at the school’s annual Scholastic Book Fair, which is the first fundraising event of the year, Carlson said.
“We gave all of that money (last year) to the library because the library’s budget was cut,” Carlson said. “She had basically no money to purchase books. So, we gave her $1,000 from Scholastic Books.”
That’s just the start of the list of things the Jenkins Creek PTA supplements with money from fundraisers.
There’s the computer mice the PTA purchased to help with the Measurement of Student Progress test students took in the spring.
“Half of the test was online last year,” Carlson said. “They need mice for each of the laptops that were set up for that.”
During testing, Carlson added, the PTA provided snacks for each classroom so teachers didn’t have to pay for it out of pocket or ask parents to pay for it or rely on kids to remember to bring it.
“So, they were covered with water and healthy snacks,” Carlson said.
In addition, the Jenkins Creek PTA pays for school assemblies, and during the previous school year they focused spending each month, Brooks said.
One month the PTA provided health care supplies such as wipes, sanitizer, Kleenex, for example, for each classroom. At the end of the year the group provided classroom supplies because some teachers were running out. The PTA also replaced playground equipment such as balls and jump ropes.
The PTA provides a teacher appreciate meal during conference week when educators spend long hours at school so they can meet with parents. In the spring there’s Teacher Appreciation Week.
“We love our teachers,” Carlson said.
Brooks added, “We try to take care of them.”
And that’s just a sampling of what happens at one elementary school.
At Cedar Heights, PTSA President Becky Anderson has worked during the past year to pump some life into a less active group.
There have been fundraisers, volunteering at events, anything Anderson said the group can do to help as well as get the community involved they’ve done.
During the summer there was a fundraiser to help support the band and science departments.
“There’s 680 kids at Cedar Heights,” Anderson said. “All of science gets $200, so that’s 29 cents per kid.”
There were labs teachers wanted to do and some were paying out of their own pockets.
Another need, Anderson said, was for printer cartridges, printers and basic school supplies. The PTSA discovered this when it surveyed teachers to find out what they need. In addition, they discovered on average, CHMS teachers were spending $350 of their own money each school year.
To pay for labs, a music department field trip and supplies, the PTSA raised $1,380.
“We’re really just ramping up,” Anderson said. “The summer fundraiser was a giant effort. At the open house, I said (to parents), ‘They’re spending money out of pocket that they don’t have to teach your kid!’”
This year, Anderson said, the PTSA’s goals are to provide volunteers for school activities and other enrichment programs as well as provide financial resources for teachers.
Anderson wants to go beyond the resources available to the families of the students.
“Our goal is not to hammer the parents constantly for fundraising,” Anderson said. “We’re going to look to the teachers, the students, the parents, the community for fundraising.”
For example, before school on late start Wednesdays each month, Anderson said, members of the Cedar Heights community can go to the International House of Pancakes in Covington Esplanade just down the road from the school, and the restaurant will donate 10 percent of the sales of those guests to the PTSA.
The first late start Wednesday was Sept. 26 and Anderson said it was a tremendous success.
“They were supper happy,” Anderson said. “We couldn’t be happier.”
Community support is starting come in from all corners of Covington and beyond, Anderson said, plus she gives credit to the many active members of the PTSA which as grown by 15 percent since last year.
Kohl’s donated, she said, as has Iron Grill, The Rock Wood Fired Pizza, Mail Plus, Applebee’s and more.
“And I’ve gotten a lot of support from the school, too, because you have to have buy-in from the teachers and the principal,” Anderson said.
Cedar Heights Principal Heidi Maurer had high praise for the PTSA in an email interview.
“Our PTSA provides volunteers for many activities,” Maurer wrote. “I find that our volunteer PTSA parents are great at communicating out the positive things happening in the school. Our PTSA involved parents are better equipped to support our students academics at home because they are aware of what is happening in the classroom, know the expectations of the school, and can access school supports more readily.”
Maurer said the CHMS PTSA looks for ways to support classroom teachers and has done everything from fundraised to pay for videos for the science teachers to laundry soap for the physical education department.
That involvement is key to success for students, Maurer wrote.
“Even middle school students need to have their parents involved to make the home to school connection,” Maurer wrote.
Perry, the secretary for the Kentlake PTSA, wrote in an email interview about the work done at the high school.
“We provide resources to the school, and communication to our families,” Perry wrote. “We provide teacher subsidies upon request, as long as the funds are used to directly benefit students. In the last few years, we have granted funds to the school for supplemental curriculum, an e-library program and field trips. From snacks on testing days to celebrating Staff Appreciation Week, we provide food at many venues.”
But it’s more than just providing food and supplies, Perry wrote.
The PTSA provides time, too.
“And volunteers! PTSA members will do whatever is asked of us,” Perry wrote. “So far this year, we’ve logged untold volunteer hours from sporting events to freshman retreats, our PTSA members are always present to lend a hand. Many groups in the school have a PTSA component to them: athletics, music, language and special needs groups all have a voice in our PTSA. And those voices are reported back to the school community through our website, newsletter, Facebook page, etc. We want our community to know what’s going on.”
Kentlake’s PTSA also reaches out to support the wider community, Perry wrote, including volunteering and making donations to the Kent Area Council PTA Clothing Bank and Cinderella Project as well as participating in committees as the building and district levels in addition to lobbying local legislators on behalf of educators to encourage them to find ways to fund schools as well as develop policies which will help students.
Still, Perry wrote, she thinks the Kentlake PTSA can reach further.
“We would like to continue doing all these things, but what we really want is more community involvement,” Perry wrote. “I feel that many people are sitting in the back seat where the education of our youth is concerned. There is a lot of work to be done, and it is currently being done by a very few. Our primary goals this year are to get more of our community involved, and to become an even better resource to that community.”
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.