After losing staff, Snoqualmie Middle School turns to volunteers
October 14, 2009
By Laura Geggel
Budget cuts may have axed Snoqualmie Middle School’s librarian and assistant principal, but parent volunteers are stepping up to help the school run efficiently.
SMS PTSA President Sarah Burns has recruited a cadre of parent volunteers to help supervise students during lunch in the cafeteria and the library.
About 25 mothers volunteer at SMS every week, making sure students clean up their messes, stay in designated areas and keep their hands to themselves.
The volunteers also chat with children, providing them another adult to confide in.
“I’ve only had to send two kids to the office, and I’ve been doing this every day for three weeks,” Burns said.
Lunch is a busy time. Students are required to sit and eat for the first 15 minutes.
The second 15 minutes allows them more choices – they can play foosball in the lunchroom, play basketball or other games in the gymnasium, or play board games or read in the library.
Were it not for parent volunteers, SMS Principal Vernie Newell and counselor Heather Kern would have to supervise more than 400 students during three lunch periods.
With volunteers at SMS, Kern uses lunchtime to counsel students.
“In a nutshell, it’s trying to maintain the programs and structure we have with less support,” Newell said.
Last year, Assistant Principal Ray Wilson helped supervise students.
Now, Wilson is the principal at Cascade View Elementary School. With the downsized 2009-10 school district budget, SMS couldn’t replace him.
The district also cut all but one middle and high school librarian. Even the school secretary’s time was halved to four hours per day, causing other people to pick up her responsibilities, such as giving some students medication at lunch.
Librarian Janna Treisman comes to SMS every Tuesday, but she must divide her time between all three middle schools and Mount Si High School, meaning the library is normally closed on days she is not there.
“I think it’s a waste of money to have all of these books in here if nobody’s going to read them,” sixth-grader Payton Graves said.
Parent volunteers at least keep the library open during lunchtime, but can’t help students to the degree that a trained librarian can.
Instructional aids and Treisman at least teach volunteers how to check out and shelve books. Volunteer Paige Dolecki, whose résumé includes library and bookstore experience, explained why she chose to volunteer.
“My daughter spent all of sixth grade and seventh grade in the library,” Dolecki said. “It was heartbreaking to hear the kids would only be able to use the library one day a week.”
Sixth-grader Sarah Hong browsed through book titles after eating lunch. To her, having the library open “means we can learn more than what the teachers tell us.”
Her classmate Brock Toney agreed.
“It’s good that I can go to the library and pick out an adventure book that I can read and enjoy,” Toney said.
Burns said recruitment has been going well, but she could always use more volunteers, especially fathers.
She has her sights set on the walk-about program at Issaquah Middle School, which has volunteers monitor the hallways during lunch and before and after school. This year, the IMS program had 60 new volunteers register to be walk-abouts.
“Sometimes just having an adult there makes people behave better,” IMS PTSA co-president Camille Vaska said.
Kern told parents to ignore the myth that middle school students want their parents out of the picture.
“The kids, they say they’re embarrassed by it, but in reality, they look forward to it,” Kern said. “We’re in this together. Parents and school need to work together.”
Laura Geggel: 392-6434 ext. 221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.snovalleystar.com.