Parent groups boost schools

Few elementary schools could function without their Parent-Teacher Organization. Such support groups often become less active, or even nonexistent, at the high school level.

 

In Columbia County, Lakeside High School is the only one of the county's four public high schools that has a Parent-Teacher-Student Organization.

"Usually in high school the kids start specializing, so parents pitch in in those programs," Principal Jeff Carney said.

The high schools' booster clubs support various activities, such as athletics, band, drama or chorus. While the PTSO and the booster clubs both offer opportunities for parental involvement, Dr. Carney said the groups have different roles.

"The PTSO raises money for the whole school, not just individual organizations," said Lakeside PTSO President Don Clauson.

The organization has financed projects such as wireless Internet access, scholarship funds and an electronic sign at the school entrance. The PTSO funds motivational programs in which students can win prizes ranging from candy bars to iPods, and it provides parent volunteers to staff the attendance and guidance offices.

Robin Howard, the Lakeside PTSO secretary, said the organization has about 57 members. She said that number is "down from what we've had in recent years."

Mr. Clauson said the PTSO tries to recruit new members from families with younger children to keep the organization viable.

"I think it's very valuable in what we contribute in terms of morale and financial assistance," Ms. Howard said. She said the Lakeside PTSO also funds efforts to recognize teachers, faculty members and bus drivers.

Mr. Clauson said parents also benefit from their participation.

"This gives us a chance to stay involved, stay informed," he said.

Alan Griffin, principal of Harlem High School, said he would like to have a core group of about 50 parents to help raise funds for academics. He said he would not want to have a school PTO if no one participated.

"It's just a trend that as students get older, parents' involvement decreases," said Mr. Griffin. "You want children to be independent in high school. But at the same time, if parents are involved in their education, there's a better chance of them being successful."

Richmond County schools have seen a similar trend.

Joe Scott, the Richmond County Board of Education vice president, said some of the county high schools such as Butler and Westside have PTOs. He also said that many of the high schools have active booster clubs.

"I don't think they could take the place of PTOs," he said of the booster clubs.

He said he would like to see PTOs in more of the high schools.

"I would encourage it, but it's basically up to the principals, the teachers and the parents," Mr. Scott said. "I really think that there's a need for parents and the PTOs and boosters all working together for the betterment of the schools and the children."

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augusta

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