Diocesan, local PTAs important to Catholic schools success

By Rose O’Connor | Correspondent

Student volunteers from Trenton Catholic Academy, along with diocesan PTA hospitality chair, Donna Murray, assist during the March PTA retreat hosted by TCA.

While Parent Teacher Association boards have long been integral in the operations of a school community, their fundraising efforts and the support they provide are both needed and appreciated, now more than ever.

In the Diocese of Trenton, local PTA boards are fortunate to be guided by a diocesan PTA, a governing body that has served all of the Catholic schools for 93 years.

Paula Pangilinan – a member of St. James Parish, Red Bank, and former PTA president of the parish school as well as Monmouth/Ocean regent – became the diocesan PTA president last year. She recounted highlights of how the diocesan PTA supported the local PTA boards, noting as one example a PTA retreat this past March held at Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton.

“The retreat day was designed to give back to the amazing volunteers and school administrators. It was a morning of reflection, inspiration and knowledge,” she said. “It was our hope that all who attended left with knowledge and tools to help make our PTAs as successful as possible.”

The day included representatives from the schools, the diocesan PTA Board and the Office of Catholic Education, who all had the opportunity to attend four breakout sessions on the topics of fundraising, volunteers, social media and NJ Gaming laws and licensing.

Pangilinan also reviewed the PTA president’s handbook that had been revised in 2015, approved by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., and updated this past year.

“It was a fabulous day,” said Kerri Chewning, former PTA president at St. Paul School, Burlington, and current diocesan Burlington/Mercer regent. “It certainly exceeded expectations, and the folks that I spoke with were so appreciative of the information and the opportunity.”

Pangilinan said that is what the diocesan PTA is all about.

“This is what we are here for, to serve our local PTA boards and giving them the tools to be successful,” she said. “Each school PTA has a distinctive personality and are managed differently. We provide the resources and best practices to help each PTA reach their full potential and do their best.”

Working Together

This year, in keeping with the theme of “giving back,” Pangilinan also plans to assist the local PTA boards, namely through the creation of the Outstanding PTA Leadership Award, for which all PTAs in the Diocese of Trenton will be eligible to apply.

The proposed monetary award of $2,500 will be presented annually at the Fall Conference, beginning in September 2019.

“This is our opportunity to acknowledge those organizations who are active and follow the constitution and bylaws, while still maintaining their own distinct personalities,” Pangilinan said.

Providing various supports and raising funds to supplement operating budgets of diocesan schools represent main focal points of PTAs across the Diocese of Trenton. One PTA that has raised an impressive amount of money each year through a gift basket auction is based in St. Veronica School, Howell.

Elia Landino, who has served as PTA president, vice president and now serves as chair of the auction – which will be held this year on March 8 – noted that the annual event can net the school anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000, and is the largest fundraiser for the school.

Landino said that much of the gift auction’s success is due to Resurrection Sister Cherree Power, principal; Father Vincent Euk, pastor of St. Veronica Parish, and Deacon Gino Esposito, business manager, who have all assisted the PTA and provided support and guidance with fundraising efforts along the day.

“Sister Cherree has and continues to build a culture based on unity in our community,” Landino said. “She has always made sure to select leaders whose hearts and intentions are truly dedicated to help advance our school.”

Landino continued, “Father Euk and Deacon Gino trust in those who are leading our parents in the planning, preparation and execution of the auction. With so many dedicated parents who give of themselves freely for the love and benefit of the children, there is no question as to why the auction is a huge success. The reward is great when love is invested.”

‘Engaging Families’

Elsa Pagano, diocesan PTA treasurer and former board member for the PTA in St. Jerome School, West Long Branch, reflected on how fundraising contributes to a school’s financial stability and overall morale.

While there might be parents who question the need for fundraising in addition to paying tuition, Pagano said that support does not always mean monetary support – support can also mean parents’ “time and presence at PTA meetings,” as well as helping with bake sales, selling raffle tickets and leading committees.

“In a Catholic school, tuition alone does not cover the entire cost of educating a student. Fundraising is a means of bridging that gap,” she explained. “With rising costs and declines in enrollment, it becomes more and more important to find new and creative ways of engaging families to want to support Catholic education.”

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