They signed up to lead Monte Vista Elementary Parent Teachers Organization because they believe in the kids, the parents and the school staff.
What the seven women who took over as the new board members of the Monte Vista PTO didn’t believe was that they’d be walking into a nightmare.
Yet, as they scramble to fill a huge financial hole left by apparent financial irregularities that occurred before they took office, the moms also have discovered that what they drew them to help in the first place hasn’t changed one bit.
“The support of the parents, the community and the district has been unbelievably positive,” said Co-Vice President Robin Barrett.
Positive experiences they and their children have had at Monte Vista inspired Barrett, co-presidents Jessica Hawkes and Cayden Martin, Co-VP Hilary Burt, Co-Secretaries Sandra Stone and Usha Horvat and Treasurer Amanda Garbade to run for the board in the first place.
Barrett’s own experience with the Monte Vista community is illustrative.
When she broke her femur in January, parents and even now-retired Principal Suzanne Ramundo rallied to help the mother of twins now entering first grade: They took turns making dinners for Barrett’s family for a month.
That kind of spirit makes Monte Vista more than a school. It’s a community.
And the board members are finding the same loving spirit dominates the response to their pleas for help.
Businesses have rallied to their aid. Some, like Peter Piper’s Pizza, upped the percentage of food sales it donates to the PTO.
Others have pledged to do what they can to help the group with fundraisers. Parents also have come forward to offer their support.
The reaction has been a salve to the gaping wound that opened when the board members discovered the big budget hole, which could be close to $20,000.
“We were so discouraged,” Barrett recalled. “We talked about what we should do and wondered if we should just walk away.”
In the long run, they dug in, their commitment fueled by a comradery that keeps them looking out for each other and covering for one another when personal and family demands take one of them away from PTO business.
“A lot of times you have PTO officers who barely know each other get elected, but we’re a tight-knit group,” Barrett said.
Four of the current officers knew each other and jointly decided to run because they felt the group lacked leadership and wanted to fill the void. They then recruited the three others.
In the wake of their shocking discovery, Barrett said, leading the PTO has involved “a tremendous amount of work.”
“It’s been like a fulltime job,” she said. “But we’ve been really good at communicating with each other and working very closely together.”
And, of course, they are energized by the support they’re receiving – not only within the Monte Vista community but throughout the district and Ahwatukee.
“The new principal and the assistant principal have been very supportive. The district has been supportive. The parents have been great and the businesses have been supportive,” Barrett said.
“They’ve all been very sympathetic.”