Being a PTA president takes a lot more work than most people think. There are the meetings, the phone calls, the organization, the myriad fund-raisers to plan and promote. And that’s on top of all the other things that are part of daily life: jobs, families, meals, carpools.

But our neighborhoods newest recruits understand this and say they’re up to the challenge. In the year ahead, they will be instrumental in working on various projects, improvements, policy, and working with school administrators and teachers on many of the day-to-day details that ensure a school runs smoothly. And they share many of the same goals and concerns, such as raising school support through expanded PTA involvement and working for the highest possible level of academics.

We checked in with them to discuss their goals for the upcoming year.

MWANA WILLIAMS, WALNUT HILL ELEMENTARY
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY

Husband: Robert Williams. Daughters: Bria, 8, third grade; Robyn, 6, first grade; and Samiah, seven months.

WHAT PERSONALITY TRAIT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE FOR THIS KIND OF WORK AND WHY?

Dedication. I must add that passion is a must also. It takes a combination of both to make a PTA a successful and beneficial organization.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR?

My goals for the upcoming year are simple. I plan for the PTA to continue to show unconditional classroom support for the students and staff. I am going to strive to increase our teacher enrollment on the PTA board. Ideally, I would like for all teachers to be PTA members. The one issue I would most like to address is the lack of PTA minority family enrollment. Black and Hispanic family enrollment is not like it should be. This is a very important issue for me.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING DISD SCHOOLS?

There are three major challenges that I think are facing DISD and the Texas public education system, the first being better pay for our teachers and principals. I could write a book on why I believe our educators deserve (baseball player) Alex Rodriguez salaries. Second, I think it is a challenge to ensure that all schools can accommodate, with classroom space, the big enrollment increase; we need to do away with portables. Last, I believe that we need to have stronger district-level mentor programs. For some of our youth, schools in co-ordinance with a strong mentoring organization that educates and helps students with a variety of life issues would make a world of difference in their future success.

DEANNA WILLIAMS, KRAMER ELEMENTARY
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY.

Husband: Larry Williams. Children: Sam, 10, fifth grade; and Joe, 7, second grade

WHAT PERSONALITY TRAIT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE FOR THIS KIND OF WORK AND WHY?

I believe patience is the one personality trait that is most important. To me, this job is one of communication, cooperation and delegation – tasks that require the patience to listen to the thought of others and the patience to keep at it until the job is done.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR?

The biggest goal I have is to support the staff while they lead our student body through the construction challenge of this first half of the school year. We have extremely strong leadership that begins with our principal, Kyle Richardson, and I feel certain that along with our awesome teachers and staff, our PTA membership will excel at providing what our teachers need to accomplish another great year at Kramer.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING DISD SCHOOLS?

We are progressing on building new schools and renovating our present schools, but we have a growing population. I personally feel that we employ some of the finest teachers available right here in our Hillcrest cluster of schools. We must be able to provide they physical space so our population can benefit from these local teachers.

CAROL CROWLING, PRESTON HOLLOW ELEMENTARY
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY.

Husband: George Crowling. Children: son Patrick, 11, sixth grade; daughter Elizabeth, 9, fourth grade; and daughter Anna, 6, first grade.

WHAT PERSONALITY TRAIT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE FOR THIS KIND OF WORK AND WHY?

Flexibility and patience are essential in doing volunteer work at schools. DISD is no different than any governmental organization – it is a huge bureaucracy. It can be frustrating at times to work within the constraints of DISD. Progress is often slow, but if we work with administrators and teachers, we can usually accomplish our goals.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR?

For several years, the PTA has tried with mixed success to establish a Spanish program at Preston Hollow. This year, for the first time, we are in the planning stages for a trial Spanish/English program during the school day.

I also wish I could get more families to consider sending their children to Preston Hollow. If families would just take the time to visit our school, they would see a lot of happy students who, thanks to our teachers and staff, are achieving their maximum potential. Our school goes above and beyond any private school in making sure that no child slips through the cracks, whether it be tutoring, speech or learning disabilities.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING DISD SCHOOLS?

