Parent Teacher Associations exist to promote closer relations between parents and teachers in the best interests of the children. Typically, these PTAs are school-based, tied in and affiliated with a particular campus and represent the best interests of that school’s students.
A group of Anna parents, however, felt the need to do something more for their children who are in the gifted and talented program, 504 students, student who receive speech services and those enrolled in special education. These parents are attempting to form a new PTA, and unlike other associations, the Anna ISD Special Populations PTA will serve children across the Anna school district.
"Unlike traditional PTA’s, this is a district-wide PTA for all schools and grade levels," said parent Kristine Skiff. "The goal of our organization is to facilitate communication between parents of special population kids and the district to provide information on navigating the special education system for parents, to open opportunities for our children to participate in and give back to our community and to provide a community of parents supporting each other in what can be a challenging journey."
The genesis of this new group comes via a parent advisory board started a few years ago which brought in special speakers for parents and hosted question-and-answer sessions. Guiding a special-needs child through the educational process can be harrowing and overwhelming for the uninitiated, and the group strived to offer education and support for the parents.
With the formation of Anna ISD Special Populations PTA, parents will have a unique resource and a new voice.
"We saw a huge need in the community for parents to have training on how to advocate for their children," said Skiff.
The mother of five speaks from experience. Four of Skiff’s children are within the Asperger’s spectrum. Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that involves delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate and to use imagination. When the Skiffs moved to Anna years ago, son Paul was in second grade and was the first Asperger’s student in the district, according to Skiff. It has been a long journey filled with a long and winding road of navigating a special-needs child through school, but Skiff said the journey has taught her much.
"I have grown more than anyone in this whole process. To me, this isn’t something me or my kids are ashamed of, this is how God created us," said Skiff, whose blog — Glimpses of Skiff — chronicles the journey.
It is that sentiment that has led Skiff and her fellow parents to form this PTA. Part of the association’s long-term plans are to assemble a resource library to help smooth the way for other parents and offer help to a group that is so often shut off from the rest of the community. In the short term, the association will hold a Sept. 30 meeting to elect officers. That meeting, at which the association needs 20 in attendance to become an official PTA, will determine how far it goes in its desire to be officially recognized.
The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Anna ISD special programs buildings at 201 7th St. A spanish language interpreter will be on hand, and kids are invited as there will be crafts available to keep them entertained. The public is welcomed and appreciated.