In comparing the number of PTA members at Bellwood Elementary to the number of attending students, Christina Welch finds it particularly disturbing. Last year the school had 90 total members; and in the third week of school, Bellwood currently has a little more than half that.
“We have give or take 400 students, and we should have more than that,” she said.
Welch, the president for the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) at Bellwood, previously the school’s volunteer coordinator, sees the same “small group of people” volunteering each year. A long-time member of the group, she feels membership is crucial in serving the school, the community and the children – regularly raising money to fund the purchasing of items, such as books, or the backing of other activities the county cannot budget, like helping the principal fund the painting of a mural in the cafeteria, as well as dances and Christmas events.
With a major focus on planning, volunteers meet, officially, once a month, often bringing in donated items as well. For Welch, the PTA helps community members play a pivotal role in young children’s futures.
“I think it’s important because, without the support of parents in the school, the children don’t thrive as well,” she said. “The school needs to be a place they know is a comfortable place, and by getting the parents involved makes it a more comfortable place.”
Although she has seen no real decrease in PTA involvement in the recent years, Welch still feels membership could increase; nonetheless, she understands the busy nature of people – especially in these economic times when jobs are a major priority.
But becoming a member is just $5 away: “And I don’t see what keeps people from doing that,” she said.
Bellwood Assistant Principal Gayla McAdams was part of the Chesterfield County Council for the PTA last year, and has taught in the county for 12 years. She said schools do everything they can to get parents involved in school activities; however, like Welch observes, she sees the same parents involved year after year.
As she, too, understands that parents work all day to provide for their families, McAdams wants to see more family members involved in school activities. Additionally, she mentioned it isn’t mandatory for teachers to become PTA members but are “highly encouraged” through staff drives.
“I think it builds a strong foundation for parents to feel comfortable coming to school and feel they can contribute something. And it doesn’t always have to be money; it can be their time or their experiences,” she said.
According to Marshall Trammell, School Board member from the Bermuda District, PTAs are often misinterpreted as a fundraising organization – which is an effort in the PTA – but it certainly is not their primary goal, he said. For him, they serve as a support group for parents, teachers and students altogether, becoming an educational source to bring information on school issues to parents.
“Membership varies from year to year,” he said. “Bellwood is a school that is in what I would consider a working area: a lot of the parents work, a lot of both parents work, and it may be difficult to convince parents who have worked long and hard all day long to come out to a particular PTA meeting … but I do suspect that Bellwood will see an increase as time moves forward in the year.”
Anyone interested in joining the Bellwood PTA may call Christina Welch at 852-4531, or email her at ChristinaWelch78@yahoo.com. Also, people wanting to join any other PTA at a particular school should call the school’s principal or contact the Chesterfield County Public Schools Community Relations office at 768-4383.