Iola’s Parent-Teacher Organizations work independently at all three elementary schools, but their goal is united — raising funds to buy supplies and equipment to better students’ education.
In years past, parents and teachers belonged to Parent-Teacher Associations. The group organized classroom events and student programs for the monthly meetings.
Today nearly 75 percent of parent groups are independent and have no affiliation with the national PTA organization.
“We don’t want to send our money out of our school district for national dues. We want our money spent here at home to help our students,” said Shellie Regehr, president of Lincoln Elementary School’s PTO.
“We like to think of our PTO as our partner in education. They are there when we need those little extras that are no longer in our budgets,” said Larry Hart, Lincoln’s principal.
Lincoln has been known for many years as “the reading school” and the PTO has been fantastic in buying books for the school’s library, Hart said. In February, the PTO’s book fair raised $1,337 to buy books for Lincoln’s library.
A recently completed PTO fundraiser brought in more than $10,000, Regehr said. Students sold food products, candles and gift items through Fundraising Works of Joplin, Mo.
The students wanted to help Joplin students displaced by May’s tornado and donated 3 percent, or $300, of their earnings to the Joplin school district.
The PTO’s contribution to the school is endless, Hart said.
Among Lincoln’s PTO purchases are T-shirts for all new students, SmartBoards for classrooms, providing snacks during state assessment tests and paying for snacks and admission charges during school field trips.
“Our next big purchase will be two mobile computer carts with 24 notebook computers. Jefferson’s PTO purchased two carts several years ago which have been a wonderful teaching aid,” Regehr said.
Regehr became interested in working with the PTO seven years ago when her son, Chase, began kindergarten. She has been the group’s president for the past three years and will bow out at the end of the school year when her son, Cole, moves on to middle school.
Lincoln’s PTO meets the third Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s library. All parents of children attending Lincoln are invited to attend.
FINANCIALLY Jefferson Elementary School wouldn’t have been able to buy SmartBoards for the classrooms or the mobile computer carts and notebook computers without the financial support of the PTO, said Jefferson’s principal Brad Crusinbery.
Mandy Middleton, Jefferson’s PTO president, said she didn’t realize until her youngest child, Theresia, began school that PTO welcomed all parents to participate in the organization. Middleton has been president for the past two years and will step down after the next school year when her daughter moves on to middle school.
Jefferson’s two major fundraisers are its annual carnival in the fall and its food sale in the spring. The two fundraisers usually garner around $16,000, Middleton said.
During the end-of-school awards ceremony in the spring, the PTO awards two $500 scholastic scholarships to graduating fifth graders. Last year, Olivia Taylor and Sophie Whitney received the scholarships based on an application they completed, teachers’ recommendations, character in the classroom and academic performance. The PTO plans to continue with the scholarship program in its quest to help students further their education.
The next big ticket items for the school will be a microphone and speaker systems for each class. The price tag will be somewhere around $25,000, but Middleton said, “We think it will improve the quality of education if all students are able to hear clearly what the teacher has to say.”
Each teacher at Jefferson has a Giving Tree outside his or her classroom. On the leaves are needed items such as Scotch tape, paper clips, pens and pencils and Play-Doh.
PTO encourages parents to pick a leaf from the tree to help replenish supplies in their child’s classroom.
To reward the youngsters who participate in Young Authors the PTO buys each child a book.
To make yearbooks more affordable to students the PTO pays $3 on each book. This is especially helpful to families who have more than one child attending the school, Middleton said.
PTO and the students worked together to create a Jefferson Elementary School cookbook. Students brought recipes and the art department created the page dividers to divide the cookbook into sections. The books sell for $5 and are available at the school.
Monthly newsletters are sent to parents to keep them abreast of what the PTO is trying to accomplish in the school, but new input is always welcome at the meetings which are at 6 p.m. the second Thursday of each month in the library.
ALL PARENTS become members of the PTO once their child is enrolled in school, said Angie Slaven, McKinley’s PTO president.
“We would like for more parents to come to our meetings. I think a lot of people don’t come because they think they will have to take on more responsibility through committees, but that isn’t so. We just want to hear new ideas and would welcome any time they could devote to PTO activities,” Slaven said.
Slaven became involved in PTO seven years ago when her son, Zachary, began school. She has been president of the PTO for five years and will end her involvement with McKinley’s PTO at the end of the school year when her son, Dillon, moves to Jefferson next year for fourth grade.
“For a couple of years I was involved in both Jefferson and McKinley’s PTO. Since McKinley is kindergarten through third grade I had children at both schools at the same time. It kept me busy, but I wanted to be involved in the PTO for my children,” Slaven said.
McKinley’s PTO meets at 5:40 p.m. the first Monday at the school, and Slaven said, “We try real hard to keep the meeting to an hour.”
Lori Maxwell, McKinley principal, said, “Our PTO works hard to meet the needs of our students and teachers. I think if people knew all that the PTO does for the school they would be surprised.”
The school recently completed its fall fundraiser. Proceeds are still being counted but it looks as if the students raised at least $5,000, Slaven said.
“We hope to raise enough money to buy some new playground equipment. The kids need a new merry-go-round,” Slaven said.
Throughout the years the PTO has purchased SmartBoards for the classroom, purchase McKinley T-shirts for the students, help fund field trips, pay a portion of the yearbook fee and provide classroom supplies and snacks during assessment testing.