EHS parent involvement encouraged with PTSO

Enumclaw High School Principal Jill Burnes would like to see her school’s PTSO become as strong as those found at the district’s elementary schools.

Elementary schools have active PTAs with parents who help in classroom, chaperone field trips, organize assemblies, head fundraisers, stuff mailers and a host of other things.

By middle school those parents start stepping away and by high school, they’re gone.

Tim Nickson agreed.

“I was a bit aghast when I came on board there were no parental groups anywhere but at the elementary level,” said Nickson, an Enumclaw School Board member who has helped launch similar programs at Thunder Mountain and Enumclaw middle schools. Nickson said his role with this PTSO has been more facilitator and paper-pusher, helping the group set up its bylaws and getting its nonprofit status.

The last time EHS started a similar organization was about 10 years ago.

Starting a parent-teacher-student organization, Burnes hopes, will be the start of change.

The relatively small group has been meeting since spring with its top priority this fall to communicate better.

“That’s always the goal,” Burnes said. “How do we build a stronger partnership between school and home? And how can we help each other out?”

Burnes said there are tools in place to help – Family Access, School Messenger, the weekly bulletin – but the group is looking at ways to increase and improve the conversations between school and home.

The group’s first step is to revamp the EHS website and they are looking for volunteers with experience in that area.

Parents will be able to get more information, or volunteer, Thursday and Friday during EHS Hornet Days. The PTSO is also hosting a 7 p.m. Sept. 13 meeting at the high school. From there on out, the group plans to meet the fourth Tuesday of each month.

Everyone is welcome, said Ramsey Graham, who is currently serving as PTSO secretary, who has two students at the high school. The group is looking for a broad spectrum of participants – parents, students, teachers from diverse backgrounds, ethnicity and programs.

Involvement can be as complex as overseeing the website to as simple as chaperoning a Friday night dance.

“It is definitely in the beginning process,” Graham said.

In addition to improving communication, PTSO leaders plan to educate parents and students on post-high school opportunities by building up EHS’s career center and its activities.

Another challenge, Burnes said, is boosting school climate, especially for staff.

Elementary PTAs, she noted, are big on teacher appreciation. High school teachers, she smiled, aren’t usually FEELING THE LOVE.

Graham said interest has been positive and the group also plans to get behind the school district’s Rachel’s Challenge movement.

“We as parents can be a driving force in changing the culture environment at the school,” Graham said. “The PTSO can be a driving force in supporting all the wonderful things that can come out of Rachel’s Challenge.”

“We’re looking more to be a project or workshop-based group,” said Nickson, who has a senior at EHS.

Nickson said there are a number of people who can give two hours a year. His expanded vision would be to get community members involved as well. He said the community is filled with people who have special skills and knowledge they can be used to enrich the classroom and guide youth.