Campaign increases attendance

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 25, 2002


LAPLACE – When PTO leaders set up tables at the first Parent/Teacher Orientation and Rally at New Wine Christian Fellowship in August, they were hoping they might attract a few more members. Only a handful of parents were attending the organizational meetings created to give St. John the Baptist Parish parents a voice in students’ public school education.

When about 400 parents, teachers and administrators showed up, many picking up information from PTO tables and adding names to PTO lists, school officials and PTO members were surprised.

“I have been praying that more than 25 people would show up,” Superintendent Michael Coburn said following the rally. “We had over 400.”

The kick-off of “Surrounding Our Children with Support,” a year-long campaign aimed at increasing parental involvement, was a success. Was it a fluke? Would parents stay involved after the church doors closed?

Two months later, some PTO presidents are reporting above normal attendance at meetings. Others have remained relatively unchanged.

“In the worst cases, it (attendance) is the same,” Delia Adams Taylor, publicist for St. John schools, said. “In most cases, it is up.”

Taylor recently polled St. John principals to determine how parental involvement has changed this year. While a few principals were unable to note changes, some schools, such as East St. John High School, reported a substantial jump in PTO attendance and parental involvement in school activities.

“Obviously, we are trying to maintain communication lines,” Taylor said. “We are trying to find out what would get parents involved. Two schools are talking about having a morning PTO, a breakfast meeting.”

At John L. Ory, student presentations at PTO meetings help bring in proud parents. While attendance at the school’s PTO meetings have always been good, PTO President Cindy Hammond said there has been a slight increase in attendance this year. Hammond reported about 50 people at recent meetings.

“Yeah, we have some more parents coming in,” Hammond said. “It is not a huge percentage, maybe about 5 of 10 percent growth.”

This is Hammond’s second year as John L. Ory PTO president. She said her work with the school has helped keep parents involved.

“When I see the parents and I have something coming up, I pretty much throw myself in the way,” Hammond said. “I am trying to get more parents involved.”

What Taylor, Hammond and PTO leaders throughout the school system agree on is that more parental involvement means higher grades for students. For that reason, school administrators and PTO leaders are looking to find new ways to recruit and retain parents in the school system.

“I think it (the rally) helped a little bit,” Hammond said. “It got parents to think about children and what they are doing in schools. We need parents support for kids.”

While PTO attendance has improved at most schools following the pre-season rally, some school PTO organizations are still struggling for membership.

Only three people attended the second PTO meeting at Fifth Ward Elementary. Fifth Ward PTO President Yolonda Brown said she has tried to get more parents involved, making telephone calls to parents and sending out flyers. Still, attendance remains low.

“They passed by the table (at the rally),” Brown said. “They took pamphlets – but they never showed up for the meeting.”

Close to 500 students attend Fifth Ward Elementary. Where are the parents?

“That (increasing attendance) is something we are trying to do now,” Brown said. “We serve food. We tried door prizes and even that did not help.”

In addition to increasing PTO attendance, the “Surrounding Our Children with Support” campaign encourages parents to visit classrooms, talk to teachers and administrators and volunteer. Administrators believe it will be at least mid-year before the success or failure of the program can be determined.