Judges' Choice: Instead of Disbanding, Group Perseveres

A group that kept going when the going got rough earns a Judges' Choice award in the 2015 Parent Group of the Year search.

by Poornima Apte


Back in May 2014, things were looking pretty hopeless for the Sebastian Middle School PTO in St. Augustine, Fla. After years of making do with a small board, there were just two board members and one volunteer left for the school of more than 700 students. Completely burned out, the board members made the difficult decision to disband. But on the way to the meeting to make it official, outgoing president Laura Freeman received a phone call telling her about interest from a new parent member, Susan Connor.

That one call changed everything. Rather than disband the group, Freeman decided to stay on as president for another year. She convinced the treasurer to stay, as well. Connor became vice president and recruited a friend who became secretary. The expanded group hit the ground running. The PTO executed a slew of successful events including a holiday dessert table and a fun run. Equally important for a Title I school with more than 60 percent of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, the new members reinstituted the business partners program, through which area businesses become contributing sponsors to school events.

Freeman is relieved the PTO will continue its growth and is grateful for the infusion of new blood. The lesson she learned: “Ask individual people for help. Identify people who want to help and then approach them with specific tasks.” “People want to feel they are needed,” she says. “A generic call to help sometimes might not be enough. Many people are willing to help, you just need to know how to ask.”

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