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38 Ideas To Start the Year Right

From getting organized to getting to know the school's families, a great year for the parent group starts with some advance planning.

Use Technology
Consider collecting the e-mail addresses of your members so the PTO can send meeting announcements, meeting minutes, and special event reminders electronically.

Update the Website
Now is the time to update the information on your Web site. If your PTO does not have its own Web site, contact the administrator of your school’s Web site to see whether a page can be dedicated to your group. At minimum, post meeting times and locations, officer names, and a list of the benefits the PTO has provided to the school. Consider assigning a Web master role to one of your officers or even establishing it as a new volunteer position.

Do Some Fall Cleaning
When was the last time the PTO cabinet or closet at school was really cleaned out and organized? Now is a good time to tackle that project and take inventory. You can reduce spending on office and hospitality supplies if you know what you already have on hand. Post the inventory on the cabinet or closet door, and be sure to tell your volunteers that they should use what’s on hand first. We found that when we consolidated all the boxes, we had 10,000 coffee stir sticks. Plenty for any coffee hours we might host for the next several years, plus enough for several good art projects!

Meet One Another

Get To Know Your Fellow Officers
Jackson Elementary PTO in Hebron, Ohio, holds a potluck dinner for new officers in late summer. The emphasis is on getting to know each other, not necessarily on PTO business. You might want to include spouses and children, too.

Plan Ahead
Most PTOs have at least one executive board meeting in the summer. This is a good practice that ensures your officers are organized and ready to get started right away. Discussion topics might include meeting format, key dates, next year’s budget, new projects, special challenges ahead, and the specific role and responsibilities of each officer. Even if school has already started, it’s a good idea to get together for a little strategic planning.

This is also a good time to ensure that each officer has a copy of your PTO’s bylaws. You might want to invite last year’s officers to a transition meeting, if that has not already happened.

Hi! My Name Is...
Provide nametags at every PTO meeting, not just the first one. At the start of each meeting, ask whether anyone is attending for the first time and make a special effort to introduce newcomers around. Sure, you’ll all know each other after a while. But the nametags aren’t meant to help your regular members. The purpose is to make new members feel welcome and a part of the group.

Meet the Teachers
Estes Hills Elementary PTA in Chapel Hill, N.C., hosts a back to school picnic the week before school starts. Live music, food, and fun on the school playground ensure a great time getting to know the teachers, meeting new classmates, and renewing old friendships.

Fry Elementary PTA in Naperville, Ill., assists with the annual Teacher Meet and Greet session, for which parents and students are invited to visit the teachers and classrooms during a set date and time. Students can drop off bulky school supplies to their desks and meet the other students in their class. Teachers appreciate that random interruptions during their final prep days are eliminated because the principal stresses that the Meet and Greet session is the right time to drop in. The parent volunteers help direct families through the building, provide light refreshments, and staff a display of parent volunteer opportunities.

Take photographs of the teachers and staff and set up a display in the school lobby. That way, students who visit during the summer can see their teacher’s face, even if the teacher is not at school.

Meet the Families
Host a fun family event early in the year. Make it a “fun raising” event, not a fundraiser, though you might ask for a small fee to help cover costs.

Consider staggering the event by grade level, to allow interaction in smaller groups and to make the kids more likely to meet their new classmates and their classmates’ families.

Gretchko Elementary PTO in West Bloomfield, Mich., hosts an annual Fall Family Night in early September. Preschoolers and their families come first; kindergartners and first-graders start an hour later. Activities are spread throughout the school, with snacks and games in the gym. Adults are asked to wear nametags that indicate their child’s class and grade.

Mentor the New Parents
Ask the school office for a list of families new to the school (kindergartners and families new to the area). Distribute the names and instructions among the PTO officers, and have them make personal phone calls to welcome families to the school. Remind the parents of the PTO’s next activity and encourage them to attend. At the next PTO meeting, be on the lookout for the parents you called and make a personal introduction to help them feel welcome.

Consider taking the phone call one step further by establishing a welcome committee for new families. The PTO can assemble a packet of school, PTO, and community information and distribute it to families who move in throughout the year.

Spruce Things Up

Make a Good First Impression
Set out large pots of flowers by the school entrance. If watering is a concern, by mid-August someone might be on site who could take responsibility. If you paint the pots with the school logo and the parent group’s name, you’ll send a subtle but positive message about the PTO.

Lend a Hand
If the custodial staff is getting the basics ready for school, perhaps PTO volunteers can assist by power-washing the entry way, washing the school sign and main windows, weeding the flower beds, pruning the bushes and small trees, picking up litter around the school grounds, and generally getting the school “company clean.”

