PTA presidents push to make difference

Published 9:53 pm Thursday, July 7, 2011

Outstanding unit: The King’s Fork High School PTSA was recognized as an outstanding unit this year by the Suffolk PTA Council. King’s Fork PTSA president Opal McCleod poses with superintendent Deran Whitney, right, and school board members Thelma Hinton, left, and Lorraine Skeeter, second from right, at the award ceremony in May.

With three children enrolled at Creekside Elementary School, joining the PTA was a no-brainer for Leila Baccouche-Nadeau.

“I am passionate about PTA, and I really believe in it,” she said. “It’s a very powerful tool and a good way to get involved with your children’s education.”

Just like it does for students, the first day of school means more work and less play for Baccouche-Nadeau and other PTA members.

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For the PTA, the first day of school kicks off a year of meetings and activities all aimed at the same goal: creating successful students.

Formed more than 100 years ago, the parent-teacher association originally was created to provide a support system for children and eliminate threats that endangered children.

Today, PTAs exist in schools across the country, including all of Suffolk’s public schools.

At Creekside, Baccouche-Nadeau, whose passion for PTA grew this year when she served as president, said the PTA isn’t always well-received by teachers and other parents, and she wanted to find out why.

So, as her first act as PTA president this year, she sent out a survey to teachers and parents.

She said for the most part, people weren’t sure why they needed to join the group, and that attitude is why the school, which has more than 900 students, only has 300 PTA members.

At King’s Fork High School, parent-teacher-student association president Opal McCleod is having the same problem getting members to join.

McCleod also served as president for the first time this year, and she said her main goal was to gain membership by informing the community about what the PTSA does and why they should join.

“I think the PTSA is one of the organizations that includes all students, it’s not just (for) IB or student government,” she said. “It includes all students on every level.”

Along with efforts to gain members, both Baccouche-Nadeau and McCleod planned several activities this year to raise funds for their students.

In addition to fundraisers continued from the previous year, the Creekside PTA held several events for the first time, such as an after-school tae kwon do program, a holiday shopping experience and a Valentine’s Day dance.

But Baccouche-Nadeau said her favorite event was a science museum set up in the school that the students could visit.

The students spent the day looking at exhibits and participating in workshops in a field trip-type setting.

Baccouche-Nadeau said it’s disappointing that budget constraints keep the students from taking field trips, so the PTA wanted to create one for them.

The King’s Fork PTSA reached out to the surrounding community for many of its events.

The group sponsored seniors at a local nursing home at Christmas, raised money for the food bank and held a pancake breakfast at Applebee’s.

Of everything they did, McCleod said she was most proud of the scholarship the PTSA awarded for the first time this year.

She said the group wanted to provide a scholarship that was open to all students and was based on more than the student’s grade point average.

The group awarded Rathmond Collins $300 to go toward his college education.

McCleod said she hopes to be able to give out more scholarship money next year.

Because of their tremendous efforts, both Creekside’s and King’s Fork’s organizations were recognized as outstanding units by the Suffolk PTA Council in May.

The King’s Fork PTSA was also honored for its astronomical increase in membership — from 33 to 126 members.

Baccouche-Nadeau said while recognition is always appreciated, it isn’t why she is in the PTA.

“I’m here to serve the kids,” she said. “(PTA is) vital to making the school safer and helping ensuring the students are successful in school.”

McCleod also said she thinks the PTSA is a great way to be involved in your student’s life.

“Your children will benefit from it,” she said. “If we don’t take care of them now, when are we going to take care of them?”