Before the school year begins, the Ithan Elementary PTO's cultural arts and multicultural committees reach out to new parents. Many families at the Bryn Mawr, Pa., school are from foreign countries, staying in the United States for only a few years. To welcome them, the PTO hosts a breakfast at the apartment complex where many of these families live. The breakfast helps parents learn about the school in a comfortable setting and encourages networking. Another popular event, International Night, helps students gain a better understanding of the world and its cultures. Last winter, a photojournalist showed photos of children in schools around the world. Through the photos, Ithan students could see their differences from and similarities with their peers. For the much-anticipated International Week, the PTO creates a museum highlighting two or three countries. Parent volunteers find clothing, food, music, art, and other artifacts to display and serve as museum tour guides.
What the judges loved: The teamwork between teachers and the PTO is remarkable. In fact, the faculty entered the PTO in the 2009 Parent Group of the Year search.
Cool fact: This year the PTO brought in a Cirque du Soleil jump-roping residency and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and cartoonist.