He gave them a piece of his mind. They elected him president.

by Patty Catalano


Dennis Schremp always had the desire to participate in the parent group at his daughter's school, but until last year, the single dad says, he never really had the information. "I didn't know what was going on half the time," he explains.

The Sherwood Caring Community Organization at Sherwood Elementary in Arnold, Mo., held its meetings at 3 p.m. on weekdays, when Schremp worked. That and a lack of timely notice regarding events and volunteer activities made it difficult for him to share his talents at school. Additionally, Schremp says, "I would offer to help and they would never call me. Then I would hear them complaining that nobody would help and they had to do it all themselves."

Schremp had almost given up on the SCCO when he received a letter from the school's principal. It was an invitation to a meeting—this time at night—to discuss ways the school could increase participation in the group. At last, Schremp thought, a chance to be heard.

That evening, as he listened to members rattle off ideas to bring more parents into the school, such as providing cookies at meetings, Schremp says he couldn't take it anymore. "I took my turn and spent the next 15 minutes telling them what their problems were," he says. Schremp says he fully expected SCCO members to throw him out of the meeting. Instead, they elected him president.

Since that time, Schremp has been busy chipping away at the school's involvement barriers, namely its communication problems with parents. "I think communication and participation go hand in hand," he says. He believes that the secret to increasing participation is simply to ask: "Most people want to help but are afraid to take the first step for fear of getting in over their heads, or perhaps they just want to know that they are truly welcome." As president, Schremp's number one priority is getting that message out to parents clearly and consistently. Early on in this role, Schremp met with the principal to clarify expectations and goals for the parent group. "Our first step was to create more lines of communication," he says.

Over the summer, Schremp, a self-described computer nerd, launched a new website for the school. "Mr. Schremp has done an outstanding job in getting this accomplished," says Sherwood Elementary principal Colleen Cole. Parents "see what activities are happening next and what they can do to help." Best of all, she says, parents can make online payments for certain activities, which eliminates sending money to school with their children.

Schremp's communication and outreach efforts are paying off. New volunteers and committee chairpeople are busy planning fundraisers, movie nights, a winter festival, appreciation luncheons, and parent-child dances. This year's fall festival boasted the highest turnout ever, with food sales doubled from the previous year.

The feedback he has received from parents indicates that they're pretty happy with how things are going at Sherwood...other than a lack of parking spaces. Says Schremp, "I can honestly say I was thrilled to hear them complain about that!"

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