Thursday, April 24, 2014

STEVENS: Celebrating volunteer week

By MARGE STEVENS, Positives in Education | 4/24/2013

This week is national volunteer week. To celebrate, I’m joining with The Ottawa Herald’s efforts to recognize and honor volunteers from various community organizations. Not all of these service-oriented individuals can be mentioned, but their service is very much appreciated.

Members of the school boards in Franklin County deserve our applause. These people all are volunteers, although elected. They do not get paid as the county and city commissioners do.

This week is national volunteer week. To celebrate, I’m joining with The Ottawa Herald’s efforts to recognize and honor volunteers from various community organizations. Not all of these service-oriented individuals can be mentioned, but their service is very much appreciated.

Members of the school boards in Franklin County deserve our applause. These people all are volunteers, although elected. They do not get paid as the county and city commissioners do.

They give at least eight hours a month for the regular meetings, as well as attend the meetings of special groups — site councils, Ottawa Recreation Commission, IBB negotiations, technology and many others. They have regional meetings twice a year, a state meeting once a year and, if the budget allows, a national meeting once a year. (Most Franklin County board members have not attended the national meetings in the past few years because of budget cuts.)  Legislative meetings also come about once a month through most of the year.

In addition, school board members often give two to four hours of phone duty. No, they do not have unlisted numbers.

They also have the opportunity to attend various training sessions throughout the year. Every month, they can do training on budgets, curriculum information, evaluation seminars, workman compensation info and many other areas.

One of the best meetings Ottawa school board members attend is the monthly joint meeting between city, county and school officials. Each entity gives a report on their current projects, and often questions are answered, which makes it easier to make decisions in our own areas. Clarifications are made, and it just makes it easier to do your job. Budget time is a very interesting time because the joint meetings make it more clear as to why an entity’s budget goes up and we hear the explanation. I have attended these meetings for 12 years, and we have had the opportunity to explain budget cuts and school closings. When I attend other state meetings and talk about this group, many cities wish they had a similar plan.

We just had school board elections earlier this month, so it is too late to volunteer for your school board this year. In two years, however, you can volunteer and get on a board.

When it comes to volunteers, there is nobody better than Lori Catlin. She goes above and beyond the call of duty. When she puts her mind to something, there is no stopping her. She does anything to help Eugene Field Elementary School — from raising money for class T-shirts for the entire student body to helping with class parties. She organizes fundraisers for playground equipment and so many other things. She is a regular friendly face in our building, and we wouldn’t know what to do without her. Thank you, Lori, for your volunteering heart and kindness.

There also are several groups that volunteer at Lincoln Elementary School. The Parent Teacher Organization is very active at enrollment, helping with pictures with the kindergarten roundup, assisting with special events, organizing activities and doing anything else that is asked of them.

The Watchdog Program continues to be very successful this year in our building. The group includes 100 father figures who have given at least one school day in classrooms, at recesses and on playgrounds. They help make our school safer and improve the lives of our students.

Becky Nevergold, with Communities in Schools, has organized volunteers, with the Youth Friends program, which works weekly with individual students. The main goal is to let students in our building know they are cared for and to help support them in our classrooms.

Lincoln has a number of parents who are helping in our building weekly. Many other parents are helping teachers in their classrooms weekly.  

Our schools cannot be successful without the support of volunteerism from so many different groups.

Thank you to all the volunteers who help our school system. Where would our kids be without you?

Marge Stevens is an Ottawa school board member.

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