Since the New York State Parent Teacher Association mandated that the Lawrence Middle School PTA be dissolved earlier this year, some middle school parents and other community members have been scrambling to keep school activities going.
According to some parents, the PTA was disbanded because the group didn’t follow PTA guidelines, and there were financial problems. What, exactly, occurred remains unclear. The state PTA’s executive director, Kyle Belokopitsky, and Nassau PTA Region Director Lynn Petrofsky responded identically in emails: “We do not comment on internal PTA matters.”
To help ensure that middle school students — especially eighth-graders, who are expected to graduate next June — still have the activities that traditionally accompany the school year, Principal Willis Perry and several parents, led by Sarah Hayes and Ilyssha Shivers, are aiming to “keep things flowing,” according to Hayes.
Roughly 10 parents gathered on Nov. 26, after the middle school’s Thanksgiving feast, for what was called the first “parents circle” meeting. “We need to know that whether we are a PTO, we will continue to work as a group,” said Hayes, the mother of a ninth-, sixth- and first-grader, referring to an independent parent-teacher organization. “. . . It has to be a group. No one person can take it on themselves.”
Hayes said she paid her $10 PTA dues last school year, and attended a couple of meetings. After that, no other meetings were held, but she doesn’t know why. “There’s always a different story,” she said. “I don’t want to waste my time with that.”
On Oct. 26, the night of parent-teacher conferences, Hayes said, roughly a half-dozen parents attended what she called a “community meeting” at the middle school. “I walked up and down the hallways, so I could get a list of parents [interested in either a PTA or a PTO], so kids don’t miss out on stuff.”
A month later, after the parents circle meeting, Hayes listed seven points that the group had discussed in a post on the Lawrence Middle School Facebook Group page. Along with debating whether they should form a PTO or seek reinstatement as a PTA, they sought to compile a list of 45 parents who might want to be involved; talked about a possible new fundraiser; and discussed activities such as the principal challenge, the principal breakfast and the eighth-grade trip as well as the Respect, Integrity, Caring and Honesty, or RICH, program, which aims to increase student self-esteem and eliminate bullying. Other topics included the possibility of holding a free book fair with the Book Fairies, a nonprofit organization that collects reading materials for people in need throughout the metropolitan area, and eighth-grade math and science.
“It’s not fair to this graduating glass to be without a parent support group to help raise funds and organize events,” said Shivers, the father of an eighth-grader. “These children will not be able to have some of the things that make your final year of middle school a year to remember.” He listed dances, the trip and yearbooks as some of the activities that create lasting memories.
Hayes and Shivers said that the parents emailed the state PTA to request reinstatement, but their request was denied. “At this time the state and regional PTA regret that it is not feasible to charter a unit,” New York State PTA Outreach Coordinator Patricia Frazier responded. “Our decision does not prevent you from exploring other options.”
“It was suggested that we start a parent group,” Shivers said, “and maybe after a year we can ask that our request be reviewed.”
Hayes said she anticipated that another parents circle meeting would be held next month, and that they planned to meet with Perry in March.