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National PTA seeks answers in Decatur
Representatives of organization visit Eastwood, Chestnut Grove schools

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

A National PTA representative visited Eastwood and Chestnut Grove elementary schools Wednesday to get input on the Parent Involvement Schools of Excellence certification process.

Maria Meredith, program coordinator for parent involvement, came to Decatur from the National PTA's Office of Programs and Public Policy in Washington, D.C.

Alabama PTA President Laurie McCaulley of Huntsville also visited.

Chestnut Grove was the first Decatur school to earn the national certification, during the 2005-06 school year. Eastwood earned it last spring under the leadership of PTA President Peggy Collins and Principal Margaret Greer, now in her second year at the school.

Oak Park Middle School and Walter Jackson Elementary also hold the certification.

Meredith said she made the trip to get feedback on improving the certification process and to see what local PTAs are doing so she can pass ideas on to other PTAs. She seemed particularly impressed with Eastwood's Parent Resource Center, a place where the school's parents can get information about school and PTA activities and programs.

"These schools have been recognized for their commitment to parental involvement in the schools," Meredith said. "So, they're a good resource for information."

Meredith and McCaulley met with the principals, PTA presidents and several members. Among the suggestions they received was simplifying the PTA.org Web site to make certification information easier to find and thoughts on parent survey questions.

Meredith said the National PTA has 23,000 local PTAs but only about 700 earned certification. Alabama is in the top five in the nation in the number of schools with the certification.

Collins said the Eastwood PTA spent about four months on the certification process. While some PTAs were skeptical, including one that said the National PTA just wants the $100 certification fee, Eastwood members at the meeting said the process of meeting six parent involvement standards helped their organization. They thought they could just record everything they were already doing, but it helped them identify their strengths and weaknesses.

They also said they thought the process was so beneficial that they may help another Decatur school earn the certification and strengthen its PTA.

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