Ideas You'll Want To Steal for Your Parent Group

Get inspired by these tips, tricks, and creative efforts from entries in the 2017 Parent Group of the Year search.


Angels at Work

At its spring fair, the Riverdale Elementary PTO in Dedham, Mass., sets up a table for its Angel Fund, a collection taken separately from other PTO funds to help provide children with everyday items they might need: sneakers, undergarments, socks, snow pants, winter coats, and other essentials.

Shadowing New Leaders

To avoid the potential “information gap” that can occur when new leaders first start, the Brecht Elementary PTO in Lancaster, Pa., asked new parents to shadow existing leaders during events. Two parents have stepped up this fall and will act as event co-coordinators so they’ll feel comfortable running the events on their own next year.

Multiple Meeting Times

For the past five years, the Oliver Partnership School PTO in Lawrence, Mass., has held three meetings a month, all within the same week, so more parents can attend. The group meets twice on a Thursday (at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.) and once on a Saturday. Organizers say that scheduling meetings according to the needs of the parents and teachers, as well as factoring in school committee meetings and other school activities, has helped foster greater involvement and better communication.

Family Paint Night

Capitalizing on the popularity of paint nights, the Apple Pie Ridge Elementary PTO in Winchester, Va., held a low-cost family paint night at the school. The art teacher volunteered her time and helped purchase art supplies at a lower cost, and the picture to be painted was displayed at school as well as posted on the group Facebook page. About 100 people, including some teachers, attended the event.

Encouraging Future Involvement

To help combat a decline in middle school parent involvement, parents in the West Hollow Middle School PTA in Melville, N.Y., personally reached out to friends from elementary school to stay involved in middle school, and they also spoke at elementary school PTA meetings and at the 6th grade parent orientation. Getting parents to help at just one event would usually entice them to be part of the PTA, leaders say.

A Running Start

To get students outside and moving before school even starts for the day, the Seabreeze Elementary PTA in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., holds a Morning Mile Club on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Mileage charts are displayed outside classroom doors so students can track their progress and earn incentives, which include T-shirts, tokens to put on their shoes, and—for 100 miles—a trophy and a special end-of-year breakfast. What’s more, parents, grandparents, and teachers are welcome to participate.

Spiritwear for All

The J.T. Roberts PreK-8 School PTO in Syracuse, N.Y., created a spiritwear closet to give all students, regardless of their families’ financial situations, access to clothing with their school colors and logo. They stock the closet with donations of gently used items purchased by students and families at previous PTO spiritwear sales.

A Role for Dads From Day One

The Cedar Ridge Elementary PTA in Tulsa, Okla., found a sweet way for fathers to help kids with their first-day jitters: They asked dads to gather in the main hall to give all the students high-fives in welcome. Organizers reported that the kids were excited to see their dads there and that they felt like superstars.

Books Before Breaks

As part of an effort to promote literacy, the Lake Valley Elementary PTA in Prescott Valley, Ariz., gives a free book to each student twice a year, before the winter and summer breaks. The group works closely with Title I teachers and administrators to ensure that all students have something appropriate to read when they’re not in school.

School-Day Book Club

The PTO at Deer Path Elementary in Cary, Ill., helps make literacy fun with the school’s “chat and chew” lunchtime book club. Students in 3rd through 5th grades are given a book to read and then meet in small groups with an adult volunteer, who leads the discussions and escorts the students back to recess. The PTO provides all books and materials; parents appreciate that the school-day timing allows any student to participate regardless of after-school commitments.

Welcome Wagon

At Belinder Elementary in Prairie Village, Kan., teachers and staff welcome new families to the school by delivering PTA-provided Belinder T-shirts, water bottles, and a handwritten note from the PTA president. In addition to giving families a warm welcome, it’s a fun team-building activity for staff members at the start of the school year.

Encouraging Family Time

During Screen-Free Week in April, students at Deer Path Elementary in Cary, Ill., are encouraged to turn off optional screens. Volunteers coordinate communication to families and offer prizes for students, but the PTO stresses that the focus isn’t so much about turning off screens as it is encouraging more quality time spent as a family and a community.

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