The PTAs won the 2014-2016 School of Excellence award from the National PTA after spending a year increasing membership and putting on numerous fundraisers for students.
Both school principals said they were excited, but not surprised, to receive the award after seeing the hundreds of active PTA members at each school.
Linda Keeney, principal at King Springs in Smyrna, said she was honored her school was recognized by the National PTA.
“I was not surprised because I know how strong our PTA is, but it was still a wow factor,” Keeney said. “You know your PTA is good, but this gives it a wow factor.”
The Cobb elementary schools were two of 170 schools across the nation that received the award out of 314 applicants.
The award is given to PTA groups that succeed in supporting student success, speaking up for students and helping parents be a part of the decision-making process at the school, according to the National PTA.
Amanda Richie, principal of Brumby Elementary School, said members of her school’s PTA were advocates of rebuilding the school. The construction of a new school was approved by the Cobb Board of Education in March.
Parents attended every board meeting from August 2013 to March 2014 to share their concerns and suggestions for a new school, Richie said.
“(Parents) were a true liaison between the school and the (school board),” Richie said.
Construction of a new school is scheduled to begin in 2016 or 2017, said Cobb Interim Superintendent Chris Ragsdale.
The district purchased a 35-acre property on Terrell Mill Road earlier this year to build the new school.
Brumby is in Marietta near the intersection of Terrell Mill and Powers Ferry roads.
Brumby has 1,042 students enrolled, but its capacity is 751 students. Its student body is 59 percent black, 23 percent Hispanic and 7 percent white, said Jay Dillon, district spokesman.
Brumby has a 45 percent transiency rate with 83 percent of the student body enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, Dillon said.
Brumby PTA Vice President Capocein King of Marietta said the group’s main goal is to help every student with whatever they need, whether it be food, clothes or help with schoolwork.
“The majority of our kids here get free lunch and things like that,” King said. “A lot of the kids here are in a single-family household so they need a little help. If we see something, we do something.”
King said one of the most successful programs at the school helps students with their reading skills.
“During lunchtime for any grade, (parents) come in and sit with the children. Each volunteer will bring a child their lunch, and they’ll read a book to the child,” King said. “We do have kids who struggle and there are things outside of what our teachers and parapros can do. We have a lot of single-family households in this school, so it helps us out a great deal.”
King, who also works as a paraprofessional special education teacher at Brumby, said her goal for the PTA is to make school a fun and inviting place for students because it’s where they spend most of their day.
“Our No. 1 goal is to get the parents and the teachers involved with the students and for all of us to work as one unit, and that’s how we’re able to reach our goal to make sure it’s a great environment for the student,” King said.
Richie said she is amazed at the work she sees from the 400 parent members of the PTA.
“All of our parents are working parents. Some work two and three jobs and still find the time to help volunteer,” Richie said.
King Springs PTA raises money for iPads
Tracey Santos of Smyrna, a co-president of the King Springs PTA, said her organization has more than 400 parent members. “We are very excited and very proud, and it just represents what an awesome school we are,” Santos said of the recent distinction.
“Some of the feedback that we had gotten in previous years was that we needed to have more family engagement in the school, and I think we’ve responded to that.”
King Springs is in Smyrna, near the intersection of South Cobb Drive and King Springs Road.
King Springs has 838 students enrolled, but its capacity is 558 students. Its student body is 45 percent white, 33 percent black and 11 percent Hispanic, Dillon said.
The transiency rate at King Springs is 22 percent, and 36 percent of the student body are in the free and reduced lunch program, Dillon said.
Santos said in the six years she has been a member of the school’s PTA, she watched it become more and more successful.
“Each year, the PTA has grown and the involvement has grown, and it has become more and more of a group organization … and you share the wealth, and you share the fun and you share the volunteer hours,” King said. “The parents also get involved with other parents and lean on other parents, and if you have a question about your child’s homework you can reach out and say, ‘Help me with the homework for my son. We’re a little stuck.’”
Santos, who also works as the director of the Communications, Networks and Electronics Division of the Scientific Research Corporation, said she has been working with the PTA to incorporate new technology into classrooms.
The PTA raised $36,000 in cash last year and the group spent it to buy 70 iPads so teachers could use new technology in their lessons.
“People are looking at other schools around the area, and they want our school to be as good, if not better than the other schools,” Santos said. “(Parents) want us to do our best to acquire technology in the schools because they want their students to get exposed to it as early as possible.”
Jennifer Williams of Smyrna, who is a co-president and works as a state tax manager at Gentiva Health Services, said the PTA raised $25,000 from August 2013 to May 2014 at school events.
At one silent auction, Keeney said she sold her parking spot, reserved for the principal, for $1,000. The winner was allowed to park in her spot during PTA meetings and events, where an open spot is almost impossible to find, she said.
“It’s just amazing how many people come (to PTA meetings),” Keeney said.
Keeney said the school often invites members of the chorus, drama and band to perform at the meetings.
Keeney said there are quite a few students with parents who don’t have full-time jobs, but she also invites all parents with a few minutes of free time to help the school.
“It’s not just that group (of stay-at-home parents) who volunteer,” Keeney said. “I think you have to get everybody. You’ve got to find something for them to help with, no matter if it’s five minutes. We want to be inclusive of all parents at the school.”