LEWISTON — The Lewiston Middle School needs a parent-teacher organization, Principal Shawn Chabot said.

“Having good two-way communication with families is critical,” Chabot said. Some students get lost academically in middle school, “which sets up hard times at the high school. If we can make this transition positive for kids, we’re setting them up for success in high school and college.”

Enter two middle school moms, Heidi Sawyer and Marnie Morneault.

The busy career parents, who are already involved in schools — Morneault is PTO chairman at Martell Elementary — are launching a Lewiston Middle School PTO. Their goal, they said, is not fundraising, but building a stronger school community.

At an informational meeting for parents Aug. 21, Sawyer and Morneault talked about the PTO in a full gymnasium.

“Our overall goal is to share what’s happening at the school,” Morneault said. There’s a lot of exciting, positive things going on in the school that parents aren’t aware of. “We really want the image to match what’s going on inside.”

Parents are typically involved with their children’s elementary schools, “but it gets to the middle school, and the kids say, ‘Oh, I don’t want my mom to show up,’” Sawyer said.

That age is when children need parental involvement the most, Chabot said. It’s an age when adolescents begin to push away from their parents and start to experiment with different things.

“They need more guidelines; they need more structure,” he said. “Parents more involved in the school can only benefit.” When students see their parents involved with teachers and school events, “they can’t play each other off,” Chabot said. “It’s a good relationship for kids to thrive in, just like healthy families.”

Last year, Sawyer and Morneault had children enter the middle school. It’s a scary time for students and parents, in part because it’s such a big change — and such a big school.

The middle school has 730 students and enrollment is growing. The women said they weren’t sure what was going on in the school; if they, as active parents, felt out of the loop, other parents probably did, too, they said.

Last spring, Morneault and Sawyer surveyed teachers on what kind of help they’d like to see from parents and also held some teacher appreciation events.

This fall, they’ve created a Lewiston Middle School Facebook page, an email address and a Yahoo news stream.

They’re in the process of surveying parents on whether they could get involved in some kind of volunteer work. Choices include helping with homework, volunteering in classrooms, event planning, spending a few hours at school to help teachers prepare for lessons and offering assistance with social media events, the school newsletter or classroom collection drives.

They are being asked if they attend monthly PTO meetings.

“Heidi and Marnie are doing an awesome job,” Chabot said. “They’re taking the ball and running with it.” He agreed there are preconceived barriers that keeps parents away — barriers the two women are beginning to lift.

The school is grateful for the help.

“We need parents,” Chabot said, calling a lack of parental involvement “a shortcoming” of the school. “We need to be more open and allow families to come in. It’s just a matter of how to facilitate that.”

The first PTO meeting is at 6 p.m. Sept. 18.

[email protected]

How to connect with new Lewiston Middle School PTO

On Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LewistonMiddleSchoolPTO

email:   [email protected]

First Lewiston Middle School PTO meeting is Sept. 18, 6 p.m. (Check Facebook to verify time)

School web page: https://sites.google.com/a/lewistonpublicschools.org/lms-landing-page/



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