(Release from Communities in Schools of Rome-Floyd County):

A strong functioning PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) is vital in the engagement between parents and teachers to directly fuel the enrichment of their children and their students’ educational experience.

Communities In Schools of Rome-Floyd County recognizes the importance of the parent-teacher relationship and the impact that PTO initiatives have on the success of students.

On Wednesday March 16, CIS presented four Rome City Schools – Rome, GA with a mini grant in effort to support the initiatives and programs put on by each school’s PTO.

East Central, West Central, Elm Street and West End Elementary Schools were each chosen to receive the mini grant in the amount of $500.

“We know that parental support and parental engagement is so important for student success, so we wanted to shift this year and give the grant to PTO,” CIS Executive Director Gregory Wooten said. “We wanted to embolden and empower them to carry out some of the good things they’re trying to implement on a school level to help students.”

Elm Street Principal Laura Walley explained that they will utilize the mini grant funds to continue to implement their House System.

“Our House System is an all-inclusive program where all students belong to a House. It creates a sense of belonging and advocacy within the school.”

“We present students and all adults in the building with a free house T-shirt at the beginning of the year as a way for us to celebrate House pride throughout the school year,” she explained. “So this grant is going to be used to help fund those T-shirts.”

West End Principal, Dr. Dennis Drummond, explained, “Our money is going to be used to support our parent engagement nights. We’re focused on re-engaging our parents after the COVID pandemic and getting them back in the building. We’ve done things this year like Bingo for Books and we had a Wild About Reading night where we had a Safari theme and kids went on Safari for more books.”

Drummond added, “We can’t enjoy the success we have without the support of our families and the support of our community. We want to thank Mr. Wooten for his leadership and partnership on these great endeavors.”

Drummond went on to explained that WEE will also host an event in April, called Let Your Light Shine. He said that the event will involve showing off all the students’ work for the year with an art show. “So, all of our money is going to be going toward those parent engagement and outreach programs,” he said.

Wooten explained that the mini grant was open to all RCS schools and each school had to go through an application process.

“They had to tell us their overall plan,” Wooten said, “and then specifically how they wanted to use the money. They also needed to explain what population the grant would serve and how many it would serve.”

Erin Hall, teacher and PTO president at West Central, can attest to just how significant the funds are to the students. She said that when West Central applied for the grant, their vision was to add to their playground for recess time.

“When I left today, I told my fifth graders that I was going to accept a check and that we were going to get new soccer balls and basketballs and soccer goals. You would have thought they won the lottery,” she smiled.

Hall explained that currently her students play soccer with imaginary goals and sometimes the soccer balls aren’t completely inflated.

“They never complain,” she said. “They use what they have. So it was really exciting to see their excitement about things that might seem small but are so big to them.”

The grant may be called “mini,” but the impact is grand.

“I think it just shows the truth in the statement that it takes a village to raise a child,” Walley said. “It takes all partners within our community to help our initiatives inside the school, whether that’s funding or supporting students through different academic programs, or volunteering. We certainly want our community to feel like they’re welcome in our schools.”

CIS provides RCS with support beyond funding. Superintendent Louis Byars explained that CIS is embedded in the system as they offer their services daily through the mentorship and support of their site coordinator at the Phoenix Performance Learning Center.

Byars expressed his gratitude for this extra support that CIS offers the system.

“There are certain things that we can’t fund with tax dollars,” he explained, “so this helps a lot of our schools accelerate specific projects that need to be done. I appreciate the willingness of Communities In Schools and Mr. Wooten to help get these projects done.”

Wooten explained that the grant was offered to guidance counselors last year. When considering where to offer grant funds, he explained that CIS looks at the school system as a whole.

“With a lot of the things we do we focus on non-academic barriers because we know that sometimes non-academic barriers affect the academic success of the students,” he said.

CIS focuses on engaging students with services like mentorship and events like the Cardboard Challenge, currently underway in all Rome City schools. The Cardboard Challenge uses STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to encourage innovation and creativity in students as they are challenged with a mission to use recyclable materials to build structures.

From the classroom setting to the impact of counselors, to the involvement of PTO, CIS pays attention to everything.

“We just feel like these are very worthwhile endeavors,” Wooten smiled.