In November 2021, three leaders from the Utah Parent Teacher Association came to Helen M. Knight Elementary to talk with parents about the benefit of having a PTA in the school. They presented to an audience of four parents.
Despite the low attendance at that first meeting, the parents present jumped right in. They were emboldened by the idea that through a PTA, parents can provide an official support network for teachers, and subsequently for students. PTAs can organize field trips, fun runs, book fairs and parent volunteering—“a PTA will mobilize the volunteer potential of the parents and provide opportunities for students,” said Stacey Mollinet, president of the Utah PTA.
“We have some real needs,” Raegan Rice, a parent of two students, said at the November meeting. She listed the need for more reading programs and new toys, especially for students with disabilities. The parents spent over an hour and a half discussing the benefits of having a PTA and left with a mission to form one.
As of Feb. 3, HMK Elementary officially has a PTA with over 31 members.
Rice was elected president, to no surprise. She is humble but determined, a mother who understands that her children will learn the most if both she and her kids’ teachers care about their learning, she said.
“I feel like, with everything that’s been going on with COVID and everything, it just seems like the entire world is so divided on their opinions,” Rice said. “It’s really important to remember that even if our opinions are divided, we’re still united in supporting our kids. And we should still be united in supporting the parents and teachers, because parents need teachers just like teachers need parents.”
The PTA meets on the first Thursday of every month. Libby Bailey, the assistant principal at HMK, is the vice-principal of the PTA; the organization also has an official teacher representative, treasurer and secretary.
The immediate goals of the PTA are to alleviate pressure on teachers due to COVID challenges, Rice said. They’re developing an “emergency action plan,” for when the school can’t find substitute teachers—last fall, a shortage in substitute teachers caused Grand County High School to close for four days.
Right now, the PTA is focusing on organizing more parent volunteers to help out in classrooms and patrol recess. Typically, Bailey said, recess duties fall onto the special ed teachers. But if parents were able to take that over, the teachers could gain back three hours of instruction time for students, she said.
Another one of Bailey’s goals for the PTA is to recruit a larger and more diverse demographic of parents.
“I’m really excited about the PTA being a collectivity,” she said. “There’s something really powerful about a democratic process and discourse that makes you feel as though you have a collective voice and these things are being addressed. But it also allows parents to hear the perspectives of other parents as well.”
“Obviously, the PTA isn’t going to be able to solve everything,” Rice said. “But if there is something that we can do to make it a little easier, we want to be there to help with that.”
Any parents interested in joining the PTA can contact Rice—students were sent home with PTA flyers, she said. Rice encouraged parents who want to volunteer but don’t want to be in the PTA to contact her as well—“we want anybody that’s willing to help,” she said.