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.
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.