I believe that the high number of dropouts is the biggest challenge for DISD. A tremendous effort has been put into academic programs with magnet schools and an emphasis on advanced placement courses in high schools. DISD students have every opportunity to achieve academically, graduate and attend college. Any Dallas resident who uses poor academics as an excuse not to send their children to public school is not speaking the truth. To address the high dropout rate, DISD needs to consider the ambitions of the dropouts. College may not be in their plans, but that doesn’t mean they lack ambition. A strong vocational program could keep many of these kids in school and make them much more productive as adults. It would be a winning situation for the students, the schools and the community.

SUE THORN, HILLCREST HIGH SCHOOL
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY

Husband: Mike Thorn. Children: Son Nick, 18, freshman at Texas A&M; daughter Anne, 15, sophomore.

WHAT PERSONALITY TRAIT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE FOR THIS KIND OF WORK AND WHY?

I do not think there is any particular personality trait. All types of personalities have successfully served as PTA president. Our PTAs are so well established and the volunteers are so dedicated that they mostly run without micro-management by the president.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR?

To foster the feeling of camaraderie within the PTA while we get our work done. Specific projects this year include improvements to the auditorium and landscaping. I certainly want the PTA to be welcoming to everyone. I am hoping to expand membership within our neighborhood, even for those families who do not have students at Hillcrest. [And] I would like to devise a way to get families to consider Hillcrest when looking at private schools.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING DISD SCHOOLS?

I am very sorry to see Dr. Moses retire. I think he did an excellent job for DISD. I am sure that it will be somewhat distracting while the board looks for a new superintendent and we wait for that transition. However, we joked during the past turnovers that it doesn’t matter so much what happens “downtown” because kids are still being taught and the PTAs are still involved in our neighborhood schools.

SUSAN GROSS, PERSHING ELEMENTARY
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY.

Husband: David. Children: son Danny, seventh grade (Franklin), and daughter Julia, third grade.

WHAT PERSONALITY TRAIT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE FOR THIS KIND OF WORK AND WHY?

An ability to energize and motivate others. You cannot be a successful PTA president without the commitment and hard work of a lot of other people, so you need to be able to do things that enable those other people to succeed. You have to keep things organized and provide the resources needed for success while keeping the responsibility and credit for success with them.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR?

To build a strong sense of community in our school. We have a new principal and assistant principal and many new teachers, so our goal is to get all of the staff and the parents working together for a positive environment of academic excellence and to help the students feel excited about and proud of their school.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING DISD SCHOOLS?

The lack of support from so much of the Dallas community. Too many people in Dallas believe that DISD is not a viable option. I used to believe that myself, until I finally went and checked out my local school and found committed and satisfied parents and creative, caring teachers. Our schools would have a better chance of success if more of our community supported DISD.

PATTI WILKE, FRANKLIN MIDDLE SCHOOL
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAMILY.

Husband: Bruce Wilke. Children: Daughter, Erin, graduated from Hillcrest High School in 1999; and son, Jeff, eighth grade.

WHAT’S THE ONE PERSONALITY TRAIT THAT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE FOR THIS KIND OF WORK AND WHY?

Flexibility. Sometimes we are not able to accomplish all that we want because of limitations: budget, manpower, etc. It’s a lot easier and more enjoyable if we remember that we can only do so much and that, even if we didn’t “get the whole job done,” we have made a difference.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR?

Communication, communication, communication. It is vital, especially in middle school, that we keep the lines of communication open between the schools and parents. And between parents and children.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING DISD SCHOOLS?

With the resignation of Dr. Mike Moses, it is critical that we find a dynamic leader to fill his shoes. He was our superintendent for just three and a half years, and he accomplished more in that time than anyone ever dreamed possible: a unified board, the $1.3 billion bond package, the release from the court order. It is a great start to an excellent future. But now we must find the right person to continue on this path.


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