Cobb County schools: a modern look at the PTA

By MICHAEL LEDER

Many facets in public school systems aim to help not just students but the students’ family. The largest and most well-known program, PTA, has been a staple in not just Cobb County schools but the entire state of Georgia.

PTA, called PTSA in some schools, stands for Parent Teacher Association or Parent Teacher Student Association respectively. Cobb schools such as Mountain View Elementary School, Lost Mountain Middle School and Kennesaw Mountain High School have in-depth and highly active PTA/PTSA programs that are easy to become involved in.

PTA/PTSA are programs that focus on the special relationship between parents, teachers and students. There is even a national PTA association available at www.pta.org that gives a national spotlight on the relations between parents and teachers. According to pta.org, PTAs have core values including collaboration, commitment, accountability, respect, inclusivity and integrity. PTA programs are broken into different levels according to grade levels. There are Early Childhood PTAs, Elementary/Middle School PTAs, Parent Teacher Student Associations and Special Education PTAs.

Selena Rodriguez, a parent of a Mountain View student and PTA member, said, “Being involved as a parent in your child’s education can have as big an impact as you let it have.”

Rodriguez has been a PTA member for two years and has been an active participant in not just her child’s education but other children as well.

“The great thing about PTA is you have a voice that can effect and benefit not only your child but your child’s fellow classmates as well,” she said.

Accordingly parents have one of the largest roles in the PTA. Parents like Rodriguez take an active role in deciding on important subjects such as arts education, psychical education, student leadership and after-school programs. At PTA meetings there are often open forum sessions where any member present can bring up a topic of concern or a point of improvement that are in turn directly heard by the people who make such decisions.

Being the “P” in “PTA” comes with many responsibilities as well as benefits.  Of the schools visited in the Cobb County school system all of them had some form of a membership fee among other requirements to maintain membership. Many parents are asked to volunteer and are relied upon for helping with PTA associated events such as Mountain View’s Chik-Fil-A Spirit Night. According to PTA associated teachers at Mountain View, parents who volunteer for such events are asked to help with planning, setting up, funding and executing events in their entirety.

“Most events are fun and easy going, but there are occasional topics that can become heated” said Rodriguez.

Not all PTA meetings are filled with cheery-eyed parents. On one occasion cited, one parent become so heated on the topic of school lunches that they stood up and walked out of the meeting all together.

Consequently parents are not the only factor at PTA associations. Teachers are the parent’s connection to the school and subsequently their child’s educational experience. Teachers have not only the burden of keeping their students educated but the burden of keeping parents from “pulling out their hair”-as well.

A Lost Mountain teacher, who wished not to be identified, discussed the difficult balance of not being told how to do their job with addressing parents legitimate and growing concerns about government school education.

“First of all I love PTA, I think it is a necessary part of the educational system. Some of the parents have great ideas, others not so much” said the seventh grade teacher.

Teachers who participate in PTA give and gain in the experience. Many teachers who go to PTA meetings and events are subject to longer hours at school and additional responsibilities that can impact not only their job as an educator but their personal life as well.

The Lost Mountain teacher went on to say, “I have spent many ‘free’ Friday nights listening to and sometimes flat-out arguing with parents, but anything worth doing shouldn’t always be, like, easy.”

At the end of the day, teachers as well as school administrators and officials are needed to keep programs like PTAs running.

School officials are people who are stereotypically feared by students. The notion of “going to the principal’s office” or being “written up” in the dreaded “permanent file” are more for youth actors on television than in reality, but the nonetheless, the stereotypes are still there. This is yet another crucial part of the PTA pyramid: the school officials.

People like school administrators, resource officers and vice-principals are necessary to complete the circle at PTA meetings, not to mention principals.

Dr. Kevin Daniel, Kennesaw Mountain’s principal, makes certain to attend as many PTA meetings and events as his schedule allows.

“The PTSA is a vital part of this school and benefits everyone that gets involved,” he said.

Many of the student officials such as Daniel have a responsibility as the bureaucratic figures of their school to be involved with the parents, teachers and students as much as possible. It is not always possible for the principal to be at a PTA meeting, but there are many other officials that can fill the “big shoes” presence needed for the parents to feel like “they are really being listened to,” according to Daniels.

Students might also like the idea of seeing their school superiors outside of a traditional school setting and possibly hearing their father yell at them.

The future of Cobb County PTA is looking brighter with every passing year. The history of PTA becomes richer every year with increased membership numbers, increasing school district sizes and the introduction of technology. Mountain View Elementary’s PTA website gives the parents the ability to add the entire school/PTA calendar to their Google+ calendar from their school PTA website. Another school has added a link to an Apple and Android smart phone application directly on its website to help pay membership fees and help parents with donations and event fees.

One Lost Mountain teacher spoke about the possible introduction and integration of social networking sites with their PTA association. In addition, every school in Cobb County not only had a school website, but the majority had an entirely separate website solely for its PTA.  Nearly all the websites give the parents access to important school information, membership inquires and future events being held by their PTA.

The purpose of PTA is ultimately to benefit the students which can come in many forms. While students may dread the idea of spending an afternoon or evening away from home being back at school surrounded by teachers and school officials, the PTA is ultimately beneficial to their education and their lives. PTA is organized on a national level for a reason, the same reason PTAs are practically everywhere. They help the students in and out of the classroom, give parents a chance to be involved in their students’ academic life and allow students to grow closer to their school superiors outside of the classroom.

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