Cool events, service projects, and academic efforts from entries in the 2015 Parent Group of the Year search.

by Elizabeth S. Leaver


Pay What You Can

To boost bake sale profits, the parent outreach committee of the PTA at PS 133 William A. Butler School in Brooklyn, N.Y., changed its pricing to a pay-as-you-wish model. The method increased sales and also offered the side benefit of raising awareness of the committee’s work.

More Than Once in a Blue Moon

The Thirteenth Avenue School PTA in Newark, N.J., wants all volunteers to know their contributions are valued regardless of how often they are able to help. In fact, the group created its Blue Moon Club so parents can volunteer at their own pace and convenience. Several parents in the club accrued more than 100 volunteer hours during the year.

Picnic With a Twist

The big back-to-school event at Monte Vista Elementary in Montclair, Calif., is the Picnic on the Playground fair. The PTO invites local vendors to send a donation and materials about their business or set up a booth to provide families with information about healthy living and activities going on in the city of Montclair. 

Winter Warmers

When teachers at Dysart-Geneseo Elementary in Dysart, Iowa, told their PTO that many students didn’t have clothing appropriate for winter, the PTO quickly implemented Operation Warm. They put out donation boxes throughout the town and before long had collected gently used snow pants, jackets, and more. Not only did they amass useful donations; they also kept a stash that students in need could borrow from.

Spread the word—schools thrive because of hard-working parent groups

Breakfast With Books

The Meadowbrook Farms Elementary PTG in East Greenwich, R.I., offered twice the fun by having its fall and spring book fairs coincide with a morning family event. Called Breakfast With Books, the event is held before school, from 8 to 9 a.m. Attendees enjoyed fruit, bagels, drinks, and pastries while the children at the K-2 school had several books read to them by a special reader—the principal.

More Than Words

Sometimes seeing is believing. That’s why the PTO president at Mayer (Ariz.) Elementary uses a slideshow at the school’s open house to illustrate the events the school has planned for the year as a way to encourage more parents to join.

Hold the Pastries

The St. Margaret Mary School PTO in Harrisburg, Pa., went for flair—and fitness—in lieu of some more typical events. Instead of muffins with mom, mothers and kids went to a Zumba event. And instead of doughnuts with dad, kids and dads participated in an obstacle course.

Keeping Things Green

The Parent Council at Rainbow Community School in Asheville, N.C., prioritized the environment by creating “green” food service kits. Contained in a nylon string backpack, each kit has plates, cups, and flatware. Families purchase the kits and bring them to events, reducing the need for disposable food service items at potlucks, picnics, and school celebrations.

Men Make a Difference to Schools

Each fall, the John Hanson Montessori School PTSA in Oxon Hill, Md., holds Men Make a Difference Day to promote male involvement. At the 2014 event, some 100 men were greeted by middle-school-age boys and treated to a catered breakfast. After the program, the men went to their students’ classes for story time and presentations.

Real Heroes

As part of a walkathon to create a scholarship fund at Paul Adams Elementary in Lincoln, Neb., the PTO upped the fun and engagement for kids with a superhero theme. Students were encouraged to unleash their inner superpowers with activities to create their own superhero identities, character traits, and stories. And rather than dressing up as caped crusaders, the kids wore school colors or college T-shirts to promote the idea that education is perhaps the greatest superpower of all.

Free Books for Students

Instead of a book fair, the PTO at Inyokern (Calif.) Elementary decided to collect books to give away to students for the summer. The PTO requested books from parents and received donations from the local library and other organizations. By the time they finished collecting, they had more than enough inventory to give each student seven fiction books plus additional nonfiction titles.

A New Way To Play Bingo

The Mound Elementary PTA in Miamisburg, Ohio, gets creative at its family bingo night event while giving teachers a nod. In addition to playing the typical bingo boards, there are two rounds where participants who make the letter “T”—which stands for “terrific teachers”—are the winners. The people who call “bingo” win the round, as do their teachers.

Families First

As part of the Castle Bridge School PTA’s efforts to make parents and other guardians a key part of the school community, the New York City parent group plans a Family Day in lieu of celebrating Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. What’s more, the group arranges schoolwide play dates during weekends and school breaks so families can spend time together.

Made With Love

The St. Edward School PTC in Carlsbad, N.M., set a goal to increase its community service efforts. One especially moving project was asking students to make fleece blankets for a local women’s shelter. Labels saying “With Love” were sewn to the blankets. Shelter representatives came to pick up the donations at the school, where each class stood up to present their blanket and a box of cookies for the children in the shelter.

High-Tech School Pride

The Michigan Avenue Elementary PTO in Cleveland, Tenn., upped the ante with parent outreach when the school allowed the parent group to maintain all social media communication. As such, the group was able to promote the daily work of teachers and showcase the school’s accomplishments. The group even began branding each post with a school hashtag, #MASPROUD, to increase social media engagement.

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