By María Eugenia Fanti
Is a recurring theme among parents how much or how little they participate in the school of their children. For many, this point, can be decisive when it comes to choosing a school for their children. It is often hear comments such as "I do not know if enrolling my child in a public school, there is to little access to talk to the teachers" or other such as: "I have my daughter in a public school, I ask for an appointment with the teacher, but they give it to me after two months and a this time the issue loses interest or priority".
Without doubt, many parents have gone through this. It is not a surprise that in the public schools, the agenda is always busy. Teachers and administrators cannot give all parents the top priority. However, there are ways to participate in the education of children and become more involved with the school and with the teachers as well, as demonstrated by the experience of Meredith Kunzke, Vice President of Membership of Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) at John I. Smith Public School in Doral.
"When I thought of bringing my children in John I. Smith, I was terrified because my children looked so small and the school was so big. But my experience here has been excellent, the teachers have been wonderful with my kids. I have never had a problem to talk with them and to know them", confesses Meredith.
Meredith decided to become volunteer mother of Parents and Teachers Association (PTA). "There are so many things that the public schools need. Many volunteers are needed. Of course, become a voluntary is a process. You must register on a website, make a background check up, bring your driver's license, but it is to ensure the safety of children. Once approved, there are thousands of activities in which you can participate as a volunteer and get involved with the school," says Meredith.
"All Thursday and Friday we sell pizza and ice cream, we always need mothers to assist us; in the library, they come to help us organize books and games; in the cafeteria, because that is an area where there are up to 200 children at the same time, we need support and we are organizing groups of moms to come and help control children," says Meredith.
PTA in Action
The PTA is a national volunteer organization; therefore, all members of the local or state PTA automatically become part of the national PTA. Its origin goes back to the year 1897 when Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst convened the first National Congress of mothers in Washington, D. C. and established that its mission is: “to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children." (*)
At John I. Smith School, you have to pay a membership of $10 per person to participate in the PTA, there, they have 500 members, which means that they have at least $5,000 as the annual budget, but a part of this money is sent to the national PTA, the remainder is used for multiple activities, such as "we bought all the agendas that used children during the school year, we also bought musical instruments and books; we make awards certificates for students and teachers, certificates for fairs. Also, we replace materials need in each class. If there are children that do not have money to buy the shirts of the uniform, we help them to buy it because we want all children have the same opportunities." Says Meredith Kunzke.
The PTA also has a program called "Adopt a class", through which a parent undertakes to replenish and purchase materials needed in one of the classrooms. "For example, if a classroom lack a ream of paper, the parent in charged have to speak with the teacher and he will be responsible for purchasing and bring it," says Meredith.
A program for different like
John I. Smith School not only has the PTA’s activities. They have many attractive programs. "There is a bilingual program that begins in kindergarten and lasts 5 hours a week, in which children receive advanced Spanish classes, this program is very good," says Meredith with conviction, because their children participate on that.
Meredith also told us that the school has a gifted program, but at the same time they offer a program called team that is for those children who get good grades, but they need correcting some areas before entering at the advanced children program. The school has also an ESL program that is for those children that do not speak English yet.
Another program is the orchestra, in which children learn to play music "my daughter is in this program and has learned to play the violin. When she gets older, she can belong to the orchestra, receive more classes and participate in competitions. There is a very important one, in Orlando and the school participates with the children that play music and also with those who are in the choir. This program is completely free, including the musical instrument that is free," says Meredith.
The school has an after school program well recognized that includes activities such as dance, cheerleading, soccer, gymnastics classes, Taekwondo, among others. These classes are at least two times a week and have a monthly cost of 40 to 60 $.
John I. Smith offers many alternatives for children and also for the parents, "Here we have many options to participate, not only through the PTA. You can have a good communication with teachers and ask them: how can I help you? Offer them support, teachers will be grateful for that. Also in the main office there is a list, in which parents can record as volunteers. They will called you and talk to you about the activities in which support is required, so you can come and participate," said Meredith, giving us the latest tips to be parents more involved.
(*) taken from the official website of the PTA: