Education Foundation and PTA merge for new programs

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A recent merger of the Whitefish Education Foundation and Parent Teacher Association is looking to connect teachers and parents in new ways.

Members of the foundation and PTA shared information on their projects, which include the creation of an Alumni Association, the writing coaches program, early childhood literacy parent education and new family involvement teams.

Gayle MacLaren, chair of the foundation, said the two entities merged completely after realizing both groups were raising money for essentially the same things.

Marie Shaw, high school coordinator for the PTA, agreed, saying the merger was a common sense solution to having two entities with the same goal of benefiting Whitefish education.

Merging the PTA with the education foundation also keeps money in the district rather than paying dues back to national and state PTA organizations, she said.

“The great thing about this is that both of these organizations have had the same goal, maybe coming about it in different ways, but it’s to enhance education in Whitefish public schools,” she said.

MacLaren said the education foundation and the PTA look to add to the variety of innovative programs the district already implements in its curriculum.

“We are here to enhance the education of Whitefish public school students. We want to fund innovative projects, we want to fund new thoughts and ways of thinking. We don’t want to supplant the budget, because the state does give us money, but we want to enhance it, and we are here to raise money to do that,” she said.

One new facet of the merger is the creation of Family Involvement Teams, which would offer a way to connect parents with teachers and lead to new ways they can supplement the learning the students get in the classroom, whether it be through early literacy projects, fundraising or donating supplies.

Ruth Harrison, a member of the foundation and school board trustee, said she likes the opportunities for parents opened up by the involvement teams.

“Parents want to thank teachers and want to help out with that, so we provide a means for doing that. Plus we provide a contact within the schools and by school,” she said.

In addition, Harrison said she’s excited to implement fundraising and project planning methods used by the PTA.

“They have such a great system that they’re now going to lend to us as far as project triage, so to speak,” Harrison said. “Figuring out how to grant most effectively to classroom projects and so forth. I’m really excited to see PTA become our partners.”

District Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt also stressed the need for strong alumni support through the new alumni association.

“It’s really about building that support from prior Whitefish students for future Whitefish projects. Clearly, that’s our best audience. If you graduated from school here, if you grew up here, you’re supportive typically of what you see in our schools,” she said.

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