STAMFORD, Conn. Mention PTOs to most people, and they think of bake sales. But for Cindy Grafstein, PTOs are as important to the quality of education as the teaching staff, the books and the equipment in a school. As outgoing president of the Stamford Parent Teacher Council, Grafstein has seen firsthand how influential PTOs can be as advocates for better education in a city. And she doesn't just talk the talk, she's walked the walk by "coming up through the ranks" as her three children progressed through the Stamford public school system.
"We need to hold politicians accountable," she says. "Too often people assume that because education is the biggest item in a city's budget it's full of waste. We act as watchdogs, making sure the schools get what they need."
The PT Council is the umbrella group for the individual school PTOs in Stamford. "We have 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which is also conferred on the school PTOs, which helps them," says Grafstein. "We also give them insurance coverage for their functions."
The council also provides guidance to the individual PTOs. "That's important, since most of them are made up of a new group of people every year," Grafstein says. "Giving them some continuity, and not having to start from square one year after year, is huge."
Although the PT Council is prohibited from endorsing a candidate for public office, some PTO members will be involved in Stamford's search for a new school superintendent.
With a freshman and senior at Westhill and a seventh-grader at Turn of River, expect Grafstein to remain involved for at least a few more years. "I have the time to do it, so I do," she says. "I don't like to sit back and watch."
Have you been involved in any PTO work?
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