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Lecanto Primary PTA assists both pupils and teachers

Editor: Concerning a recent article (PTA tuition pay questioned May 17) dealing with teacher scholarships provided by the Lecanto Primary PTA, as a past president, I have a few comments. The Lecanto PTA exists to help children get the most out of their education, and to imply that teacher scholarships have been the main goal of organization is false.

Since becoming involved with the PTA seven years ago, I have witnessed a variety of projects sponsored by the organization which have enriched the school experience for students in Lecanto.

In recent years there has been a PTA-sponsored Halloween carnival which provided a safe, supervised recreational activity for youngsters from throughout the county, not just Lecanto. This was not a big moneymaker; it often did no more than break even financially. But the PTA was not interested in making money but in serving the children.

When the cafeteria needed an ice maker, the PTA bought it. The custodians needed a piece of equipment to help keep the grounds clean. The PTA bought it. Does this help children? It can be argued that most students never come in contact with either piece of equipment. But anything that can bring a better learning environment to the campus, even the mundane, can be a help if it means a cleaner, more comfortable school environment.

The PTA has purchased computers, provided toys to children at Christmas who might not have had them otherwise, and encouraged school spirit and parental participation through ice cream parties for individual classes who turned out the most parents at PTA meetings.

In an effort to bring parents and children together over books, the PTA has sponsored two book fairs a year for as long as I can remember. This provides parents a chance to see what type of reading material is available for their youngsters and offers low cost material to the children. Many times I saw PTA volunteers pay for books out of their own pocket to provide books to children whose parents could not afford this.

In the way of programs, the PTA has brought to campus speakers on subjects ranging from child abuse to reading, special education to open houses, provided ribbons for science fairs and Popsicles for wet field day.

Does this sound like an organization which is not thinking of what is best for children?

Now to the issue of teacher scholarships, which some people feel is taking up an inordinate amount of PTA time and money.

The program was begun before my terms as president (1988-90), but I served on one of the first committees dealing with scholarships.

In the May 17 article, the current PTA president seems to imply that the entire program was done in secret, without knowledge of the membership. This is not true.

Votes were taken initially to start the program, members at the first meeting were told that the scholarship program was a project of the PTA, and the scholarships themselves were presented to teachers during PTA meetings. In the past seven years, I have only been aware of one parent who objected to the program and that was three years ago.

Why scholarships for teachers?

The answer is twofold.

First, the PTA at Lecanto feels we should have the best teachers possible to educate the school's children. Providing scholarships for teachers helps to take good teachers and make them better by furthering their education.

When a school administration goes looking for teachers to hire and during the rapid growth of Lecanto Primary during the 1980s, additional teachers were needed. There were few things to separate one school from another in the eyes of those prospective teachers.

The county sets the salary so teachers are paid the same at all schools; most of the school buildings are of the same age and offer similar facilities. What separated Lecanto Primary from other primary and elementary schools is the encouragement provided by the PTA scholarships. It was thought that this showed the interest of the parents in providing the best teachers to be for our students.

Initially, the scholarship paid $25 per class. This was later raised to $25 per credit hour. Anyone who thinks either figure pays the entire cost of taking a three credit hour college course has only to check with Central Florida Community College or any institution of higher learning and ask for their fee schedule.

The money, in some cases, hardly covered the cost of textbooks. Still, it was something and served as an encouragement to our teachers to continue their efforts to better serve the children through continuing their own education.

The implication that these scholarships do not affect children's lives is wrong.

Students can get along without an ice maker or a grounds cleaning machine. A few less computers might not alter the quality of their education and some students have gone through school without attending a book fair or having an ice cream party. Yes, students might even get through school without benefiting an injured cougar.

But those who say PTA money was unwisely spent by helping teachers become better teachers should know that while schools can get along without a great many things, it can't get along without teachers.

Ron Mayes

past president

Lecanto Primary PTA

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