Hayden parents and residents may have a new avenue for influencing Hayden schools.
A group of Hayden parents will hold an informational meeting Tuesday about starting a local chapter of the Parent Teacher Association, a national child advocacy organization.
"We're having this community meeting to gauge interest. ... We want to get the whole community involved," said Jill Altman, one of five parents involved in starting a PTA steering committee.
Altman and others wanted to start a PTA to investigate programs and issues not covered by School Improvement Teams -- state-mandated groups that hold school districts accountable for issues such as academics, safety, funding and grant spending.
Altman and other members of the group have been involved in the SIT at Hayden Valley Elementary School for three years.
"We have seen what we can and can't do in those meetings," steering committee member Kathy Hockett said.
The steering committee explored several parent groups but settled on the PTA because of the resources and support it provides in areas ranging from alcohol awareness to funding new playgrounds, Altman said.
Hockett and Altman emphasized the PTA will have a distinct focus that will not overlap into SIT agendas.
The idea for a PTA began to surface last summer, when the Hayden School District was dealing with the suspension and subsequent resignation of a superintendent as well as the resignations of several principals.
The issues spawned many questions regarding communication between district administration and the community and how parents might becoming more involved in the schools.
An initial criticism of the PTA proposal was that it would be another time commitment for parents, and it might complicate communication within the district.
"It may be one more club, but it also is one more way for you to pick and choose where you want to spend your volunteer time," Altman said.
She stressed that the PTA wants to maintain a positive outlook on education in Hayden and dissuaded any "us versus them" attitudes.
That's why Altman is encouraging school administrators and staff, Hayden School Board members, community leaders, and parents to attend Tuesday's meeting.
"I would really encourage everybody in the community, whether they have kids in the school system or not, to attend and see if it's something they would be interested in," she said.
The committee hopes to have a representative from the Colorado PTA on hand to help provide information at the meeting. That may be difficult, however, because state PTA representatives are busy with election issues, Altman said.
If successful, the Hayden PTA would be the first PTA in Routt County. School districts with PTAs include those in Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs.
Though the committee has ideas for new programs that may benefit students, it will be up the overall group which areas the PTA will pursue, Altman said.
"There's a huge gamut for activities," she said. "We need to find out what our community wants and needs, then we'll move forward."
The committee plans to recruit members during the informational meeting and at parent-teacher conferences in the schools. At most, PTA dues would amount to about $8 a year, though Altman is optimistic local funding sources will cover all members' dues.
"I'm 98 percent sure parents won't have to pay dues at least for a year," she said.
PTA membership will include meetings and volunteer activities.
"Membership will involve whatever level they want to be involved. ... It's really up to the member," Altman said. "We don't want to place any requirements on them."
The PTA informational meeting will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the elementary school cafeteria.
Refreshments and childcare will be provided. Donations of one canned food item per child will be appreciated.