Check Out Old Glory
Does the school’s American flag need repair? If it’s unlikely the school or district will replace it soon, consider purchasing one with PTO funds.

Update the Displays
Teachers are usually busy making bulletin boards or other displays for their classrooms. The school secretaries are focused on registration and administrative issues. Who is going to update the display in your school’s lobby? Ask your principal for ideas, and take on the task of creating a bright new poster, bulletin board, or display case to promote the school, it’s mission, and the new year ahead.

Christy Forhan is a veteran PTO leader who has served as president and treasurer, among other roles, at schools in West Bloomfield, Mich.

Rate This Article:

(38 Votes)


  1. Posted by - Edna V. Cabuhat on Aug. 07, 2013

    Thank you so much for the great ideas. This will be very helpful for the school leaders and officers of any organization. I realized that I need to do more efforts for the success of our association. More power!
  2. Posted by - Judean on Jun. 21, 2012

    Thank you all for your input. Another addition for the welcome folders may include a coupon from a local store, or your local library schedule of events taking place there. This way, we are getting the community involved as well.
  3. avatar

    Posted by ewb7279 on Jun. 21, 2011

    All good ideas, I will definetly share this information with my vice president.!!!
  4. Posted by - Joan Perry on Sep. 17, 2010

    Thank you for your suggestions on parental involvement. In our effort to educate our students in the 21st century, it is very important to get parents on board. Your suggestions are practical and meaningful. Thank you, Joan Perry, PS#26
  5. Posted by - Stephanie Nelson on Sep. 10, 2010

    I really like these ideas. Our school is located in a neighborhood where 95% of the families are below the poverty level. These are simple and easy ideas that will build pride in our school and our community without having to spend a lot of money that is so desperately needed elsewhere.
  6. Posted by - cheryl on Aug. 17, 2010

    Very helpful information. Our school is still fairly new but any of these ideas would have been helpful by now. Hopefully, we can begin a new tradition and put some of these ideas in place. I'm looking forward to the results.
  7. Posted by - alicia nelson on Sep. 15, 2009

    i read all the good ideas, i am very impress and will put all these ideas to good use and will let you know how it turns out. Thank you so much
  8. Posted by - Kristy on Aug. 12, 2009

    Love the information! One thing we do every year is bring in Omega-Man for a Kick-Off school assembly. The presentation has for the last two years set the kids on the right path for the school year.
  9. Posted by - Lisa @ PTO Today on Aug. 03, 2009

    Jim- Would say you're off to a great start but it sounded more like you never stopped... Good for you and your school! Your site and pics look terrific. Good Luck this year. Hope you come back to our site often and share your ideas on our message boards:
  10. Posted by - Jim Dunnavant on Aug. 02, 2009

    Our group had an aggressive plan for summer and back to school. Not only did we have Board Meetings, but sponsored a Spirit Night in mid summer to "keep the momentum" from late spring. Our return to school includes a "Take Pride In Your School" cleanup Saturday, PTO event fair at Meet The Teacher Day, and Back to School Cookout for all students/parents/teachers on the first Saturday after school starts.

    We had about 50 people show up to help spruce up campus today. We're excited about a big year for our group and our school.

    Visit our site for pics and notes....
  11. Posted by - Tim Sullivan _ PTO Today on Jul. 21, 2009

    Thanks Anthony. You made our day. So cool to hear that kind of feedback.

    Tim Sullivan
    PTO Today
  12. Posted by - Anthony Domenech on Jul. 21, 2009

    Thank you all for your input, advise on every area needed to help Harmony School of Science PTO first year a very succeful one. I live by PTO today as our building blocks of our foundation. Keep up the great work parents,teachers, and most of all Students!
  13. Posted by - Shawn-Marie on Jul. 23, 2008

    Thank-You so much for your pump it-up article!! I am an incoming President as well, and now I am even more excited. Thanks for sharing the wealth, once again!
  14. Posted by - Lani Harac, PTO Today on Jul. 23, 2008

    Hi, Cynthia -- we do have samples! There's a category on our File Exchange specifically devoted to welcome letters. There are also some general parent involvement letters in the "Other Communications and Outreach" category. Check it out at , and please feel free to post your own files to share with others.
  15. Posted by - Cynthia Kelly on Jul. 21, 2008

    This is great information. This is my first year of being the President of our Parent Alliance. Would you happen to have a sample of a welcome letter to families to start the school year??
  16. Posted by - dennialopez on May. 14, 2008


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