PTSA provides

Family Night Dinner

Most small rural school districts have a core group of parents who seem to always be ready and willing to pitch in and find ways to make the education experience more enjoyable and valuable for everybody involved, but staff members and students at Bayfield’s elementary schools have it even better than most thanks to the dedication of a handful of moms who keep the local PTSA rolling.

They are a valuable asset to our school community, and we are grateful for all the ways they contribute to helping our students succeed and making our staff feel supported,” Bayfield Intermediate School Prinicipal Will Machallister said.

“They truly make a difference in helping to shape a positive and enriching environment for staff and students,” Bayfield Primary School Principal Jan Alderton agreed.

The Bayfield PTSA meets once a month from August through May, and one of their primary missions is to raise funds that can be utilized by students, teachers and other staff members at BPS and BIS. Those funds are used to host two events each year (the Halloween Festival and Winter Dance), and they can also be utilized for things like field trips, school supplies and snacks for students during testing weeks. 

The organization provides food during Staff Appreciation Week, and meals for staff who work late during parent/teacher conferences as well. They also provide funding for the dinner served to students and parents at BPS’s Spring Family Night.

“The PTSA members work tirelessly to organize fundraising events in order to have the funds on hand for all of these experiences and so many more!” Alderton exclaimed.

“That’s a lot of money that is not having to come out of our kids going door-to-door trying to sell gift wrap or something else. It is off of their plates,” PTSA President Bridget Gonzalez reasoned.

Winter Dance

Alderton noted that in addition to supporting the staff and enhancing the educational experience for students, the group also hosts fun events throughout the year like the door decorating contest that brightens up the schools at the end of the long winter.

“PTSA helps our school in many ways,” Machallister nodded. “They are great supporters of our teachers, and provide financial support for them to go above and beyond the curriculum and expand students' understanding of the grade level standards.”

The BIS principal noted that the PTSA also provides additional support to staff members when they need it and volunteer to serve on the Advisory/Accountability committees at the schools. The group also runs an EPI online school supply program where parents can make supply orders in the summer, and they are delivered to the schools and waiting there for the kids on day one in the fall.

“I don’t think you can get school supplies ordered any easier than this,” Gonzalez beamed. “It is pretty fantastic.”

That all seems like a lot of work to get done in only one meeting a month, but the work done by the Bayfield PTSA is even more impressive because it has largely been accomplished by a five-member board — that has been down to only four members for most of the year.

“We have enough seats on the board for five board members, and we have room for one more,” said Gonzalez, who is joined at the meetings the group holds at the Community Treehouse each month by Vice President Brandi Turner, Secretary Melissa Johnson and Treasurer Catie Chamblee. Fortunately, they do receive assistance from other parents for some of the group’s larger undertakings.

“Not many attend the meetings, but if we reach out and ask for help we can usually pull a few more volunteers in. I feel like we have a lot of silent volunteers who step up to help with things like the Halloween Festival or Winter Dance,” Gonzalez reasoned.

Volunteers at the dance

While the board does most of the heavy lifting, parents can volunteer to help out and become a member of PTSA for only $10 a year. The local organization had approximately 35 members this year, and the group is hoping somebody from those ranks will step up to fill the vacant spot on the board when they hold elections at their monthly meeting this Thursday.

“That’s how I started,” said Johnson, who first participated as a PTSA member but then became the secretary because there was a need.

“We do have a few parents that just come that aren’t board members. If you’re a member and you come to a meeting, you still get to vote on the funding requests and everything,” Johnson described.

“You can also vote in the election,” added Gonzalez, who began her involvement as a PTSA member when her son was in kindergarten during the 2019-20 school year.

“I started going to PTSA meetings at that point, and it was run by a couple of other wonderful gals. I got involved in it because I thought it was a good organization to pitch in a little bit extra when I can,” she reported. Gonzalez soon found out that she enjoyed the experience, however, and it wasn’t long until she evolved into the president’s role.

Group Gathering

“I enjoy the community aspect of it, and the fact we are able to fundraise and give back to our schools. I like that we benefit the teachers and students at the same time,” she said, echoing the thoughts of her fellow board members.

“I am very busy in my own life, so I wear many hats, but I am really glad that I’m doing it. I actually really enjoy it, and enjoy getting to know the teachers a little more,” said Chamblee, who was lured into PTSA service by her co-worker Turner.

