Chattanooga School Helps Another

A Chattanooga school with a surplus of parent volunteers is sharing with a school that doesn’t have enough.

The Parent-Teacher Association at Ganns Middle Valley Elementary School said it received volunteer applications from 300 parents this year. East Lake Elementary School, which restarted its PTA last year, has attracted about 12 members including teachers.\

After hearing about the struggles at East Lake, PTA officials at Ganns asked their parents to help.

Once a month, parents from Ganns travel about 20 miles to East Lake to help teachers with tasks such as copying, stapling and laminating.

“We just take some of the stress off teachers,” said parent Mendi Catlett. “The teachers really need to have time to teach.”

But in 2012, they hope to do more.

Catlett said the PTA at Ganns, which has 500 members, wants to adopt the East Lake PTA and help it increase membership and involvement.    ”It’s time to take care of the community,” said Catlett, a former PTA president at Ganns. “Everybody wants to complain about inner-city schools. But nobody wants to be part of the solution.”    Most PTA members volunteer at the school their children attend, but Catlett said she thinks more people would assist at any school if they understood how to get involved.    Catlett suggested that other successful PTAs could also help inner-city schools and struggling parent groups.    ”That makes all the children of Hamilton County more successful instead of just one specific school,” she said.    East Lake family partnership specialist E’tienne Easley said parents are starting to become more involved as they learn more about the PTA, which was defunct for more than 10 years before it started up again last year.    ”It’s not about not having a big heart,” she said. “It’s about not even knowing there’s a need in the first place.”    Easley said she hopes East Lake parents will learn from Ganns parents how easy it is to help.    ”I think it will show parents that volunteering time doesn’t take a lot,” she said. “It doesn’t require a whole, whole bunch of time.”    She said East Lake is working to remove barriers that some parents have – it now allows parents to bring in pre-school age children when they volunteer. The school is also trying to better communicate its needs.    Tracey Korynas, PTA president at East Lake, said some parents want to help, but don’t have transportation. She says a high poverty level may also hamper volunteers.    More than 95 percent of students at East Lake are impoverished, according to the Tennessee Report Card. Meanwhile, at Ganns, the number of impoverished children is about 50 percent.    Even so, Korynas said she thinks better communication will lead to more assistance.    ”And it’s not just parents and teachers,” she said. “It’s for anybody who wants to do something for that school and be involved.”

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