Summer always comes to end really, if not technically, the day our students go back to school. There’s something in our rhythm, no matter how long ago it was we ourselves had the summer off, that mixes a little nostalgia for those less scheduled days with the excitement of starting off fresh with clean erasers on our pencils and the possibilities of a new mix of friends in the classroom. As the volunteer brigade of our schools, we parents share that enthusiasm by joining returning students, teachers, principals and staff through our PTAs and PTSAs. Back-to-school is always an exciting time, full of anticipation about new challenges facing our children and hope for new successes.
For the Santa Monica-Malibu council of PTAs, our members reenergize for the joyful and often arduous work of bridging the school with the community. As the summer comes to an end, the individual PTA/PTSA units across our district are meeting in planning sessions to lay out initiatives, programs and activities for the upcoming year. As school gets started, PTA will activate a tremendous army of motivated, dedicated and highly-skilled volunteers who, during the ensuing school year, will perform hundreds of thousands of tasks to support our local public schools and, in turn, our greater community.
How we do it might sometimes be unclear to the residents of our Santa Monica and Malibu communities. Fundamentally, it is through the work of thousands of parents together with our dedicated education professionals, our students, and a significant number of community members. But what exactly is “it”? The answer is that “it” is a combination of volunteer hours that help schools run and children learn in a safe environment together with unending fundraising activities to supplement shortfalls in our funding of public education.
Let’s take a look at both those volunteer hours and the financing efforts by PTA. Most of the work that PTA does is invisible – partly because we remember a time when schools had the resources to provide students what they needed for first-rate education and assume that’s still how it is. In addition, our work can be invisible because PTA does such a skillful and dedicated job of filling in the noticeable holes. For the upcoming 2005 -2006 school year, Santa Monica and Malibu PTAs and PTSAs will fundraise more than $1 million to replace programs, services, equipment and personnel – all of which are basic educational needs lost to budget reductions over the years. Each blank homework sheet sent home by a teacher or flyer or newsletter brought home by students is copied on a copier paid for by PTA. PTA pays for most of the new pieces of playground equipment seen around the district. We will buy thousands of books for our libraries and many hundreds of computers for our classrooms, including the programs on those computers, memory upgrades, maintenance, training and support. We will pay for teachers’ aides, nurses, playground and custodial staff, not to mention those “extras” such as arts and music programs. Surprising as it might be, we will provide the funds to pay most of the teachers’ aides who keep student/teacher ratios manageable in our children’s classrooms. And Santa Monica-Malibu PTA/PTSAs have provided a model for PTAs around the state to understand how to engage in strong advocacy at local community and state levels on educational issues and for appropriate funding critical to our schools’ survival.
PTA volunteers will put in countless hours on behalf of the children of our communities. By helping in our schools’ operations and in enriching the lives of our students, PTA fulfills its mission everyday of: Working together for a common purpose in the benefit of all children. We will produce information for incoming students and compile their first-day registration packets. We will arrange myriad service and support programs for students, parents, teachers and administrators. We will welcome new parents, sponsor parent education programs for returning parents, and scramble to find volunteer replacements for departing parents. We will sponsor and coordinate academic enrichment programs and supplement academic intervention programs. We will ensure and staff everything from kindergarten round-up to high-school graduation. And through all of it, we will watch with pride the progress and success our students experience every day.
So, as we head into the new school year, we will celebrate our ability to make such a significant impact in a cause we cherish. The PTA volunteers with whom I have the extreme privilege to be associated are some of the most talented, dedicated and engaged we could hope to have shape the world our children live in. Our extraordinary efficiency and sheer volume of output is amazing and provided to our community by all 9,000 of the PTA/PTSA members in Malibu and Santa Monica – for free, with the sole expectation of improving the education for all of the students in our communities.
As a PTA, we are all extremely grateful that our children have the good fortune to be educated in our superb district. Each member of our community has shown his or her commitment to maintaining the excellence of our public schools – from passing parcel taxes and supporting city funding agreements, to volunteering in classrooms, to candy bars and pencils and tickets at our carnivals and carwashes. Santa Monica and Malibu residents have demonstrated over and over again their commitment to our children and the future or our cities through supporting excellent public education. PTA is grateful for the ongoing efforts of the community at large to support our younger members, the students.
As President of the Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTAs, I extend my thanks to everyone for what you have done – and what you will renew yourself to do this next school year and beyond – in benefit of all children. We look forward to continuing to share with you in our common purpose.
P.S. Please visit our website to learn more about your PTAs, www.smmpta.org. We are always grateful for volunteers and look forward to you joining us. We have a job for you!