Volunteers welcome

Volunteering in schools goes well beyond buying cupcakes for parties.

A pair of stories in the Reporter about parents’ involvement in schools is yet another example of the high value this community places on education.

A story published in the Reporter last week described parents helping elementary school teachers with large classes. But Mercer Island school PTA’s have long marshalled forces to help out at school in dozens of important ways. Parents and family members are on hand to conduct enrichment activities, give students some one-on-one attention or tutoring and perform a myriad of duties to free up teachers for other tasks.

In a story about school listservs in this issue, parent involvement is again apparent. School listservs are a compilation of parent and family e-mail addresses where families can be contacted in the event of an emergency at school. Working with the schools, parents have again stepped up — this time to improve the emergency contact system.

In the past, the PTAs have maintained what is termed ‘phone-trees’ where parents spread the word by phone in the event of an emergency. Though seldom needed, the telephone system for the most part worked well. On days when there is a possibility of snow, most families know to check the television or radio for news on closures or late starts. But for crises that happen in the middle of the day, such as when a Lakeridge girl was kidnapped from her busstop or when a gun was brought to the middle school, accurate as well as timely information is crucial.

And there are other benefits in having volunteers at school.

By working within the schools, parents — who are more often than not skilled professionals themselves — become informed about the issues facing schools. As a result, these volunteers move into helping at another level. They organize campaigns to work for school levy passage, help interview candidates for school administrators, write grants and do what they can to lobby state legislators to increase school funding.

Schools, students and the community all benefit from these volunteers. We thank them.

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