Don’t take the PTA for granted

The PRMS PTA is a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization that promotes the welfare of children and youth. We run events for the PRMS students such as bookfairs, school spiritwear and educational assemblies, provide funds towards class trips for every student, run the Reflections arts program (where many of our students have been showcased, recognized and/or awarded at the county, state and national levels), organize and run class socials/dances and more. These events are run by volunteers and with the money raised through membership, our “Write A Check Campaign” and other fundraisers.

Over the last several years, our membership numbers, our volunteers and our donations have significantly decreased every year. We have tried to keep the cost of the events at a minimum for our families while still ensuring the students have an enjoyable and memorable experience. It is becoming more and more difficult to run events for the students of Pond Road Middle School with the resources we have.

This year, we have received about half of the donations and have almost half of the members that we had just four years ago, while serving roughly the same number of students. We are currently at a deficit of about $4,000 to meet the operating needs of this year’s budget. It is critical to the future of the PTA to find ways in which we can increase membership and donations in order to continue the things that mean so much to our children. We have tried to encourage membership by offering membership discounts. Our members are offered benefits in the form of discounts on events (such as Trunk or Treat and socials) and merchandise (such as school spiritwear).

Membership is entirely voluntary and does not commit the member to anything. It allows the parent, grandparent, teacher or community member the opportunity to vote at our meetings. It keeps you connected to the school, it offers opportunities to meet other parents or teachers and discuss issues that may be on your mind. Membership in the PTA sets an example for your children and shows them that education and involvement in the school is important to you. It also entitles you to certain benefits at the local, state and national level through the PRMS PTA, National PTA and New Jersey PTA. A $10 PRMS PTA membership automatically enrolls you in all 3 organizations and entitles the bearer to all of these benefits.

Membership has its rewards, and without members, there would be no PTA.

On May 8, we held a vote for the executive committee for the 2019-2020 school year. We are currently without a president for next year. With no president, the PTA cannot continue. With no PTA, there will be no bookfairs, no school spiritwear, no educational assemblies, no Reflections program, no class socials/dances and no funding towards class trips (current PTA funding is $8 per student).

We are an organization, self-funded, run by volunteers, providing support, entertainment and educational opportunities for our students. There is still time to make it to a meeting, volunteer for an event, make a donation or become a member. Please contact us at pondpta@gmail.com for additional information.

Kristin Patterson, Pond Road PTA president

The thankless job of PTAs

A note in the Inbox section of the May 2019 issue of Robbinsville Advance read as criticism of the Pond Road PTA. This is in response to that letter.

My family moved here five years ago from a district with an effective PTA comprised of numerous parents fully committed to educational enrichment. The PTA’s annual budget was more than double the budget of the Pond Road PTA for a comparable number of students.

I joined the PTAs—both Sharon and Pond (now Pond and RHS)—began serving wherever needed and eventually as an executive board member. This was in addition to donating to various fundraisers and supporting teacher appreciation week. Unfortunately, I needed to leave my board position and drastically reduce my volunteer efforts for personal related health issues. But I have seen how Robbinsville’s PTAs have struggled with membership and fundraising, even with a climbing student population.

Serving one’s community on the PTA is at times a thankless job, and yet there are people willing to do it. Meeting quietly every month with no one showing up other than other executive board members and teacher reps is disheartening. Trying to make all the extras happen while fighting the loss of funds and membership is a daunting task. They have a hard time drumming up people to be on the executive boards, and in fact if PRMS doesn’t get someone to step up as president for next year there may not be a PTA. This will be a loss for our community and one that disproportionately impacts all of our children.

Without a PTA at PRMS in Robbinsville what will be the consequences? No seasonal decorations in front of PRMS. No assemblies. No book fairs. No vouchers for teachers for books for their classrooms. No new books purchased for the school library. No books for Homefront. No Trunk or Treat event at Halloween. No refreshments for Winter Fun Day or Field Day. No Reflections programs to showcase our students’ creative endeavors in local, state, and county competitions. No spiritwear so the kids can show off their school pride. No 5th, 6th or 7th grade socials.

The PTA provides funding for these and other activities, including 8th grade lunch, class trips and student of the month.

The PTA has teacher appreciation events to foster love, respect, and community between parents, teachers and students fully funded by the PTA and generous parent volunteers. This event is the highlight of the year for our teachers, and we are told this every year by all of them. They feel the love and they feel appreciated even though we are struggling to keep it on a budget that is about half what it was even five years ago. Will this too disappear?

From 2014, PTA membership at PRMS has declined from 640 to 325. Our local PTA only gets to keep a part of that small membership fee, as the rest goes to the State and National PTAs. Write a check donations (our PRMS fundraiser) have gone from $12,914 to $6,290. All of this while enrollment increases. The PRMS PTA is currently almost $4,000 under budget for the year.

While I was on the board, we struggled monthly trying to combat these declines. Everyone asked friends and neighbors, “Why the apathy? What can we do to improve it?” Some told me that people don’t join cause they think the PTA is “just a clique of moms who have nothing better to do.” I can assure you that’s not true. I’ve worked with many great people. Cari Shapiro, Christine Pancari, Kristin Patterson are the PTA presidents, but all the others that worked the board positions or simply volunteered elsewhere are just as amazing and just as tireless. They don’t do it for self-promotion; to get anything from it other than the satisfaction they are helping all the children in the district. Efforts that take them from their own families, lives and jobs.

When we were thinking how to get people involved, I said that we needed to show value in being a member, so I suggested a discount for members. A small amount at each thing so people would see a benefit to being a member. A $2 discount on a social event, a discount on spirit wear. This debate took a few months to resolve. We all thought it was a good idea and appropriate. It was discussed at several (once again, unattended) meetings. The welcome letter from the PRMS president this year included the idea of discounts for members on the seventh line for anyone who cared to read it.

I guess my point in writing is that we as a community need to speak up by attending meetings and participating, to show up at events and with our wallets because the educational enrichment, social and teacher events brought to you by the PTA matter to both the teachers and students in our district.

Do we still want to give our kids these “extras”? Ask your child if they see any benefit in the PTA and if you should be a member. Has your child ever come home smiling from a PTA sponsored event? We’ve all heard the expression “It takes a village,” but not enough of us are willing to be that village. We as a community should be looking at more ways to come together and connect and support each other and each other’s efforts rather than tear each other down. The people who always volunteer at each school, who are always putting themselves out there must be getting tired of carrying the weight for the rest of us. Not only are they not recognized as the powerhouses they are, but they are constantly being questioned on the hard decisions they make. Even the $2 ones.

Mary Meddahi