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Parents put cherry on top of education sundae



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December 21, 2011 - I like my ice cream sundaes simple just vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. My sons go for whipped cream, sprinkles, gummy bears, crumbled cookies and maraschino cherries.

They can't imagine a sundae that isn't loaded with all the gooey extras.

If our schools were ice cream sundaes, then our parent organizations are the gooey extras our kids so love.

I can't imagine our schools without our PTAs and PTOs and the armies of parent volunteers who provide assistance in the classrooms, organize dozens of events and activities, and generously contribute thousands of dollars every year that gets re-invested in our schools and students.

Parents in Clarkston are involved at all levels of our district. Parent leaders meet monthly with Superintendent Dr. Rock.

Parents serve on academic and school improvement committees at the building and district level.

Ten of our school buildings have parent organizations, which, this year, will invest approximately $200,000 and thousands of volunteer hours in our schools. That's a lot of cherries!

The Clarkston Community Schools Board of Education recently passed a resolution honoring Clarkston parents for "providing substantial parental volunteer hours and professional expertise along with noted financial contributions to the educational experiences of all students in the district through their organizational efforts."

Through their generous investment of time, money and expertise, parents have responded to the growing needs in our schools for classroom assistance, funding for classroom and building needs, and technology. In addition to field trips, assemblies, book fairs, and social activities, our parent organizations now fund creative teaching ideas like flipped classrooms, portable computer carts, and digital equipment.

At Bailey Lake Elementary, the PTA has worked with students to collect Big G Box Tops and Campbell's Soup labels to earn money, as well as playground and classroom equipment.

They are working with their gym teacher to launch a health and wellness program, one of PTA's national initiatives.

Last year's purchase of a Computer on Wheels (COW) has allowed mobile technology to be accessible to every classroom.

At Springfield Plains Elementary, the PTA offers a $600 curriculum grant to each grade level to enhance a curricular topic.

Extra funds generated through Kroger Community Rewards has led to the purchase of a COW, equipment for the gym and music teachers, and a one-year membership for every classroom in Raz-Kids, an online leveled reading program.

The Pine Knob Elementary PTA has launched a "buddy" program to welcome new families and educate them about volunteer opportunities.

The PTA applied for and received a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council's Arts and Humanities Touring Program for an anti-bullying assembly.

Their lunchtime book club, offered to students in first through fifth grades, involves both discussions and hands-on crafts.

The PTA at Clarkston Junior High School has provided a digital microscope for the science department, graphing calculators for math, a high-res recorder for music, Kobo e-readers for the media center, and portable art display units to showcase student creativity during public events.

This year, the PTA is paying for transportation for every 8th grader to visit the Holocaust Memorial Center as part of the language arts curriculum.

When parents are in our schools, the connection between school and home life is strengthened.

Every time a parent in Clarkston tutors a struggling reader, organizes a fund raiser, bakes a dish to feed a teacher, contacts a legislator, or attends a school board meeting, student achievement is improved.

Next time I'll order that sundae with all the gooey extras and think of the good work of the parent organizations in Clarkston.

Kelli Horst is president of the Clarkston PTA Council and the mother of two elementary-age boys.

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