Although many Charleston County parents have been active members of their children's school PTA groups, the county has lacked an organized district-level PTA voice for months.
The executive board for the county PTA, which helps communicate with and provide feedback from parents across the district, hasn't been in place for most of this past school year.
Its former leadership resigned, and no one filled that void until now. Clifford Fulmore and Marzel Thomas have volunteered to be the interim chairs of the group until formal elections in September.
Fulmore, who has a daughter at Burns Elementary School and one at Academic Magnet High School, said he plans to reach out to local PTA groups to help them and to provide training on encouraging parent involvement.
He wants to fix simple problems that inhibit participation, such as elementary, middle and high schools hosting PTA meetings on the same night, and he hopes to give the county more of a voice on state and local issues.
"Without that voice, our issues will not be addressed," he said. "We're back."
Jill Schneider, treasurer for the state PTA board, said county PTAs help support school-based groups, whether it's answering a question or helping them get involved in a legislative issue. Without the central board, local PTA groups are "hanging on their own," and the connection to the state becomes disjointed, she said.
Phyllis Gildea, former president of the Charleston County PTA, said the organization's mission is one of a relationship between parents, communities and schools, and that has been a critical and missing piece throughout much of the school district.
The county PTA can provide part of the infrastructure needed to communicate with parents, and that's what it tried to do in the past, she said. The district's biggest problem is its decision-making process that doesn't offer opportunities for public input, and that's something the district PTA can help, she said.
Elliot Smalley, executive director of communications, said the district embraces parents and sees them as part of its mission and an integral component to student achievement.
The superintendent regularly meets with a parent advisory group, and district staff reach out to parents in a myriad of ways, such as its auto- mated phone system and information resource centers, he said.
He was glad to hear that the county PTA was reorganizing, and said he welcomes more voices from parents, regardless of the governing body or association.
"I see no negatives if it helps elevate the pulpit for parents and gives them a stronger voice," he said. "We're all ears."