Have you ever been approached about being a parent-group leader or even just being involved in a volunteer organization working with your child’s school? Some people really might wonder why in the world you would do such a thing. Some might just wonder how in the world you would fit it in with your busy schedule.
Chances are if you have children, you likely have a job outside the home, or if you don’t you might feel you have enough of a job INSIDE the home to keep you busy. It seems the only difference between being a stay-at-home mom and a working mom is the location you’re working in...you work full-time either way. The fact is, everyone is different and has her own schedule and goals. If one of your goals is to help your child’s school raise all the money it can for playground equipment, books, end-of-2005 fun days, music festivals, sports equipment or anything else that helps enhance your child’s education, you might very well be a candidate for the parent-group organization. One more thing...it’s not just for moms anymore. There are plenty of dads out there in the trenches drumming up membership and making things happen as well. This is definitely an equal opportunity idea.
Your next question is likely which organization you will join, or which one you will start if your school doesn’t already have one. That’s not something that can be decided for you, but here are some ideas to help you get involved and decide in what capacity and how active a role you would like to play.
Some moms are able to volunteer in the classroom with reading, be the room-mother, attend the afternoon school volunteer organization meeting, get their kids to soccer, baseball, swimming, gymnastics, cub scouts, church activities, and even get dinner on the table on time while listening to the kids practice piano and enforcing the homework police beat. That may or may not be you. You may work full-time at the office, get to all of the ballgames and music lessons you can, offer many variations of dinner including a fast one at times, and still want to be involved in the school volunteer programs. You’ll just have to take a look at your options and decide which organization fits within your realm, and your interest level in participation.
We’ll start with the PTO and PTA. These two are organizations that offer a plan to direct fundraising efforts and involvement in your schools. There seems to be a lot of discussion about the differences between these two organizations, so it seems fitting to place them side by side here and take a look. The major difference seems to be that there are dues associated with the PTA that are paid to the national organization, and the PTOs are able to charge dues if they like and have them donated to their school. Either option can be a good thing.
The PTO groups are more independent and members can write their own bylaws, while the PTA bylaws are universal. This doesn’t mean that the PTO cannot be recognized as a 501c3 nonprofit organization. You can take a look at www.irs.gov to find out more about this.
The great thing about both groups is that each really does have common goals...to help get parents involved in working with the schools to provide enhancements to playgrounds and education in general by maybe even raising funds for things such as textbooks or equipment.
Each organization seems to have their “hearts in the right place.” Both groups also encourage insurance for your group, which any parent group would probably want to have for liability issues.
Both organizations offer training and plenty of resources and ideas for fundraising and running a smooth organization on their websites. The PTO group offers them at www.ptotoday.com and PTA at www.pta.org. Each has an impressive list of links available for training as well. If you’re looking for ideas for family fundraising nights or workshops on various topics concerning parental involvement with your children at school and with their teachers, you’ll find great ideas on both websites. Both of these organizations have done their homework, so to speak, on helping you volunteer at your desired level.
The National PTO offers a magazine to the parent group called PTO Today, and the National PTO offers a magazine titled Our Children. Both of these magazines offer ongoing support to organization members and a lot of great ideas for building and keeping a successful volunteer organization.
Another variation of the volunteer organization would be the Parent Teacher Coalition. An example of this would be the Prince William County Parent Teacher Coalition. The purpose of this organization is one of unifying parent-teacher groups by sharing information, providing a forum for discussion of viewpoints to school and county officials as related to schools and parent organizations. Booster clubs and parent groups, for example, are members and work together to meet the goals of each group. They do have an annual membership of $15 and calculate insurance premiums according to the student population. Their website is www.pwcptc.org.
The Santa Fe High School PTC is another example of a parent-teacher coalition designed to help bring parents and schools together. This group works to provide financial support to teachers, students, and school organizations and therefore enhance education. It is a means of communication between the school and parents and also builds morale and interaction for school and the community. We don’t usually work to build playgrounds on the high school level of course, but they have the right idea in bringing the school and community together, so their structure and ideas might work for you.
If you’re looking for more information on parent groups, the National Coalition for Parental Involvement in Education (NPCIE) is a good online resource for organizational information. This group has outlined why it is so important to have parental involvement in schools. Communication between the parents and schools is one of the best ways for parents to know how their children are doing and what needs to be done to help to enhance the educational experience. Schools are able to reach out through these groups to engage everyone involved. Schools can encourage parental involvement, and families can support school efforts in this way. Log on to www.npcie.org and sign up for their newsletter as well.
Take a look at what all of these organizations have to offer. Each seems to have the best interest of the children in mind and have so many great ideas for accomplishing your goals as a parent group. This is one of the best ways to get involved with your child’s education and make a difference for them and their school, which is a great reason to be a part of the volunteer effort.