22 Aug 2014
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Parent Clubs: And the Winner Is ...

Christopher High Parent Club wins with 17 parents in attendance, three more than Gilroy's club.

Parent Clubs: And the Winner Is ...

may hold the bell, but 's Parent Club brought in more parents.

, 14 parents attended the Gilroy High School Parent Club meeting, and 17 parents showed up at the Christopher High School Parent Club this week. A big thank you to parents of incoming freshman at Gilroy High, who accounted for 25 percent of the parents in attendance.

What Is the Parent Club?

The Parent Club is Gilroy’s version of a PTA. It isn’t called PTA, because the national Parent Teacher Association charges dues. Gilroy’s public school parents decided years ago to call their association by the name “Parent Club” to save their members from having to pay any dues. As Debbie Gjerde, Gilroy High Parent Club president, said, “Most schools now call their PTA the ‘Home and School Club.’ Maybe Gilroy High will change to that title one day.”

What's the Point of the Parent Club?

The Parent Club connects parents to the school and allows teachers to request help when needed from parents. The Parent Club sponsors teacher-appreciation events and can even provide basics that most of us assume are covered.

"In December, we put together a teacher's wish list event," Gjerde said. "Teachers wrote a list of the things they wanted, and the Parent Club tried to grant at least one wish for every teacher. We bagged up an entire living room full of goodies and handed them out at the December staff meeting.

"The teachers were thrilled, but it was amazing to me that they were asking for basic school supplies," she added. "The teachers requested colored pencils, white board markers, tape, rulers, calculators, tissue, paper, scissors. I was glad that we could buy these for the teachers, but I felt sad that they had to ask Parent Club for these basic supplies. I felt really bad that teachers who requested ink cartridges for printers didn't get them, because they're too expensive. I wish our Parent Club budget was in the thousands, like other schools in the Bay Area, so we wouldn't have to turn down a single teacher request."

The Parent Club at Gilroy High

In 2010, the two most popular Parent Club events at Gilroy High were the thank-you lunch for teachers and staff members and the birthday cakes and coffee taken to every faculty meeting to honor the staff and teachers celebrating birthdays that month. Principal Marco Sanchez said cake from the Parent Club has made an enormous difference in how his staff views the mandatory meetings.

“The teachers really do appreciate that we bring a birthday cake every month to the staff meeting along with coffee, especially the caffeinated kind," Gjerde said, "We have the opportunity to make any announcements that we may have to the teachers while they are all in attendance. We also provide donuts or bagels and cream cheese for some of the morning meetings they have on in-service days.  Even though Parent Club has always been supportive of teachers, Dr. Sanchez has connected us with the teachers so that we have a closer relationship. In May, we will have a big barbecue with all the fixings with the help of West Side Grill and South Valley Community Church. The parents who come to help are very happy to serve the teachers, and you can see that the teachers are grateful. You can tell they feel appreciated.”

The Parent Club at Christopher High

“Because the school was new, there were a lot of little things that needed to be done,” said Sherri Laveroni, last year’s Parent Club president and this year’s vice president. “Whenever Mr. Perales needed help, the Parent Club would send out an e-mail, and one of our parents would volunteer to process textbooks during the summer or install software in the computer lab, or whatever was required. We still have parents who help in the library during lunch and help in the book room at the start and end of the year.”

The Parent Club has provided a breakfast for all students who made the fall honor roll and smoothies to all students who made the spring honor roll, according to Laveroni. “We provided the food for a staff appreciation lunch in December,” Laveroni said. “We also provided snacks for a staff development day and gave a ream of paper to each teacher as a gift at the start of the new semester. We will bring treats to the March staff meeting and we’ll be doing a breakfast and lunch for staff during Teacher Appreciation week in May.

“We help wherever it’s needed, whether it be staff-appreciation events, raising funds for the sophomore trip or bringing speakers to our Parent Club meetings," she said. "Last year, we had a wonderful speaker who talked about drug awareness, and in the fall a speaker talked about ‘how to pay for college without going broke.’ We would like to provide valuable information to all the parents.” 

How Does the Parent Club Raise Money?

Food is a big fundraiser for the Parent Club. Volunteers at both high schools sell Jamba Juice smoothies after school on Fridays and earn 80¢ for each  drink sold.

“Eighty cents doesn’t seem like much, but thus far we’ve raised over $800 this year from Jamba Juice sales alone,” Gjerde said.

At the Gilroy High Open House coming up on March 30, Dutchman Pizza will be sold to raise money for the Parent Club.

An online driver’s education course also brings in money, according to Didi Howard, president of Gilroy’s Parent Club for two years and now treasurer.

“The course is inexpensive,” Howard said. “At $68.50, it costs less than most online courses, and the Parent Club gets $27.4o for every student that takes the course.”

Christopher High has a bit of an edge in fundraising, because the Parent Club there is leveraging the fact that the school is new, Laveroni said.

“We sold pavers in the spring and fall and will be installing them in the quad,” she said.

And then there was the big-ticket item at the Mardi Gras dinner, dance and auction last month: Eight front-row seats to the very first Christopher High School graduation ceremony in 2012 brought in $5,000. “There was a bidding war over a set of four front-row seats that was being auctioned,” said Laveroni. “Mr. Perales opened up an additional four seats so the two highest bidders each received front-row reserved seats for $2,500.”

Donations to Parent Club also account for a share of their budget. Parents can request Safeway, Target and Nob Hill/Raley cards; these cards allow a small percentage of money spent at these stores to go back to the school. (These donations come from the store chains and not from parents’ shopping dollars.) “I wish we could raise more money through 'escrip' and Nob Hill’s 'Quality of Life' card," Gjerde said.

She said there are only 20 parents registered with Nob Hill from a school with 1,700 students. "This would be easy money for the Parent Club if just half of the school families registered," Gjerde said. Parents can ask for store cards at a Parent Club meeting.

Gjerde also said, “We would love to do more fundraising, but we just don’t get enough parents at our meetings. Even when the school had more than 2,400 students (before Christopher opened), we still had only six to eight parents, including the board, show up regularly for Parent Club. We definitely need parents who are willing to chair larger fundraisers, so we could do more. A dinner/auction would be great for Gilroy High—and would bring parents together—but we need the force to put that on."

Parents Wanted

A comprehensive study at Oxford University in 1999 showed that parent involvement in schooling “was a more powerful force than other family background indicators, such as social class, family size and level of parental education.”

This holds true through adolescence. Schools with a high level of parent involvement perform better across the board.

Number of students at Gilroy High: 1,700

Number of parents at Parent Club meeting: 14

Number of students at Christopher High: 986

Number of parents at Parent Club meeting: 17


Next Parent Club meeting dates:

: April 12, 7 p.m., in the library

l: April 14, 6:30 p.m., in the library

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