The board and a handful of creative volunteers at Franklin Elementary PTO in Cadillac, Mich., were determined to make some noticeable changes at their school. Not only did this team renovate a few areas around campus; they also revamped teacher and parent relationships. We talked to PTO president Beth Stebbins, who coordinated a covert teachers’ lounge makeover in May along the lines of TV’s While You Were Out.
What was the lounge like?
The lounge was in pretty sad shape. It was drab, not very inviting, and not even functional. One day I found the school secretary on her hands and knees trying to grind coffee because there was no place to plug in the grinder near the coffeemaker without blowing a circuit.
How were you able to pull off the makeover?
Our former PTO president, Mary Pals, who’s an aide at the school, gave us the keys to the lounge so we could sneak in. Fifteen of us started at 6 on a Thursday evening. We cleared the room, painted, replaced the countertops and faucet (a dad had to fix the sink!), and then brought everything back into the room: new chairs, curtain, microwave, and mini fridge. We finished about 2:30 a.m.
Any setbacks along the way?
Well, first, the store sold our counters by mistake, and then the sink broke. We almost resorted to trash-picking for a new sink since the store was closed at this point, but a dad fixed it at the last minute. Oh, yeah, then we found out that the custodians were moving the teachers’ mailboxes out of the lounge at the same time as our redo.
What did the teachers think?
Teachers first thought they were getting treated to doughnuts in the lounge. When they saw a TV news crew, they thought perhaps we had made a doughnut sculpture. They loved the changes made to their lounge. Some were still hankering for doughnuts, though.
So have teachers cooked at all for your group since they got their new lounge?
Yes! They actually cooked and served spaghetti for families and guests at our Spaghetti Showdown.
Was that as dangerous and messy as it sounds?
No, just good, clean fun.
Any plans for a new PTO annex with, say, a Jacuzzi?
Only if the teachers build it for us!
Franklin Elementary PTO, Cadillac, Mich.
School Size: 350 students, grades preK-5
Fundraisers: Spiritwear, flowers, school license plates, and Box Tops for Education
Group motto: The little PTO that could
What we’ve learned:
If we decide to do something, we can do it!