New PTO takes shape for attendance centers



August 6, 2015 - 12:00 AM

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.
Knowing this, several area parents have banded together to form the Iola PTO.
The Iola Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), is made up of parents, teachers and school staff to help aid students in various areas of education, whether it be raising funds for new technology or purchasing playground equipment.
The history of the first PTOs in USD 257 is a little murky, but for the past several years there were three, one for each elementary school.
Once the school board decided to convert the three elementaries to grade-level attendance centers starting this fall, PTO organizers were unsure of how to move forward.
Members of the three groups began to meet in the spring to plan out the organization’s future. Becky Nilges, Iola PTO president, said although she doesn’t have children in the school district, she offered to help the developing organization.
“There were three different organizations and they each had three completely different cultures,” Nilges said.
Merging into one PTO was important to parents because the school environments also certainly are changing.
“The structures were now different and the parents would be changing every two years and some families would have students at all three schools,” Iola PTO  vice president Tonya Burtchin said. “Forming one PTO makes it easier on everyone.”
Burtchin said this summer has been a busy one, as organizers created bylaws and applied for a 501(c)3 application so the organization can be a non-profit and accept donations. Their tagline is Iola PTO – Partners in Education.
“That (the tagline) is what’s going to drive us,” Iola PTO secretary Lisa Dunne said. “We want to support not only the students but the faculty.”
Dunne said it was important to be knowledgeable about her children’s education.
“I love being involved in the school and knowing the teachers and staff,” Dunne said. “It’s important to me to be a part of my child’s education and if I’m not there to help enhance their education then I have to rely on someone else.”
Burtchin seconded Dunne’s comment.
“It’s important that the whole family is involved in a child’s education,” she said.

Pre-schoolers and kindergartners will attend McKinley Elementary, first- and second-graders will be at Jefferson Elementary and third- and fourth-graders will be at Lincoln Elementary. Fifth-grade students will be at the middle school this year, on the third floor with sixth-grade students.
The intermediate elementary students also are part of the PTO umbrella.
“We want to include everyone and don’t want them to fall through the cracks,” Nilges said. “They will be included.”
When combining the three separate PTOs, fundraising wasn’t the main focus.
Burtchin said they are looking for “outside-the-box” ideas for fundraising.
“We’ve thought about new ways to (raise funds), but our main goal is to establish the organization and help inform parents,” Dunne said. “We’re hoping to stabilize the group and looking to adapt and change as the schools do.”
Community members don’t have to have a child in the school system to join the PTO. The officers encourage all community members to be involved with the PTO.
“It is a lot of work and we always need a helping hand,” Nilges said. “We welcome anyone who supports the school system. Maybe you’re not an officer or chairing a committee but maybe you have a great idea you’d like to share. Our members’ willingness to share is valuable.”
The Iola PTO will meet at 6:30 p.m. on the third Monday of the month in the middle school commons area starting in September. They plan to hold the business portion of the meeting but also have a program so that parents can learn about becoming involved with school activities. Jennifer Coltrane serves as treasurer.
For more information on the Iola PTO email or follow Iola PTO on Facebook.

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