Parent teacher organizations (PTOs) have been a part of public education for a long time, but now Rolla Junior High is doing more with parent involvement than simply fundraising. By creating their Home and School Partnership, Rolla Junior High is educating parents and creating a more home-like environment for their students.

Liz Sperry, a Rolla Junior High Parent, has been involved in the district since her children first began attending and found an opportunity last spring to help parent involvement evolve at the Junior High.

“When they were working on the transition and moving all the schools around, they had a bunch of transition committee meetings. I was fortunate enough to be a part of a couple of those meetings as a  parent,” said Liz.

During those meetings, Liz spoke with Dr. Monica Fulton, principal of Rolla Junior High. Since Liz had previously volunteered with the district, she said Dr. Fulton invited her to be involved at the Junior High. Liz then attended more meetings with parents which focused specifically on the Junior High.

“We were talking about what direction we were going to take the Junior High when it came to parent involvement,” Liz said. “and PTO seemed played out in a lot of places.”

Liz explained that at the elementary level, PTO organizations are stronger, but tend to burn out at older levels. She said Dr. Fulton wanted something different than a PTO, and a plan for the Home and School Partnership was created.

“We came up with the Home and School Partnership, where instead of focusing on fundraising and different events that involved fundraising, what we wanted to do was focus on educating parents on the issues their kids are going through, and then have a few fun events that weren’t going to cost them anything, or cost very little,” Liz said, explaining that when they do raise funds, it will be for specific events, rather than creating a general account for the organization.

The Home and School Partnership has spent this past semester focusing on parent education and creating a school atmosphere to make students feel at home. They organized seminars discussing cyber bullying and suicide for both students and parents to learn from, and started the year by making sure every child felt welcome at the school with a new t-shirt.

Liz explained that one of the goals for the Home and School Partnership was to make sure every child, even before the first day of school, would already be a part of the Rolla Junior High Community. During registration they were able to hand every student a shirt thanks to donors and sponsors, and for some students, this was their first opportunity to wear something new for the first day of school.

“I’m really excited about the direction of the home and school partnership,” Liz said. “because it is different than the PTO. Instead of going to meetings that are set up where you listen to a board…you’re actually going into workshops to learn about ways to relate to your child and help them.”

Liz continued to say, “Junior High’s a hard age, and a lot of people don’t like to touch on issues like suicide, depression or cyber bullying, or bullying all together. We wanted to make sure we included these touch subjects and give parents a safe place to have an open forum and discussion. I think it has been wonderful so far.”

According to Liz, getting parent’s involved in schools at any age level can be hard, but she’s been impressed with the amount of participation she’s seen in the Home and School Partnership so far. In early October, they held a tail gate which was organized entirely online via social media, which continues to be a strong way for them to connect and plan.

The Home and School Partnership has one last event planned for this semester, a Snow Ball dance for the students. The date hasn’t been set yet, but they are already planning to decorate the cafeteria in snowflakes for the students.

“They really respond well to the dances the student council puts on, and we wanted to do something that was a little dressier…a lot of parents got really excited about that,” Liz said. “We’re doing semi formal so if they don’t have enough money to get something really dressy, they can just were what they can. We want everyone included.”

Next semester, Liz said they plan on bringing back the cyber bullying presentation, as we’ll as bringing in Hands On STEAM to talk about turning different hobbies into careers.

“We want to not only educate parents on the issues their kids go through, we also want to show them opportunities their kids could have,” said Liz.

The spring semester will also include a variety show, and a few other surprises which aren’t finalized yet.

To get in touch or involved with the Rolla Junior High Home and School Partnership, you can visit their Facebook page: RJH Home and School Partnership.