BLANCHARD — Montabella Elementary School Principal Michael Moore has seen a lot of growth in his four years as principal when it comes to parent involvement.
Since the 2010-2011 school year, Montabella Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) has grown from a meeting of four or five people to a board of seven members and parent attendees.
Another area of parent involvement is through the student council, which parent-volunteer Wendy Binge runs.
“We don’t have to pay anybody on staff, and it’s the first time in all of the schools I’ve worked in that I’ve had a parent volunteer take on that much,” Moore said.
Parent Teacher Organization growth
PTO was struggling when Eylie Foster was elected as president in 2010. There was $500 in the budget and little involvement.
“I can remember being in school and my mom was involved in PTO, as well. I would go to the meetings, and there would be so many parents there,” Foster said. “When I joined and it was only board members showing up, we had to fix it.”
At one meeting, Foster ordered pizza to entice parents to come out, but she said the main problem with the lack of participation was a lack of understanding and conversations about what PTO does.
As PTO started growing, word was able to get out that events such as the mother-son banquet, daddy-daughter dance and a carnival.
“It’s kind of always been there, but it was never been able to shine because no one ever talked about it,” Foster said.
PTO doesn’t just put on big events. Each year, they spent around $5,000 for Chromebooks to give to the school. They purchase a book for every student every Christmas, and every other year, they purchase a book for every student in March to celebrate March is Reading Month. They also donate money to fund field trips, concerts and field day.
PTO currently has a fund balance of approximately $20,000 — a big increase from the $500 Foster had to work with back in 2011. Now that they have a stable fund balance, they’re hoping to start limiting fundraisers.
“We’re looking at one or two fundraisers that aren’t selling popcorn, selling cookie dough and the standard. We’re trying to go more toward the carnival and like a walkathon being our two fundraisers,” Moore said. “We feel like sometimes we nickel and dime the community because we’re such a small school.”
Foster expects there to be hurdles and negativity to overcome along the way along with the added challenge of her time as PTO president nearing its end.
Foster’s daughter will start seventh grade in 2018, which means a new president will begin his or her term.
Foster admits she is anxious about the transition but plans to serve as co-president with her successor to make the transition smoother.
“I’m hoping for a new positive year next year. I’m hoping we can work through some struggles as far as fundraising,” Foster said. “I’ve always told the girls because I’m going to the middle school doesn’t mean I’ll be that far away. I’ll still be around.”
Binge and the 10 fifth- and sixth-graders who make up the elementary school student council were looking for a way to give back to their community.
“The kids at Montabella, we have a need for help. They decided they wanted to start up a food pantry,” Binge said. “I thought it was awesome because I know that we have some families that don’t have the food supply that a lot of us have access it was nice to be able to help them.”
The food pantry started in November. The student council made signs and set up donation locations in Blanchard, Edmore and Six Lakes.
Binge said they’ve had a positive response from the community and have received generous donations. The student council has used those donations and cash donations to provide hot meals over Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
“We’ve had a wonderful turnout. We’ve had wonderful donations, and we’re excited,” Binge said.
When school is in session, the students’ food pantry provides for three to four families every week. Binge said she hopes to expand as the need arises.
Students are also part of delivering the food. Once a week, students help load up the van and go with Moore to deliver the food to the families in need.
Donations have stocked the food pantry with canned and boxed food items as well as hygiene items and baby food.
“Hygiene can be an expensive area for families … so we try to keep that in stock and always deliver some to the families,” Moore said. “We have baby food as well because it’s not just about the kids that go to school here. Many of the families have younger kids at home.”
Those wishing to donate to the food pantry can leave items at any of the drop-off locations or stop by Montabella Elementary School (1456 E. North County Line Road, Blanchard).