PTA at Coronado: From invisible to indispensable

       Until last year, Coronado High had gotten along without a Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) for “at least 20 years,” according to Nora Brown. “No one knew it had ever existed.”
       Brown helped bring the PTA back to Coronado last year, and now its involvement is such that a casual observer might wonder how the school ever got along without it. Indeed, Principal Susan Humphrey described the PTA as having “no downside” because the increased parental involvement (a Coronado goal in itself) has boosted school sports, the arts and learning in general. The PTA has produced school marketing documents (such as the Homecoming program), organized a career fair, built alumni support and lightened the staff/student non-academic load by taking on thankless chores ranging from hanging coats at the Homecoming Dance to hawking school merchandise at events.
       Getting a PTA started at Coronado wasn't easy for Brown last year. Many teachers and students were skeptical. Although prevalent at nearly all elementaries and many middle schools, PTA is rare in high schools. Humphrey could only think of one other high school in the area that has one.
       But Brown, who had volunteered in PTAs as well as Building Accountability and Advisory Committees (BAACs) while her two daughters were in elementary and middle school, saw no reason to terminate organized parental support just because they'd reached high school, she explained in a recent interview. (One is a junior, the other a freshman.)
       At the same time, Brown tried to be realistic. “We had to redefine what PTA should be like,” she explained in a recent interview. Noting that by high school “kids are taking more of a leadership role,” she said the association at that level focuses on “more mature topics,” including careers (with parents potentially serving as examples), suicide prevention, drug/alcohol awareness and enrichment opportunities.
       From a purely academic standpoint, the clearest indication of PTA help can be seen in teacher Ken Lippincott's ninth-grade honors English class.
       Even though his students are “high-achieving,” Lippincott said he “found they had a relative weakness in capitalization, punctuation and parts of speech. But when you have to focus on those areas, you don't get to upper-level grammar.”
       That's where the PTA came riding to the rescue. Lippincott developed a “lunch-hour clinic” in which about 15 parent volunteers walk students, one-on-one, through curriculum materials he developed. “It's worked well,” Lippincott said. “I'm really grateful for the help. It means I can get into parts of the curriculum I don't normally get to teach.”
       What he and the PTA would like to do now, possibly as early as next semester, is offer the same assistance to his 10th and 11th grade honors students, many of whom are also weak on English fundamentals, he said.
       Lippincott is not the only teacher who's starting to look to the PTA. After the initial reluctance in 2005-06, “this year we've had teachers coming to us,” Brown said. “It's exciting. We have so many great parents that want to be involved. It's good for the kids to see that parents value school and education.”
       Overall, she said, the Coronado PTA's membership has grown 33 percent this year. Out of the 140 total, 59 are teachers and staff.
       Both Brown and Principal Humphrey see an impact beyond just the school. “How students do affects the whole community,” Brown said.
       Added Humphrey: “The more we come together for the good of students, the stronger the community becomes.”

Westside Pioneer article