I was a reluctant recruit to the Parent Teacher Organization board at my son’s elementary school. It’s not like I raised my hand and volunteered, I was followed (relentlessly) through the maze of Stew Leonard’s by one of the other parents on the board. As she tailed me through the aisles and wore me down by telling me all the great things about being on the board – although her mouth was saying “It’s fun! You get to meet other moms! We drink WINE at the meetings….” Her eyes were saying, “I’M BEGGING YOU, PLEASE DO THIS F-ING FUNDRAISING JOB WITH ME…I’M DYING DOING IT ALONE.” And that’s how I was recruited onto the PTO board.
I’m a sucker for a person-in-need – especially one who is promising wine.
That was two years ago…I’m still on the board. She is gone.
So here’s the deal; my title is Vice President, Ways and Means. Pretty impressive, huh? I guess they give you an important-sounding title because the job is among the least glamorous. Essentially, my responsibilities involve coordinating all the fundraising efforts of PTO – you know those wrapping paper/scented candles/frozen dough/overpriced boxed candy sales forms that your co-workers bring into the office and beg you to purchase…yep, that’s my job. But wait! There’s more! This year, in addition to the usual fundraising efforts, a committee was formed to organize a Cocktail Party and Silent Auction at a local hotel and a Read-A-Thon.
It’s a lot of work and I would definitely prefer to be spending my evenings and weekends relaxing on my deck and hanging out with my family. But I do it for two reasons, first, the school needs the funds – our PTO pays for all the school field trips (including busses), buys books for the library, provides the teachers with a stipend for school supplies, works with the Principal to bring in enrichment programs, this year we also started a food pantry for families-in-need. Our PTO also pays for things that the school district cannot – including 20 computers for our computer lab that will be paid for by raising $18,000 through our Read-A-Thon. Our school is near the bottom of the school district’s list for replacement computers and more than half of the current computers do not work. With the Common Core standards being implemented next term, we needed to have a working computer lab for the students.
Second, I feel a real sense of community with the other moms, dads, and teachers who volunteer for the multitude of tasks that go into making our little elementary school the best that it can be for all students. We don’t live in a wealthy town and there’s a wide range of economic diversity; more than 40% of the students are eligible for free and or reduced lunch. Our district has experienced a multitude of cuts (including our Intervention Aide, Vice Principal and our full-time Librarian has been reduced to half time). Putting in the effort to raise money for the “extras” that are standard in many of the wealthier school districts in our area gives all our kids a fighting chance and (somewhat) levels the field. I truly feel that the work that we do impacts the community on a greater scale than just those 400 kids that walk through the school’s front doors each school day.
This coming year will be my son’s last year in this elementary school, and subsequently, this fall I’ll start my last term on my school’s PTO. I won’t miss the late nights tallying up fundraiser order forms or distributing a mountain of wrapping paper orders on a rickety milk cart, but what I will miss is the sense of teamwork that I experienced with my PTO colleagues and the sense of satisfaction in reaching a fundraising goal.
Guess I better start stalking potential replacements in Stew’s!