JUDSONIA — School means more than just reading, writing and ’rithmetic in the town of Judsonia. Thanks in large part to the efforts of volunteers like school PTO founder Sara Moffett, families can stay connected while helping students at the same time.
“I love this school,” said Moffett, who graduated from White County Central High School in 1999, which is physically located in the Providence community outside of Judsonia, where Moffett lives. Moffett’s parents also attended school there, and now her daughters, third-grader Taylor and kindergartner Lily, are continuing the tradition. “Central is a big part of our lives,” she remarked.
Moffett started White County Central’s first parent-teacher organization four years ago after talking with White County Central Schools Superintendent Shelia Whitlow, who is also a family friend and a White County Central graduate.
“I recommended Sara as the person to begin a PTO here at White County Central because I know her passion for this district, for serving others and for children,” Whitlow said. “She has far exceeded our expectations as to what a PTO could bring to the district. Our parents have responded well to this organization and have provided a plethora of services to help students, teachers and the administration.”
Moffett, who began volunteering at Central when her oldest daughter started to school, found that it was a way for her to spend more time with her child and help the school. She said the PTO makes it more comfortable for parents to get involved with the school because events the group sponsors provide a welcoming atmosphere for those who might not be comfortable volunteering on their own.
White County Central’s PTO sponsors several functions throughout the year, including a Harvest Fest at Halloween that is set to include a trunk-or-treat this year. The group also funds the annual Christmas Shop, a store of sorts that provides an opportunity for children to buy inexpensive gifts during the holiday season. Moffett said the group furnishes the inventory for the shop and donates money for children who might not otherwise be able to participate.
During the spring standardized testing season, the PTO provides rewards for teachers to keep in their rooms to keep students motivated and also gives the teachers recess breaks during the stressful week.
Although PTO members spend most of their volunteer hours at the elementary school, they try to “spread the love” to the higher grades as well, Moffett said. The organization puts on a yearly senior banquet and has started a tradition of giving sixth- through 12th-graders planners and calendars each year. The PTO also sponsors scholarships for White County Central students.
In addition, the group recently purchased two karaoke machines that will primarily be used by fifth- through eighth-graders.
New activities are always on the horizon at White County Central. The latest PTO project involves the school’s librarian, Alison Baird. It is a reading club called the Story Bears, which will give students with higher reading levels added literary options. Plans call for club members to meet once a month to “hang out and read books,” Moffett said.
“Every year I feel like we have more people,” she said of Central’s PTO. “I’m glad I went to a small school because it’s so personal. A lot of the teachers know the families in the community, and several of us have gone to church together, and our families go back a long way.”
As the school continues to grow and evolve, Moffett said, keeping in touch with the day-to-day lives of children will be even more important.
“A lot of people just don’t realize how intense school is. The kids are busy all day. When they see you in the hall, it’s comforting for them to get a high five or a hug. It brightens their day, and it might be just what they needed,” she said. “When parents volunteer, they are not only changing their own kids’ day, but other kids’ as well.”