Flex Academies President Joshua Chernikoff interviewed Kristen Clemens, PTA President for Rock Creek Forest Elementary School in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Clemens explains that as a PTA president there are many tasks at hand, including, for her school, a recent move to a new building. The partnership with Flex has allowed her one less worry and the ability to grow Rock Creek Forest’s afterschool programs.
Flex Academies: Can you talk about the relationship between Rock Creek Forest and Flex Academies?
Kristen Clemens: Flex Academies has come in to partner with our PTA to provide an afterschool and before-school enrichment program for our students. We had recently moved schools and been without a program for a year and a half or two, so we were looking at starting from the ground up and knew even before the move that running the school program was a massive amount of work for our parent volunteers. It had been really hard to run a really quality, efficient program for our students. So Flex has been able to come and join us in our endeavor to provide a good program for our students with a variety of activities and make sure there is safety and really just be our partner. They also take the lead in all the implementation and sort of know the best practices and steps to make the program come together and be there for our community.
Flex: I’m not sure you know this but it took Rock Creek Forest several years to come on board. I think there was a little bit of hesitation and obviously you guys were moving buildings so talk to the PTA presidents of the world out there. What should a PTA president look for in a company that is hoping to help them manage their afterschool programs?
KC: Our school had gotten too big and our demands in what we wanted for an afterschool program to really rely on volunteers to pull that off became just too large of a challenge. If you are lucky enough to have that parent who is willing to really dedicate a lot of their time and efforts then you can pull it together but it always feels like there are some loose bolts that maybe aren’t held together. When we looked at restarting our program and moving into this new building and feeling like, with a lot of technology, we really have a new glossy cover. We really wanted to provide our community a program; it felt like it fit with the mix. We are up and running and sort of have our stuff together and putting that on the volunteers backs is really challenging.
So we really wanted to look for a company that had a lot of relationships with vendors, strong relationships and the knowledge of what those vendors bring to the table. Not only what sort of programs they can have but what are their strengths and weaknesses, what grade levels do they work best with — also someone who really had a handle on what logistically does it take to be up and running in the morning and after school, making sure the kids are getting to where they need to, making sure that the rooms are ready and clean when they are done and have someone whose job it was to really be that umbrella organization and to care about every step of the way. We didn’t think it was totally worthwhile to pursue a relationship with a partner who was really focused on one of two pieces of the puzzle. We were really looking for a soup-to-nuts that would really see the program from implementing a new session to the marketing piece to having the onsite coordinator who is there to run it every day, handling the registration. We didn’t want just a piece. We really wanted to know that someone was looking out for it in the big picture.
Flex: Let’s talk about roles and responsibilities and jobs. How does Flex help you as a PTA President?
KC: Probably the biggest value is that I know Flex is on it. If Flex needs information from me or our liaison to move forward with their jobs, build the program the way we want to run it, but I know that Flex is always thinking about what is next. We just launched — winter session got up and running — and that we saw the email coming saying OK it’s time to think about Spring and what classes and what classes do we want. That’s the job that they are doing and really where they are in on the best practices. As a PTA, it’s so easy to get behind the ball on those things because you get done with one thing and then you are distracted with another priority.
I take comfort in knowing the professionalism and expertise behind it but one of the biggest things is that Flex’s primary priority is to keep the train going so they keep us moving on from one stop to the next and don’t let us get behind schedule.
Flex: Well, the train is moving by the way because you are about to get a bunch of emails about Spring registration, as you know. You guys have a great program. You do a great job as the PTA president, and we appreciate your partnership.
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