“I love participating and everything we do, but it does take a lot of commitment and a lot of hours,” the treasurer offered, noting that it can take 8-10 hours of work to put on some of their events. 

Despite those demands, however, the board members all said they are glad they have chosen to contribute.

“We all have full-time jobs, kids in the school district and families we are a part of, but it really is possible to take a little extra time out for this kind of activity,” Gonzalez stated.

“We’re putting in a lot of work, but our own specific kids are really benefitting from what we do too,” Johnson suggested. “It is nice seeing that my child gets to utilize and benefit from the stuff we do.”

Those benefits are considerable given the fact that PTSA provides for about $6,000 in funding requests from the two schools they served in the past year, and that doesn’t even count the meals for family night or teacher appreciation week.

“We’ve also funded books, and a bunch of headphones, some with microphones,” said Turner, who was especially excited over the 10 pallets of pumpkins the group purchased for students last Halloween.

Pumpkin Patch

“The pumpkins started during COVID when the kids couldn’t go to the pumpkin patch,” Turner explained. “We pick out a bunch of pumpkins at a place in Pueblo, and put them out in the soccer field at the primary school, and the day before Halloween the kids get to go out and grab pumpkins that they get to take home.”

She and her husband, Matt, purchased the pumpkins themselves the first couple of years, but the PTSA took over this year and helped make the annual fall event better than ever.

“Most people who go to the Halloween Festival can go through the pumpkin patch and take home a pumpkin,” Turner said.

“Kids are loving it. They love taking home the pumpkins, and the fact that they are there,” Gonzalez said, noting that the festival includes a DJ, concessions and even carnival games.

“A parent built all of the carnival games for us,” she said. “They are all handcrafted, and we use all of them. We lend the Community Treehouse some of the games for one of their fundraisers also. They are heavy and sturdy, and they are awesome.”

The other major event hosted by the PTSA each year is the winter dance that takes place in January or February. The young students get dressed up, and they even don corsages and boutenirs that are made by the Bayfield Middle School student council as one of their annual fundraisers.

Flower Sales

“That has turned into quite a community event. There is not much happening in the wintertime, and we have opened it up to the community in the past and that has been really awesome,” Gonzalez said. “(Both events) are very community oriented. The drive behind it is to get the community together and have a place to get together.”

These events are even more special because students are able to reap benefits from them even after they are over. In the case of the Halloween Festival, the pumpkins the students bring home provide a little extra joy when the carnival is over, and at the winter dance “teacher experiences” are auctioned off and the winning bidders get to enjoy a little bit of one-on-one time that a teacher or staff member has volunteered. Those experiences range from pizza with the principal to horseback and mountain bike rides with a teacher.

“I think the teacher auctioning is a great thing for the kids and they seem to love it,” Chamblee said. “They are very creative, and they either give their own time for the experience or give up a recess and do it during school hours.”

“The feedback from the teachers after the fact has been pretty heart-warming also,” Gonzalez said.

There used to be a third major event hosted by PTSA each year, but a Color Run held every May that was the organization’s biggest fundraiser had to be dropped because of a lack of volunteer participation.

“We just need more help,” Johnson said.

The number of volunteers has dropped enough that the current board members had to ask themselves earlier in the year if they wanted to continue performing all of these tasks, but the group has committed themselves to carrying on the work they are doing.

“The four of us are determined that it sticks around and does not go away,” Johnson said.

“That was a possibility because we just don’t have the participation,” Gonzalez admitted. “But everybody was committed to make this work and continue this on.”

The current board members are really looking for another parent to step up and volunteer to join their ranks at Thursday’s meeting, which will be at 5:30 p.m. at the Community Treehouse, and they are hopeful that people will be more willing to take on a little extra responsibility and contribute to their children’s schools if they realize how much of a difference the PTSA makes in Bayfield’s schools.

“You wonder how much a lack of participation is from people just not realizing all of the stuff that we actually do,” Johnson mused.

While the group does not deny the fact that they work really hard and often scramble to stay on top of things, they say they enjoy the experience immensely and would very much like to welcome other parents to join in the fun.

“We generally are a hot mess and late to everything, but we are fun,” Johnson laughed. “We have a good time!”

“We always make it work,” Gonzalez smiled. “We figure it out along the way.”

Those individuals who may be interested in helping out are encouraged to email [email protected] for more information about the organization and what they do. Willing volunteers are strongly encouraged to attend Thursday’s meeting at 5:30 p.m. to find out if a spot on the board is something they would like to pursue.