A pastor friend once told me that 10% of the people do 90% of the work, and if you have ever volunteered in an organization of any kind, you will probably agree with that ratio. The pattern seems to hold in civic clubs, booster clubs and foundations. too. One organization, however, certainly seems to buck that trend: the PTA. A core group of people will always carry bigger loads for the organization, for that’s how organizations work, but in the case of the PTA, every member is 100% engaged as a parent or an educator.
This week is National Public Schools week, and the PTA asked everyone to “celebrate our nation’s public schools, our students and the professionals who work each day to make every child’s potential a reality.” They point out that 90% of all students in America attend a public school. Our local PTA President, Pam Brisolara, explains what that means: 3.2 million full time teachers, 90,400 principals and support staff working together to educate 50.7 million students regardless of ability, race, wealth, language, country of origin or needs.
Few people outside of education can grasp the scope of the needs students have nowadays. By law, public schools must meet virtually every educational need of each student that walks through the door. People may not agree on the reasons, but kids’ needs are different today than they were a generation ago. Likewise, we rarely think about the scale of public education or the national PTA. Our focus is almost always on the schools that serve the children we know. In Lawton, that means your Almor West or your Mac High, where you know the staff, students, and parents. This familiarity means we can sometimes take the people who meet so many needs for granted.
As our PTA requests, this week is National Public Schools’ week, and we should celebrate public schools. But I say we turn it up a notch and celebrate our PTA’s, for in doing so, we celebrate what is best about public schools. As their mission states: “PTA's mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.” PTA affirms and supports this mission regardless of ability, race, wealth, language, country of origin or needs. When we celebrate the PTA, we celebrate 100% of the 100%.
I remember sitting with our PTA President last year after the Annual Celebration for the Teacher of the Year. Karen Beavers was known not only for her kaleidoscope hair, but for her wit and compassion. She was also a very outspoken advocate during the work-stoppage. She grinned at me and told me, “I’m sorry if I have been such a pain.” I think her hair was pink at the time. We both chuckled, and I assured her that she was not sorry all. Neither was I. No one imagined that she would be taken from us just a few weeks later. I miss her loud voice advocating for LPS students and staff.
Honestly, we need to hear more from the PTA on substantive issues. They see the educator side and the parent side, but that is not their power. In the PTA, there is no parent-teacher side, only a student side, and when we focus on students’ needs, the power is unstoppable. When our local PTA speaks, I listen. In fact, I snap to attention, and as we saw last year, so does the entire state of Oklahoma. Dramatic things have happened in Lawton and Oklahoma lately – not because educators fought or parents fought – but because educators and parents fought together for students’ needs. I urge everyone to join the PTA in celebrating your local public schools, and I request that you take it a step further by personally thanking your school’s local PTA leadership for investing 100% into the 90% of our nation’s children who attend public school. I hope you can agree with that ratio as well.