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Local PTA leaders positive about group's future

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Membership in Parent-Teacher Association chapters in Clayton County is down approximately 11 percent this year after some parents pulled their children from county's unaccredited school system, but Clayton County Council of PTA's President Cyd Cox remains optimistic.

Membership in the county's 48 PTA chapters is down to 4,800 members this year, mainly because several active parents left the county after the school system lost its accreditation last year, Cox said. But, in recent months, the school system and the local PTA leaders have been working together to develop two new parent volunteer mentoring programs, Marvelous Moms and All Pro Dads.

"Hopefully, when we get the accreditation back, I'm hoping a lot of those members who left will come back to the school system, and get involved again," Cox said. "The accreditation loss has caused a drop in our membership, but with the support of the school system, I'm pleased with the direction we're headed."

Cox said the county has bucked one trend in the PTA - the participation at the different school levels. She said some of the highest involvement is at Lovejoy and Jonesboro high schools. Lovejoy's PTA has approximately 100 members, while Jonesboro's has approximately 200 members, Cox said.

"Our high schools and middle schools are actually doing better than our elementary schools, which is the reverse of what you normally see," Cox said. She attributed the trend to the accreditation crisis as well.

Cox said parents can still sign up to join their local PTA chapter even though there is a little over one month left in school year. Parents can obtain membership information by contacting the school their children attend, she said.

During a meeting of local PTA chapter leaders Saturday at Forest Park High School, Clayton County Public Schools Interim Superintendent Valya Lee, and several elected and public safety officials, praised the organization for its involvement in local schools, but also stressed the importance of keeping that involvement strong.

State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Ellenwood) said groups like the PTA have "never been more important" as school system officials not only work to address the accreditation issue, but student safety and achievement.

"As with the wolf, the strength is in the size of the pack, so we must continue to work together," Glanton said.

State PTA District 7 Director Wendy Labat said the state and local PTA organizations are involved in education advocacy through programs like their annual Legislature Day at the state Capitol in Atlanta, as well as volunteering in the local schools.

Lee, who served in several different teaching and leadership positions in Clayton County schools before taking over as the interim superintendent, said she wants to see parents rally together around their local schools.

"I can remember when the PTA was the most powerful voice in this community because all of the parents rallied together to take care of our children," Lee said. "I implore you to get involved in our schools. We've got to have parent presence and support to improve student achievement and safety."

Lee outlined four ways parents will be able to get involved in the school system during the next school year. The Marvelous Moms and All Pro Dads programs developed in partnership with the local PTAs will give mothers and fathers an opportunity to volunteer in the schools their children attend, and to serve as role models for students.

In June, the school system will begin recruiting parents and county officials to participate in the annual Day One program, in which volunteers welcome students back to school on the first day of a new school year. District officials have set a goal of having at least 1,000 volunteers, according to an information form distributed at the county-wide PTA meeting.

In October, the school system will send letters to parents, asking them to volunteer for at least 10 hours of service in the schools during the 2009-2010 school year through the Parents as Partners program, Lee said.

Lee said the local PTAs are the key organizations in the district's efforts to get more parents involved in the schools. "They are the lifeblood of our schools," she said. "We've got to have our parents involved in our schools for the sake of our children."