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PTC chairwoman has 11 years of volunteering

Eleven-year parent teacher council member Mary Svoboda calls the countless hours she spends volunteering at Neveln Elementary School an investment — one she always knew would pay out.

The chairwoman of the Parent-Teacher Council has helped the school raise money, organize events and recruit volunteers since her oldest daughter, now in high school, entered kindergarten.

“It’s kept me busy,” said the full-time nurse who is also on the board of Austin Youth Hockey. “It’s an investment that you make in your kids’ lives and I’ve always thought that was important.”

The PTC, which consists of about five mothers, two teachers and Principal Dewey Schara, is in need of more parents, said Schara.

“There are about 425 kids in this school, but only a few of their parents are here,” said Svoboda. “Something about that is sad.”

Svoboda, along with four-year member and current secretary Marni Ruroden and 12-year member and current treasurer Bobbi Jo Richard are stepping down from their positions following this school year, leaving three officers’ positions open.

Without the PTC heads, there can no longer be a PTC, according to the group’s April meeting minutes; Svoboda’s spot was filled by two parents who decided to be co-chairs at the meeting Monday. Richard will continue serving as treasurer until her spot is filled.

The PTC’s main function is raising funds for various school events and programs. This year, fundraising projects have included penny wars, Kemps milk cap drives, Kwik Trip Milk Moola drives, Scholastic book fairs, Schwan’s fundraisers and more.

The funds are used for projects including the annual spring fling carnival, field trips, purchasing Smart Boards, sending safety patrol students to camp, bringing in classroom guests — and more basic needs, that the school cannot afford on its own, like classroom supplies and window blinds.

“If the schools could afford blinds for every classroom, and a playground at every building, that would be great,” Svoboda said. “The reality is that they can’t, and so PTCs try to make up the difference.”

Schara said parents are often scared to join PTCs because of the perceived time commitment.

“You can put in as much time as you want,” he said. “You can be involved in everything, or you can just help with the book fairs, only attend the meetings … The important thing is to be involved in some aspect and share your input.”

Schara attends each meeting of the PTC and said parents are welcome to attend the meetings just to talk with him and find out about school happenings, even if they are not interested in involvement with fundraising.

Several years ago, when charges were filed against a Neveln PTC member who embezzled a large sum of money from the group, dozens of parents began showing up at PTC meetings, members recalled.

Once the hype died down, so did the attendance, Svoboda said.

“People know things are going to get done,” Ruroden explained of the PTC’s low attendance. “So, they don’t take it on themselves to be a part of that.”

Svoboda and Richard said the small councils aren’t limited to Neveln as they have also seen the same issue at other district schools.

“We’re all busy,” Richard said, “Parents can join and put in however much time they have.”

There are currently no fathers on the Neveln PTC, but officers said many do volunteer.

Non-English speaking parents are also welcome to join the PTC, Schara said, and the school’s success coach would interpret as needed.

The PTC’s next meeting will be in August. For more information about joining, call the school at 460-1600.