More than Butter Braids and Box Tops

By Staff
Posted 12/8/09

Northeast Elementary School Principal Michael Clow said the members of his school’s Parent-Teacher Organization are so valuable, he keeps the phone numbers of the group’s co-presidents on …

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More than Butter Braids and Box Tops


Northeast Elementary School Principal Michael Clow said the members of his school’s Parent-Teacher Organization are so valuable, he keeps the phone numbers of the group’s co-presidents on speed dial on his cell phone.

    “They are thoughtful and insightful about our many shared projects, the direction of PTO and the future of the school,” Clow said. “I am fortunate to work with them.”

    While the names of parent groups may be different across the 27J School District – the Parent Teacher Association, the Parent Teacher Organization, the Parent Action Committee or the Parent Accountability Council, their goal is the same: to provide the district’s school children with resources to ensure that they have the opportunity to get the best education possible.

    “There are many dedicated PTO members who serve our school in a variety of important ways,” Clow said. “Parent involvement makes a difference in a school.  Students know when parents are involved. You can feel the difference it makes.”

    Volunteering with one of these parent-teacher groups means much more than selling cookie dough or collecting box tops, say local parent group leaders.

Christine Polliard is treasurer for the Northeast PTO. Polliard said the extras that the Northeast group provides the school and its teachers through fundraisers aren’t necessarily ‘extras,’ but essentials, including library books, pencil sharpeners, staplers and paying for bussing so students have the opportunity to go on field trips.

    On a Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago, Polliard and other members of the Northeast PTO sat around tables in the school’s library brainstorming and trying to make some big decisions.       

  “We’re deciding how we can leave an imprint on this school with a big ticket item,” said Northeast PTO President Teresa Gagna. Suggested items included magnetic white boards, library books and turf. Many parents and teachers agreed that one of the school’s most pressing projects was the leveling of the ground and designing of proper drainage for the playground.

    “The snow melts and the kids can’t go outside and play because the playground is a lake for a week,” one parent said.

    Carmen Olson serves as vice president of the Second Creek Elementary School PTO. She has two children attending the school and this is her fifth year on the board. One day last month, Olson and a number of her fellow board members spent the afternoon organizing orders of Butter Braids – 1206 butter brades to be exact. With the sales of these Butter Braids, the group will collect nearly $5,000 worth of profits, which will be used for equipment for teachers, reading resources, science department supplies and activities including the annual spring fling.

    Though Second Creek PTO volunteers are only required to put in two hours each school year, Olson said she can spend up to two hours each day working on fundraisers and activities and making phone calls and answering e-mails. 

    “I like it, it’s a lot of fun just being here and being around my kids,” Olson said.

    “It’s about our kids,” said Lori Chase, another Second Creek PTO board member. “If we aren’t here for our kids, who will be?”

    Second Creek PTO member Deb Copeland said this is the first year for her to have children attending the school. The family moved to Commerce City in July from Florida. She said getting involved in the PTO  has helped her to get to know the school’s teachers and staff.

    “I want to be involved in the decision-making process,” Copeland said. “I like to keep in contact with what’s going on in school. And if you communicate with them more, it’s easier to talk about any issues you may have.”

    The Parent Advisory Committee at South Elementary School operates its own Web site. According to the site, PAC is, “a committee made up by the parents, family members of the students here at South Elementary. It’s an organization focused on the education, safety and the well being of the children. The PAC is the best way to strengthen our schools, and keep families and the community leaders connected in support of education. More then 30 years of research shows that children do better in school when their parents, and families are involved, both at home and at school. Grades are higher. Test scores rise. Self-esteem grows. Schools improve.”

    Kathy Bonitz is the president of Pennock Elementary School’s PTO for the next two years and served as the group’s secretary for two years previously.

    “As a full-time working mom, being involved in PTO is one way I can be a part of my daughter’s education,” Bonitz said. “It has been proven, that children do better in school when their parents are active with the school.

    “We are always encouraging our parents to get involved as it is a fun way to promote a positive school experience for their children,” she continued. “Spending time with your children at events allows you to develop relationships with other Pennock families. It is very rewarding to be in school and have most of the teachers and staff know who you are and who your children are.”

    Polliard, at Northeast, also encouraged other parents to get involved.

    “Please, parents, understand what we’re about and come and support our children,” Polliard said. “Come and see what we’re about. We’re helping to get our children what they need.”

    While she encourages parents to get involved in whatever role and donate however much time they can, Polliard said school spirit and support doesn’t have to stop there. Members of the local community can also get involved by providing funds, volunteer time or services to their local schools, she said. When Polliard went to Wal-Mart recently to collect a donation, she was shocked to see the check to the PTO group made out to the amount of $1,500.

    “I started to cry,” Polliard said. “Wow, $1,500. That’s way beyond generous.

    “I want the community to understand that there’s a need for funds,” Polliard added. “But there’s also a need for volunteer time and services like excavation. It takes a community for a school to be successful.” 


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