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Parent groups play a key role in making schools better. Unfortunately, the role often goes unappreciated.

by Tim Sullivan


This is our last issue of the school year, and I don’t want to miss the chance to say thank you for all you’ve done this year for your school–and for the kids and the families and the staff who make up your school community.

Amid talk about this fundraiser or that one, a big family event, getting parents to your next meeting, who will step up to lead next year, and dozens of other common concerns, it’s easy to forget just how essential a role you play in the overall success of the school and vitality of the school community.

Strip away all the many things you have to do as a parent group leader and it comes down to this: You are the ground troops of parent involvement. You’re on the front lines. You’re battling every day to create the atmosphere at your school that allows great teachers to excel at their jobs and great kids to excel at theirs.

We can’t forget this, and we have to remind others just how important a role it is. If you’re leaving office shortly, you have to pass on this passion to your successor. (Rip out this page! Blanket permission granted to photocopy!)

There’s a tendency to downplay the work of traditional parent-teacher groups like PTOs and PTAs. The implication is that common parent group activities such as bake sales–and, by extension, spaghetti suppers, movie nights, fall fairs, and the like–are just throwbacks to simpler days and need to be replaced by much more sophisticated-sounding “family-school partnerships”or “school councils”or “involvement compacts.”

Dismissing the importance of those activities is short-sighted and wrong.

It’s true that family game nights and Doughnuts with Dad and spring carnivals sound almost cute compared with high-stakes testing and No Child Left Behind. But a closer look reveals the real weight of your work. Research conclusively proves that more parent involvement at a school helps all the kids in that school do better on a wide variety of measures. Your work–as simple as it sometimes seems to outsiders–is the indispensable start of increased involvement.

All the think tanks in the world can’t make your school more welcoming to parents. But your family events can. The communications you send home, your openness to new volunteers, your buddy system pairing experienced parents with newcomers, your involvement programs, your work to make sure teachers and principals and parents stay connected...these are all the building blocks of authentic, effective involvement, and they wouldn’t exist without your group’s work.

So please take a bow. You’ve earned it. And know that your work affects your school and students even more than you can imagine.

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