Parent Teacher Groups – Working Together To Make a Difference in the Lives of Children

This year, veteran teacher Denise Perkins of Redding is responsible for 21 first graders. The vast diversity of learners became evident in the first week of school. Some students need extra attention with academics while others struggle with learning difficulties. The enormity of the task before Perkins threatens to overwhelm her ability and desire to see each student grow and prosper.

State budget cuts have drastically reduced the number of resources necessary to support a productive learning environment. Perkins says, “Years ago I had an aide all morning. As the years passed, I’d share; now all the aides are gone.”

Money for basic classroom supplies and special projects has also decreased, according to Cheryl Olson, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum of Enterprise Elementary School District. “Teachers are buying materials out of their own pockets,” she says. Even custodial and yard duty positions have been cut, requiring more work for teachers.

In an article titled “Cut$ Hurt Kids,” posted on the California State Parent Teacher Association website (www.capta.org), Debbie Look, Director of Legislation, states that students and schools have faced more than $20 billion in cuts over the past three years. Referring to more potential budget cuts for this year, she writes: “These cuts will hurt kids. Increasing class sizes, reducing instructional time, and cutting critical academic support services will only widen the achievement gap.” This is exactly the outcome Perkins fears.

“We are now down to the bare bones,” says Olson. “We are doing everything we can to make sure the money we do have is used to support the students. Fortunately, where money falls short, parent teacher assocations step in, bridging the gaps that have developed throughout the educational system,” says Olson. “We really want parents to feel welcomed. We need their help, support and ideas.”

One look at the list of activities, fundraisers and events provided by Prairie Pacheco Parent Teacher Group (PPPTG) and it’s evident how much the members give of themselves for the love of their school community. Here is just a sample from a list of over 40 needed items:

  • Whiskeytown Environmental School camp sponsors
  • Academic scholarships
  • Playground equipment
  • Sports equipment
  • Classroom Smart Boards, computer graphic pads, and general supplies
  • Teacher requests
  • Afterschool daycare supplies
  • Field trip expenses

“Many schools are not able to provide the ‘extras’ in these trying times, and our district would not be able to do so either if it weren’t for the dedicated, tireless members of our PPPTG who continue to give to make our school community the close-knit family we are,” says Paige Meyer, President of the Prairie/Pacheco Parent Teacher Group. “Last year, our 600-student district brought in more than $57,000 through our ongoing efforts.”

The members continually brainstorm and search for new and unique ways to keep fundraising efforts exciting, fresh and successful, says Meyer. “One such current effort is our Used Book Sale. We have collected thousands of gently used books, which we set up in a book-fair style and sell for $1 per book. It costs us no money, yet in its first year, we raised over $1,000 with this alone.”

Renae Hanson, Treasurer for Partners in Education (PIE) at Mt. Shasta Elementary School and Sisson School, has seen severe changes due to budget cuts. For example, Mt. Shasta Elementary and Sisson used to have a principal at each site. Now, one principal is required to manage both sites.

“Just this month, PIE was asked to help fund the Words Their Way books that the teachers at Mt. Shasta Elementary School have used for years,” says Hanson. PIE was pleased to be able to provide the funds needed to buy the books for grades Kindergarten through third for the entire school year.

Thanks to a variety of fundraisers, members raised $22,756.20 last year. The annual Walk-a-Thon, Believe catalog sales, Scholastic Book Fairs, Pizza Night fundraiser, aluminum can drives, and pasta nights are a few of the fundraisers that support the schools. Without these efforts, the kindergarten class might not have received their egg incubators, students may not be learning how to play a new musical instrument, and field trip schedules would remain blank.

Hanson encourages parents to support local fundraisers and to get involved in their local parent teacher groups, but says there are other ways parents can get involved as well.  “Whether it be by making sure their child is doing homework, having an open line of communication with their child’s teacher, supporting our schools financially, or just donating time and/or resources, every effort makes a positive difference in the lives of the children,” she says.

“It has been shown that building parent involvement in education is the number one thing we can do to create a great school and improve student performance,” says Hanson. “If we all work together, it can be done… even during these tough financial times!”

 

Kimberly Shaw
About Kimberly Shaw

Kimberly Shaw is a local Northern California author.

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