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Volunteers could help Washington County PTAs with training, support

May 23, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- After more than a year without county-level support, school PTAs soon could receive training from a county group.

During a Thursday meeting to feel out support for restarting the Washington County Council of PTAs, it was decided to move forward with a field service group.

A field service group is a committee of volunteers that assists school PTAs with training and support. The group would be overseen by the state.

"School PTAs need help," said Sharon Mattingly, representing the PTA at the Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education. Mattingly also served as secretary of the Washington County Council of PTAs when it was active.

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The County Council has been inactive for more than a year. The group has been without a president since January 2007, when Leslie LeBlanc stepped down for personal reasons.

When an election in May 2007 failed to produce more than a few parents interested in leadership roles, the group was declared inactive by the Maryland PTA.

Maryland PTA President Debbie Ritchie was at Thursday's meeting at South Hagerstown High School. Only about 10 local PTA members attended -- a signal to some that the county is not ready to restart the county council.

"I think we're beating a dead horse," South Hagerstown High PTSA President Robert Harr said. "I don't think we have enough participation to have a council. We have to crawl before we walk."

Kathy Valentine, of Paramount Elementary School's PTA, said the field service team would be a good start. If the group has success with parent participation, she said the County Council of PTAs could form.

Jessica West, president of the Western Heights Middle School PTA, said she looks forward to being able to help other new PTA presidents through the training group.

"This is my first year," West said. "And it was completely overwhelming."

PTA members at Thursday's meeting said a main reason the council disbanded was because of dwindling interest and a lack of communication.

"I didn't even know the (council) existed before I got a letter telling me it was disbanded," West said.

Mattingly said that most County Council meetings only had a few attendees, and discussion primarily was about how to get more involvement.

"All of a sudden, people started dropping off, and (the council) was gone," she said.

The key to the success of the field service team will be making sure parents follow through on their commitment.

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