PTOs are ready for change

TUPELO – Parents play a key role in student success, and PTOs in Tupelo’s newly reorganized elementary schools will hit the ground running this fall.
“It almost takes a year to get your feet wet, and there’s no time for that,” said Leigh Ann Billingsley, president of the PTO at Church Street Elementary.
Billingsley has a kindergartner and a first-grader at Church Street, now a K-3 school, and a fourth-grader at Carver Elementary, which currently serves students in grades 4-6.
But under a realignment of the Tupelo Public School District’s 10 elementary schools, her children will move to other facilities – two will be at Carver and one will be at Lawhon – for the 2009-2010 school year.
She plans to continue to participate in some capacity in both schools’ PTOs when the change occurs, but not all parents will have volunteer experience at their children’s new schools.
“At Lawhon, you’ll really have a lot of experienced parents,” she said, noting the school’s shift from a K-3 school to one for grades 3-5.
At K-2 schools, however, “parents are just really going to have to jump in feet first,” she said, noting that “everybody’s welcome to get involved in their child’s education. It’s everybody’s responsibility.”
Joining the PTO is an easy way to get involved, said Martha Ann Wilson, vice president of the PTO at Parkway Elementary and the organization’s incoming president.
“The PTO promotes the mission of each school,” Wilson said. “Everybody’s on the same page, trying to better the school.”
PTO projects at Parkway have included purchasing an awning and a school sign, and fundraising through wrapping paper sales and the annual Winter Fest.
“We don’t just raise money,” Wilson said. “We bring food for the teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day. We help when teachers need supplies and when there are children who can’t afford field trips.”
And in the fall, when Parkway absorbs new students as it transitions from a K-3 to a K-2 school, Wilson said the PTO will be there to assist any way it can.
“We’re a family,” she said. “We’re going to have new students, new parents from other schools. We want to welcome them into the family.”
Parents may have some anxiety about changes to Tupelo’s elementary schools, but Wilson said the children will be fine.
“Tupelo is one of the best school districts in the state,” she said, noting that while change may be uncertain, “I do feel like the continuity of the children staying with the same children until sixth grade will be good. It will create a cohesiveness among the students.”
“The kids will be fine,” Billingsley added. “I do think the PTO can help.”

Contact Ginny Miller at (662) 678-1582 or

To join the PTO
– Sign up for the PTO at your child’s elementary school during this week’s open houses.
– For K-2 students, “Meet Your New Principal” events will be Monday from 6-7 p.m. at Carver, Church Street, Joyner, Parkway and Thomas Street elementaries.
– Students in grades 3-5 may meet their new principals on Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. at Lawhon, Rankin, Pierce and Lawndale elementaries.
– Sixth-graders will meet their principal at Milam Elementary on Thursday from 6-7 p.m.


Ginny Miller/NEMS Daily Journal

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