PTSO promotes healthy school environment

Juniors+in+math+teacher+JB+Campbell%E2%80%99s+Accelerated+Pre-Calculus+class+experiment+with+the+new+Kindle+Fires+provided+to+the+math+department+by+the+PTSO.+Every+year%2C+the+PTSO+provides+material+to+teachers+who+requests+for+mini-grants.+

JB Campbell

Juniors in math teacher JB Campbell’s Accelerated Pre-Calculus class experiment with the new Kindle Fires provided to the math department by the PTSO. Every year, the PTSO provides material to teachers who requests for mini-grants.

Spencer Dawson, Features co-Editor

During the school day, students only see teachers and administration in the classrooms and halls. However, the faculty only scratches the surface of the dedicated individuals who commit their time toward the betterment of student education.

Behind the scenes, through the Parent-Teacher-Student Organization, parent volunteers go above and beyond in order to make it a great day at the Mill. “I really do appreciate all the PTSO does for the school as well as the faculty,” English teacher Lela Crowder said.

The PTSO supports teachers, students and administrators in all areas of academic success. It is composed of five executive officer positions that include a president, two vice-presidents, a secretary and a treasurer.

In addition, there are five special committees with one or more chairpersons per committee. These committees are teacher appreciation, office volunteers, communication, scholarship and special events.  

“The mission of the PTSO is to support Starr’s Mill faculty, administration and students with programs and continued growth opportunities that will allow Starr’s Mill to remain a top-tier school in all areas including academics, athletics, and the arts,” president Mary Wernecke said.  

‘The mission of the PTSO is to support Starr’s Mill faculty, administration and students with programs and continued growth opportunities that will allow Starr’s Mill to remain a top-tier school…’”

— Mary Wernecke

Every year, the PTSO provides needed items in the classroom to teachers who submit requests for mini-grants. “Through the annual family and faculty membership drive held each August,” Wernecke said, “which is our only fundraiser, PTSO provides supplementary funds for instructional tools and educational enhancements that would otherwise not be possible through general funding.”

This school year, they funded approximately $4,600 of teacher requests, which provided the school with non-mercury and infrared thermometers, electronic balances, digital balances and ice melting blocks for the science department.

The PTSO also funded graphing calculators, printers, DVDs, teaching flashcards, a video camera, headsets, and additional items for English, ESOL, Foreign Language, and Special Education departments.

Twenty-four Kindle Fire tablets were also purchased for the math department. “The devices generate a great deal of excitement among the students,” calculus teacher J.B. Campbell said. “The possibilities of the lessons we could teach on the devices will be great once we gain some more time with them.”

The PTSO also puts a major emphasis on giving back to the faculty and staff at the Mill through teacher appreciation. Tammy Pattison, Ann Buck and Deborah Payne serve as the co-committee chairs for teacher appreciation.

“I am so incredibly fortunate because I work with two amazing women, Ann Buck and Deborah Payne, who make chairing the Teacher Appreciation Committee incredibly easy,” Pattison said. “Things are always easier when functioning as a team and that is exactly what we are. Not only do the three of us work together to co-chair the committee, we have phenomenal parents who jump at the chance to help us show support, encouragement and love to the staff at the Mill.”

Pattison decided to focus her attention on Teacher Appreciation in her last two years of having a child at the Mill. “I am a firm believer that we need to support and encourage our teachers and administrators,” Pattison said. “The personnel at the school are entrusted with the care and instruction of our children for approximately 1/3 of the day.  If they feel their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated, I believe their commitment to excellence will only grow.”

Starting this school year, the PTSO started a theme of “A Hydrated Teacher is a Happy Teacher.” They supplied the school with a water filtration system to give teachers access to cold, filtered water.

“Staying hydrated is truly an important part of a healthy body and mind,” Pattison said. “We thought if we could bring back this filtered water for the teachers, it would be a constant reminder that the PTSO cares, and the response has been incredibly positive.”

Additional goodies and events include holiday luncheons, small “pick me up” gifts in teacher boxes, Christmas gift wrapping services, soup and salad lunches and a spring break survival kit which included a Starr’s Mill water bottle. “I look forward to the events the PTSO hosts, especially the soup and salad luncheon because it has such a personal touch,” Crowder said.

Other parents can volunteer in these events by providing food or preparing the gifts. “The ironic thing is when we plan an “appreciation” event,” Pattison said. “For example ,the Christmas luncheon, I end up being more encouraged than anyone because the parents of our SMHS students immediately respond when asked to pitch in and bring things or serve.”

Mary Wernecke, president of the PTSO, presents the $1000 PTSO Scholarship to this year’s recipient during Honor’s Night on May 2. Besides scholarships, the PTSO supports the Mill through parent volunteers, teacher appreciation, and mini-grants for classroom materials.
Paula O’Shields
Mary Wernecke, president of the PTSO, presents the $1000 PTSO Scholarship to this year’s recipient during Honor’s Night on May 2. Besides scholarships, the PTSO supports the Mill through parent volunteers, teacher appreciation, and mini-grants for classroom materials.

The PTSO rely on parent support since their funds do not come from fundraising events. “Most of our funds come from families and teachers paying PTSO dues at the beginning of each school year,” secretary Debbie Davis said.   

Student success and well-being is also an important factor in in the PTSO. Every year, $3,750 worth of scholarships are awarded to seniors during Honor’s Night  by the PTSO. This year, Victoria Alvarez won the $1,000 PTSO Scholarship, Dylan Oden won the $1,250 Audrey Toney Honorary Scholarship and Maddie Beatty won the $1,500 Sam Sweat Honorary Scholarship. This year, the prompt for the seniors asked them to choose their most influential teacher and write about the effect these teachers had on them.

“Once the topic is approved by our PTSO Board, I announce the guidelines of our scholarship by distributing flyers to the seniors, broadcasting it on the morning announcements, and publicizing it in our newsletter,” PTSO committee chair for scholarships Lynda Poole said.  

Alvarez and Oden both wrote about psychology teacher Sean Hickey, and Beatty chose biology teacher Kelly Rock.

The process of selecting the winners of the essay contest begin months before the Honor’s Night. In January, Poole began recruiting the judges for scoring the essays: one SMHS parent, one SMHS teacher, and one other Fayette County teacher. “After collecting the completed rubrics from our judges, I tabulate the results, and the winners are announced at Honors Night in May,” Poole said.

Whether it be student success or teacher appreciation, the PTSO has dedicated countless hours for the betterment of the school. This committed PTSO team has enjoyed working with each other while improving the environment of the school. “I have enjoyed working with so many dedicated and talented individuals who want to work together to help make our school the very best it can be,” Wernecke said.