COVID-19 not slowing down Lovett, Eastside PTO duo

 

Amy Lenoir and Tammie Stephens are no strangers to the Clinton Public School District’s Parent-Teacher Organization. Stephens, who heads up the Lovett Elementary School PTO, spent the last two school years as PTO President at Eastside Elementary School, aided by Amy Lenoir, her vice president.

When Stephens’s children advanced to sixth grade and began attend- ing Lovett, she took on the top volunteer job, and Lenoir stepped up to fill her shoes at Eastside.

 

“I had agreed to be [Lovett] PTO President before COVID-19,” Stephens recalled, but she and Lenoir did not look back when it became apparent that the 2020-21 school year would be a year like no other. Even when Stephens and her husband decided it would be best for their kids to start the year as virtual students, Stephens didn’t miss a beat. Their work at remodeling the Parent-Teacher Organizations to better serve parents during this unprecedented time began this past summer with registration.

 

“I’m a nurse,” Lenoir said, “so I had reservations about bringing parents in to volunteer [to work at registration]. I didn’t want parents get- ting exposed to eight hundred people in two days.”

 

Pictured (l to r) are Lovett PTO President Tammie Stephens, Eastside Principal Mandy Taylor, and Eastside PTO President (and Lovett PTO Vice-President) Amy Lenoir.

To combat this potential exposure, Lenoir and her team created registration packets that included QR codes for the PTO’s PayPal account and Facebook page and order forms for masks, t-shirts and yearbooks, citing the importance of meeting fundraising goals in order to implement their plans for the year.

 

According to Eastside’s principal, Mandy Taylor, the PTO’s plans for the year are intended to keep the learning environment as normal as possible for students and teachers alike, despite the differences in instructional methods.

 

“When we have virtual students, they’re logging into live instruction,” Taylor remarked. “They’re getting lessons equal to what in-person kids are getting.” Lenoir has endeavored to keep the treatment of the parents of in-per- son and virtual learners equal, as well, granting access to the PTO’s Facebook group to all interested parents.

The Clinton resident uses the Facebook page to disseminate information to parents and to solicit volunteers to donate items for school events.

“There’s not a whole lot that we’re able to do in person right now,” Lenoir acknowledged, but interested parents have been able to contribute canned drinks or other sealed items to morale-boosting meals for teachers.

“Teachers have been fabulous and willing to teach whomever they need to. It’s shown me how committed they are,” Taylor said of her teachers and of the PTO’s effort to acknowledge their hard work.

Eastside’s PTO has also attempted to provide rewards to its successful students; and, despite the fact that large-scale events are no longer as possible as they were in years past, Lenoir and her team have worked to provide smaller events for individual classes. “We’ve gotten creative,” Taylor commented.

Lovett Elementary School, too, has been inventive in its commitment to serve parents and teachers. Lovett Principal Dr. Mike Pope requested that most of the PTO’s efforts for the 2020-21 school year focus on boosting teacher morale, as teachers in the district are currently negotiating a hybrid learning plan, with students attending school in two separate groups on different days during the week, along with some students electing to complete all of their work virtually (online) via district-provided iPads.

Students designated as “Team Clinton” are in school buildings or on Zoom on Mondays and Tuesdays, and students identified as “Team Arrows” are in person or Zoom learners on Thursdays and Fridays. On the other days, students have online work.

“It’s going to be a tough year for teachers, since [what we’re ask- ing them to do] is all new to them,” Pope noted.

Since Lovett is a single-grade school, fundraising has traditionally been difficult, but Pope and Stephens both remarked that they were making that work to their advantage this year.

“We’re still selling [school-centered] merchandise,” Stephens confirmed. For the parents of virtual students who contribute to the school’s fundraising campaign by purchasing these items, Stephens quite literally goes the extra mile, offering to deliver the products to individual homes.

“I’ll leave things on the porch or ‘mask up’ in the car if people want to come outside,” Stephens said. Stephens attempts to bring this consideration into other areas of the PTO’s involvement, offering PTO meetings via Zoom and using the group’s Facebook page multiple times per day to keep parents informed of upcoming dates and to help them navigate the year’s unique schedule.

“We don’t want anybody to feel excluded. They need something to feel normal,” Stephens said. The Lovett PTO is bringing this normalcy to its teachers by providing meals and various other “happies,” such as snacks, nice notes or soft drinks. By providing smaller but more frequent offerings for the faculty rather than its typical large-scale events, Stephens and her team are able to work within the confines of the allotted budget, which is raised by volunteers’ donations and support of designated fundraisers.

Stephens and Lenoir don’t use the PTOs’ Facebook pages only for PTO information, either. Instead, they also employ the platform to help communicate school and districtwide information to parents in this time of new and rapidly changing schedules.

In addition, the ladies monitor their pages to help parents who have school-related questions get answers, even if the question isn’t directly related to the PTO.

“It’s pretty simple. We want to help our schools’ administration communicate with parents in any way we can. We want to show our teachers how much we support them, and we want all parents to be informed and involved, no matter whether their child is in-person schooling this year or virtual schooling.

We’re all in this together,” said Stephens.

By Taylor McKay Hathorn

tel:18775791768

 

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