PTA volunteering is not for the faint-of-heart.
As any parent organization volunteer can tell you, what may start as a simple fundraiser (wait, is there any such thing as a “simple” fundraiser?) or school event often translates into many hours, even days, of hard work. Parent volunteers are the unsung heroes of these efforts, donating time and resources to make them successful. But parent volunteers move on when their kids graduate to the next school – and sometimes, volunteers are overloaded so much so that they burn out and refuse to volunteer anymore.
Finding a volunteer or two to run bake sales or classroom parties may be tough, but if a parent volunteer was in charge of the afterschool program and is suddenly unavailable – that can be catastrophic for students and your program.
“PTA presidents are finding that managing an afterschool program can be a full-time job,” says Joshua Chernikoff, founder and president of Flex Academies. “At Flex, our job is to manage all aspects of an afterschool enrichment program, and free up parent volunteers to do the things their organization needs.”
Chernikoff explains that Flex Academies begins by meeting with the school’s administration and PTA to determine the best afterschool activities to offer. Then, he says, Flex screens and background-checks vendors, handles parent registration, coordinates logistics and provides an onsite coordinator to make sure the program runs smoothly, every day.
“The only volunteer we need is one person to serve as a point of contact between Flex and the PTA,” says Chernikoff. “Everything else is Flex’s responsibility.”
Kristin Clemens is the PTA president at Rock Creek Elementary School in Frederick, Maryland. After a move to a new school, Rock Creek’s PTA was looking to relaunch the afterschool enrichment program that it had previously managed itself. “It had been really hard to run a really quality, efficient program for our students,” Clemens recalls. “Our school had gotten too big and our demands in what we wanted for an afterschool program too much, to rely on volunteers to pull it off. It just became too large of a challenge.”
So Clemens and her PTA turned to Flex to manage their program.
“We 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,” says Clemens. “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.”
Clemens has been pleased with Flex and its afterschool program management at Rock Creek. Flex has freed up her organization to focus on its other priorities. She says that “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.”
Laura Chace, PTA president at Ashburton Elementary School in Bethesda, Maryland, voices similar thoughts about her organization’s partnership with Flex.
“We have a really large student body, and it was too much for parent volunteers to handle on their own,” she says. “Flex not only brings the coordination, but they also bring a higher level of running the program like a business, where you have background checks on providers and a child check-in and check-out system, so there’s an additional level of responsibility and security.”
In addition, Chace says the partnership with Flex has really benefitted school administrators, because in the past, students in the afterschool program had to wait in the office if a provider was running late to school. Administrators and office staff would have to manage large groups of kids while trying to do their own full-time jobs. The Flex onsite coordinator has taken “a huge weight off their shoulders,” she says.
Chernikoff says his company is proud of the successful partnerships it has with dozens of PTAs. “When PTA officers tell us that they’re impressed with how smoothly their program runs, and how thankful they are that they don’t have to staff it, we know we’ve done our job,” he says.