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Hudson Valley PTA's Are More Than Bake Sales

PTA's offer ways for parents to get involved at their child's school

Carolyn Wesenberg took on the role of PTA President of Berea Elementary School in Montgomery this year for multiple reasons. “By being the president,” she says, “I can have a say in what we offer, and get to see the smiles up close.”

Also, “volunteering has become the norm in our house. I [want] my girls to understand that you can help others and have fun, too.” Over 30 years of research has proven that children do better when their parents are involved both at home and school. In fact, grades are higher, test scores rise and self esteem grows. Schools improve.

Read our story on how PTAs today are not like the PTAs of old.

With recent school budget cuts, PTA memberships are more crucial than ever. Wesenberg has seen the effects of the economy on their PTA budget. “Our goal has been to not have our families feel the pinch,” she says, and adds that they’re offering more family fun activities like their tricky tray and penny socials. It’s a fun night out rather than just paying crazy amounts for field trips or taking away items that the kids rely on for school.”

Merle Payne, the regional director of the Central Hudson Region explains that “because of difficult economic times, there are more demands than ever for services from the PTA to help families, schools and children.” The newly-enacted New York State property tax-cap which limits the amount of school tax a school district could add through its budget results in less money for school programs, teachers, and maintenance; it puts a very tight squeeze on school districts already struggling with revenue decline.

Programs of the PTA also offer opportunities that promote the talents of all children. Like the cultural arts achievement program, Reflections, which encourages student’s artistic expression.  Another program, Parents as Reading Partners (PARP) promotes reading and other literacy-based activities in the home and the community.

It’s also an opportunity for parents to interact with administrators and other parents who share your interest. Wesenberg was surprised at the lobbying that PTA representatives do in Albany and Washington. “People would be amazed,” she says, “at how many laws exist due to the hard work of our national and state PTAs.”
With today’s busy lifestyles, the PTAs have become very flexible with their meeting times, offering morning and evening gatherings, and not requiring members to attend every meeting. And, there are so many offerings and needs that parents can pick to work a science fair if that is their thing, or donate items for a school project.

Benefits from PTA participation include: 

Be In The Know: There is no better way to stay informed and know what’s happening in your child’s school than by knowing school personnel.You will also learn what you can do to make a difference for your child and make your school a better place.

Get Connected: You get to tap into a tremendous network, it helps to share ideas, concerns, and experiences with other parents, administrators and educators in your community. PTA functions are opportunities to meet others, build rapport and discuss issues that are on your mind. You will connect with others who share your passion for children and their education.

Speak Up: It’s an excellent way to assist your child’s school and have an active voice in the educational process. The PTA is a good forum for exchanging ideas and voicing your concerns.

Be A Positive Role Model: You’re demonstrating to your child the importance you place on education. You’ll also show your child the value of volunteering and giving back to the community.

Discover Great Resources: The PTA offers a myriad of informative programs designed for parents as well as students. When you are a member of the PTA you have access to cutting edge resources on many topics such as cyberbullying or obesity.
Watch Yourself Grow: By volunteering with your PTA, you put your skills and hobbies to use for a noble cause—your child and all children in the community.

Dawn Marie Barhyte is a freelance writer and former educator who lives in Warwick.