When he finished an exhaustive list of everything the Martin Walker Elementary School Parent Teacher Association does, James Steverding laughed.
“It’s the best non-job job I’ve ever had,” said Steverding, a parent who began serving this year as the Martin Walker PTA president.
Steverding is one of about 20 members of the school’s PTA. Even though the position is voluntary, and members donate their time, the organization’s duties and responsibilities are enough to make it seem like a full-time job.
“Sometimes it’s running kids to classes, making copies of materials or helping teachers,” said Davina McKee, secretary for the Martin Walker PTA. “Really, it could be anything.”
McKee, Steverding and the organization’s vice president, Sharmell Kehoe, estimated that they spend close to 30 hours each week volunteering at the school.
In recent years, they said PTA members’ roles have expanded beyond simply holding meetings or school fundraisers, and they now help fill some of the gaps left due to federal and state funding cuts to districts like Copperas Cove.
“We try and assist teachers whenever we can; we also help proctor reading tests and some of us even substitute teach, too,” McKee said. “It’s been an eye-opener to see how much teachers are required to do, and how they do it all with so much heart and all of their passion.”
During the last legislative session, Texas lawmakers cut more than $4 billion in education funding, leaving districts and schools to make some tough financial decisions. In Cove, it meant an end to field trips as a cost-saving measure.
In addition to trying to help classrooms, Steverding said the PTA also works to raise money to organize and host in-house “field trips” for Martin Walker students.
“This year allocated $2,000 to go to in-house trips,” McKee said. “They’re not leaving the campus, but they are at least getting something they’ll enjoy that’s educational.”
In order for the Martin Walker PTA to continue providing the school with extra help and students with activities, more volunteers are critical, Steverding said.
“Volunteers are the only thing keeping this whole thing together,” he said. “We can organize everything, but if we can’t get parents to volunteer, we can’t have the events.”
Not every volunteer needs to put in 30-plus hours on campus, McKee said.
“There’s lots of stuff available; you could even take things home if you wanted,” she said. “If every family donated three hours for the whole school year, it would make a huge difference.”
While the work may be hard sometimes, in the end McKee, Steverding and Kehoe agreed that the time they donate to their children’s school is rewarding.
“I’m very happy that my kid went to this school,” Steverding said. “I’m really happy to be able to be involved and be a part of that.”