In Smithtown, one Parent Teacher Association just wouldn't cut it, but 15?
It's true. The Smithtown School District is home to 15 separate PTA groups, one for each school and one for Special Education, and each has their own executive board.
"Our system has to be the way it is so that each school and its needs get represented," said Kathy Rocca, High School West PTA president. "The 15 groups know really well what is going on in each of their schools and can bring that information to the council and the district. We are a sounding board between parents and the administration."
In addition to the 15 PTAs, there is also the Smithtown PTA Council which serves all the local units by addressing the organization's larger needs.
"The role of the PTA council is to unite all of the PTAs and to help collaboration occur between the schools and the school district," said Debbie Mahoney, executive president of the Smithtown Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Council. The council does not generally engage in separate fundraising activities.
Each month, each school PTA meets and then the individual PTAs send representatives to the monthly council meeting, where school administrators are present. In addition, Superintendent Ed Ehmann holds monthly meetings with the PTAs to address concerns and share ideas, according to Mahoney.
The individual school PTAs have initiated may different programs and activities in the district. This past year, the groups focused their attention on health and wellness of the neighborhood children and sponsored walk-a-thons, "germ buster" programs and released information about nutritional information.
The PTAs also participate in traditional fundraising activities, like box tops for education and both high schools hold a fashion show in March to benefit district arts programs. Additionally, there is a committee dedicated to funding annual college scholarships. That committee secured a partnership with the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts and now $3 per ticket purchased at the Center will go to the college fund.
The PTA members are also committed to having their voice heard politically.
"We participate in many different letter-writing campaigns to the state and have written about topics that range from No Child Left Behind to charter school establishment," Mahoney said.
Mahoney became involved in the PTA after deciding to leave her full-time job in New York City to stay home with her two children.
"I was used to going constantly and felt it was important to get involved," she said.
Mahoney and the PTA presidents encourage parents to join the PTA and stay informed about what is going on in the schools.
"It's simple, when you are involved, your children fare better in school," she said. "Everything we do, all the money raised is used for the children."