High School Parents, Teachers, Students Form Support Group

Group seeks to ease the load on overburdened faculty

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Teachers struggling to grade papers, develop lesson plans, attend required meetings and now paint homecoming floats and work home-game concession stands are getting some help.

Last week, a group of Payson High School parents, students and teachers held the second meeting of a new support group called the Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO).

“At the beginning of this year, all teachers at PHS were given extra assignments relating to student pep activities,” said Tina Terry, an English teacher at PHS. “I just started a French club, and offered to teach dance and choreography to the drama department. Meanwhile, all PHS teachers already do a lot after school.”

Administrators have asked teachers to take on the extra duties that one teacher dedicated their time to in years past, said teachers at the PTSO meeting.

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At the beginning of the Parent Teacher Student meeting,conducted at Payson High School, Thursday, Nov. 3, Tina Terry, teacher and moderator, asks those in attendence to introduce themselves.

“We completely understood why this happened, because one teacher in charge of student government (STUGO) and pep activities simply could not handle it all. It was only fair to assign duties to all teachers,” Terry said. “When the English department was told it was in charge of all home-game basketball concessions and the junior prom, and other academic departments were put in charge of building homecoming floats and other activities, it became overwhelming.”

Terry said she wanted to help.

“I wanted to find a way we could help both teachers and students without teachers being stretched so thin that they might not be able to do anything well — especially their job as teachers.”

Teachers already carry a full academic workload, and many have larger class sizes this year. Adding extra pep duties to teachers’ already bulging schedules seemed daunting, and possibly detrimental to their work with students, she added.

Terry approached PHS Vice Principal Anna VanZile about forming a parent-teacher group to support student activities without overtaxing teachers.

VanZile and PHS Principal Kathe Ketchem were very supportive of the idea, Terry said.

VanZile gave Terry a list of parent names collected over the past year that had offered to help, Terry said at Thursday’s meeting.

Terry, who spent more than 20 years in direct sales, had no problem calling the parents and inviting all PHS teachers to attend.

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Leslie Owens listens to the chatter during the opening remarks of the parent, teacher student meeting, conducted at Payson High School, Thursday, Nov. 3. The meeting was an effort to find a middle ground for parents, teachers and students to coordinate involvement within all three represented groups. Behind Owens is Tyler McMinimy, and Janelle Burba.

The group agreed that PHS students should be invited to participate as well.

High school senior Tyler McMinimy said “a few years back, a few of us were talking about what would happen to the high school in the future. With the town suffering from the economy, things don’t look good. I’d like to leave this school with a bang.”

Andrew Fiala and Michael Ellis, from the PHS science department, came to both meetings.

Fiala, who teaches physics, physical and earth sciences, said, “It would be great if we could get some help from parents and other community members for activities, so not all tasks are delegated to teachers.”

Earlier this year, the school assigned the science department to help build homecoming floats, plan prom, the senior trip and work on graduation.

PTSO plans to take some of the pressure off teachers by involving more parents and community members, organizers said.

Terry hopes more parents, students and community members will become active in the group.

“It’s a win-win for everyone — especially the students,” she said.

Other schools in the district already have active parent-teacher organizations and PHS students would really benefit as well, Terry said.

When Leslie Owen heard about teachers’ extracurricular assignments, she was surprised. “Until we sat down and heard about all you have to do and what you need, we had no idea,” she said.  

Fayth Lowry suggested a survey for teachers to help identify needs parents could cover. 

Penni Stonebrink, whose husband teaches at Rim Country Middle School, volunteered to decorate for prom. “I love doing that kind of stuff,” she said.

Lowry suggested a recycling drive for fund-raising and having a prom fashion show.

PTSO unanimously decided against forming under the Parent-Teacher-Association (PTA) umbrella since PTA requires dues and has state and national rules. 

Instead, they elected to organize as a Parent-Teacher-Student Organization, which allows them to create their own mission and focus.

By the end of the evening Thursday, the group had voted for: Penni Stonebrink as president; Tyler McMinimy as vice president; Leslie Owen as treasurer and Fayth Lowry as secretary.

The PTSO plans to meet Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. in Terry’s room, Auditorium 1 at PHS.

PTSO’s goal is to minimize meetings and maximize parental and community involvement. Terry stressed anyone who can’t attend meetings can still be a part of the effort.

All interested parents, teachers, students and community members are invited to attend or to contact Terry at tina.terry @pusd.com for more information.

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