To convince others to volunteer, you must volunteer. Such is the philosophy of Susi Carr, the president of Julia Randall’s Parent Teacher Organization.
“I was at the school until 5:45 (p.m.) last Friday, freezing, handing out cookie dough,” she said one December morning.
The cookie dough was for a fund-raiser, and Carr believes in leading by example.
The organization raises $15,000 during “a bad year,” Carr said. The money helps purchase things like new science books for fourth graders — $2,400 — and special equipment that allows teachers to hook laptops to projector screens — six of them at $600 each.
Last year, the organization raised $25,000.
The high cost of educational equipment makes the fund-raising efforts of PTOs invaluable, Carr said. And the organization’s goal is not to build a bank account.
“We spend as much as possible,” Carr said.
The PTO organizes monthly movie nights where kids in pajamas sit on beanbag chairs, eating popcorn and candy while watching flicks with their parents.
Carr said some parents have dropped their kids off to later pick them up, but the intent is for families to gather. The night is not a moneymaker, either — popcorn and candy cost less than 75 cents each.
Attendance varies, but 60 people arrived at one recent movie night.
Carr said she constantly receives calls from parents wondering how to start a successful PTO. It’s simple. “It takes someone willing to be in charge,” she said. “I’ve had people call me, ‘I want a PTO at my school, but I don’t want to be in charge,” she added. “Someone has to be in charge.”
Julia Randall enjoys an active parent volunteer contingent. Principal Rob Varner says anywhere from six to 12 parents circulate through the school all day.
Carr has roughly 80 parents and teachers on her list, with 15 of them active volunteers.
“We joke around, we try to get them young,” she said — parents of kindergartners, for instance. Parents of fifth-graders who also have younger children likewise serve as occasional punch lines. “You’re stuck with us,” Carr said she jokes.
And it is in jest. “You can’t force people to volunteer,” she said. However, “if you give me an hour or two every year, I would have more than enough volunteers,” she said.
Whether stacking books in the library or making photocopies, the work of education is continually flowing.