Parents aim to form PTA at South High

May 08, 2006|by KAREN HANNA


As the father of a 15-year-old girl, Bob Harr said he has long been active in his daughter's life.

Now that she's a high school freshman, Harr might be bucking a trend. He wants to start a PTA at South Hagerstown High School.

In two meetings of a fledging parent-teacher association this year, Harr said school staff and a handful of parents have begun laying the groundwork to earn affiliation with National PTA. The group has not existed at the high school for a number of years, Harr and school officials said.

"There's so many parents out there, it's unfortunate, their child goes to school, their child comes home from school, but when it comes to inside the four walls of the school campus, (the parents) have no clue," said Harr, who first became active in PTA when his daughter attended Bester Elementary School.


A meeting for parents of current and incoming South High students interested in joining the PTA is Thursday at 7 p.m in the school's auditorium, Harr said.

Figures provided by Leslie LeBlanc, president of the Washington County Council of PTAs, indicate while PTA membership is fairly strong at the elementary school level, it declines sharply as children grow older.

Of the 5,026 PTA members representing Washington County public schools, 4,237 belong to elementary school organizations, according to LeBlanc. All but one elementary school and all middle schools have PTA organizations, but only two high schools - Smithsburg and Hancock Middle-Senior - have representatives. One-hundred-sixty members are involved in the two high school groups, according to LeBlanc.

South High Principal Richard Akers said parents of high school children often are focused on the activities of groups like band and athletic boosters. While he said he does not want them to feel pressured to take on more responsibilities, he said a high school PTA might not be as time-consuming as they think.

According to Akers, a PTA could provide the school with parents who are willing to share their ideas. That's what's important, he said.

"We would like to get parent input and involvement in just the academic programs at the school," he said.

LeBlanc said the purpose of PTAs can evolve as children get older. They are not necessarily just bake sales and book fairs, said LeBlanc, who is interested in tackling problems such as teen pregnancy, bullying and gangs.

"I think it is a misapprehension about what people think is appropriate for high school because parents think, 'My gosh, if I show up at book fair, my kid's going to kill me," she said.

According to Harr, National PTA requires schools' organizations to write bylaws and elect officers if they are seeking affiliation. With affiliation, local groups have access to scholarship money and other benefits, Harr and LeBlanc said.

The groups also must have at least 20 members to form affiliations with the state and national groups, said Harr, who hopes to be able to provide scholarships to college-bound students.

"Like I said, if we buy that child a book, if we buy that child two books, it might be the difference between that not continuing his education and continuing his education," Harr said.

If you go ...

What: Meeting for parents of current and incoming South Hagerstown High School students who are interested in joining the PTA.

Where: South Hagerstown High School auditorium

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

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