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Power to the parents
Groups at new schools raise funds, awareness
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Stefanie Winborne and Dottie Hull go over the Lakeside PTA budget Tuesday at the Habersham at Lanier clubhouse. - photo by Emily Saunders
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For more information on how to become active in a parent-teacher organization, visit the school system’s Web site at www.forsythk12.ga.us, where each individual school has a link to its own Web site.
Classes just let out for summer, but the parent-teacher organizations at Forsyth County’s five new schools are working on their greatest challenge — funding.

“Because of how schools actually open, and with budget cuts, the PTAs a lot of times have to help with playground equipment,” said Brad Collins, president of Whitlow Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization.

“There are a lot of things the school really will need to help improve the experience for the kids. And that fundraising is going to be the toughest thing.”

In August, the school system will open Brookwood, Haw Creek and Whitlow elementary schools, as well as Lakeside Middle and Lambert High.

All of the school organizations focus on improving the learning environment for students, though their titles vary from parent teacher associations to parent-teacher-student organizations and even academic booster clubs.

“It puts us on the same playing field as the sports booster clubs,” said Jill McKenzie, president of Lambert High School’s academic booster club. “But the purpose is to support all academic endeavors for the school.”

Over the next several months, the organizations will participate in many events, including ice cream socials and sneak peaks at their respective campuses.

They also will seek parents to volunteer for various committees that oversee programs, arts groups and membership sales.

“It’s going to be hard because we’re coming from so many different schools,” said Julie Lamb, co-president of the Brookwood Elementary parent teacher association. “But there are a lot of committees still that we would really love help with.”

The booster club was able to reach out to the Lambert community Wednesday during the school’s preview night.

Cindy Curtin, vice president of the group, was among several members handing out information to incoming students and their parents.

“The academic booster club has had a good response,” Curtin said. “We have a lot of momentum and people are getting really excited about it. Because it’s a little bit different, I think people will be willing to look at it a little bit more.”

For Lambert, the main fundraiser is the school store, which will be operated by parent volunteers.

Lakeside, the county’s newest middle school, is focusing its fundraising attention on classroom expenses, said organization co-president Stefanie Winborne.

“We want to provide the media center with books and advanced reader materials,” she said. “Another goal is teacher grants, where teachers apply to us for classroom materials like microscopes and class study novels — things they won’t get initially.

“Most schools start with very little funding ... so it was important to me to be involved just to see that teachers receive the things they need to teach properly.”

The organization will spend the summer engaging the community, but also will work to highlight its student component.

“Our student members will be called the student advisory group,” she said. “We want the kids to be involved, so we will have meetings with that group of students and let them advise us on things they’d like to see happening.”

There are some fresh faces on the five new boards, Lamb said, though many parents have served in other schools and are just shifting with the district lines.  

Lamb, whose children will be in the third and fifth grade at Brookwood, previously served as vice president at Big Creek Elementary.

“I was really excited to be going into the new school,” she said. "I had heard great things about the administration. I had a lot of experience working with Big Creek and I wanted to bring some of that to the new school.”

That experience will change substantially, she said, as Big Creek Elementary has been part of the community since 1939.

As a new school, Brookwood's playground equipment, library books and other basics are minimally funded.

“Coming from Big Creek, a much older, more established school ... we’ve never been lacking for anything,” she said. “A lot of the parents coming from Big Creek will be used to that.

"We don’t want to disappoint them, so we’re getting that stuff ramped up as quickly as we can.”

Diana O’Sullivan, president of the Haw Creek Elementary PTA, said the “lack of playground equipment is a biggie.” But having served on school organizations in the past, she said the key to success is being involved with the administration.

“They have been so encouraging and supportive,” she said. “Ever since we chartered, we’ve been working hand in hand with the staff.

“I’m always excited about trying to foster the school community and to work toward a partnership with the staff and administration, from a
parent’s perspective.”

E-mail Jennifer Sami at jennifersami@forsythnews.com.