Mr. Darren Bagley-Heath is described by his school as “a prime example of a citizen and parent who believes in and champions public school education.” From assisting the teachers in supporting the school’s pre-existing robotics and coding courses, to actively helping to launch their heralded drone programming and student astronaut challenge programs, Mr. Bagley-Heath has been indispensable. He attends every club meeting at school, mentors multiple school students, and connects students with engaging technological learning opportunities.
Mr. Bagley-Heath excels at connecting the school with community resources and leaders. He took the initiative to collaborate with a group of engineers to write and secure a large financial grant for the school to receive a brand new 3D printer for their STEAM program. Additionally, he has overseen the launch of success-based community programs for after-school technology clubs and for student fundraising competitions and prizes. As the school’s PTA president, Mr. Bagley-Heath inspires parents of all walks of life to participate in the organization. When leading council meetings, he invites other parents to participate in the decision-making process. Under his leadership, the PTA has increased approximately 300% over the last year. He focuses on supporting the learning process in the classroom as well as extra-curricular activities. It is because of his exceptional leadership, the school has been able to enjoy growth, success, and educational experiences for all participating students.
With parent partnership and inclusion always on her radar, Sarah Clark exceeds the expectations of a parent volunteer and PTA President at Pooler Elementary. Mrs. Clark serves as the school’s volunteer Parent Facilitator where she graciously carries out many of the communication tasks between home and school with the guidance and support of the administration. Every Wednesday, Mrs. Clark and two or more volunteers assist with creating fliers and preparing Wednesday folders for nearly 500 students, which includes important school information to share with parents. She spends the majority of her day at the school organizing events and fundraisers and helping to make everyone’s day a little lighter if she can in anyway. Along with her entourage of parent volunteers, Mrs. Clark recruited room parents for each classroom. Each homeroom teacher now has at least one go-to parent who communicates with other parents in the school.
Mrs. Clark has worked extremely hard to secure many new business partners in the community to help build the connection between school, home, and the community. The school’s number of community partners has increased from 4 business partners to 30 which is a 650% increase in a year’s time. The administration credits this increase due to Mrs. Clark’s talent and tenacity in working with people to get things done. Described by her fellow parent volunteers as compassionate, dedicated, honorable, and dependable, she has positively impacted the entire school community. The School Principal wrote, “Our motto is TEAM Pooler—Together Everyone Achieves More—including our students, parents, staff, and community and with Mrs. Clark, we are achieving more.”
Mrs. Donaldson is described by her school as a passionate advocate and motivated leader. She is well known for her smile, positive attitude, work ethic, and teamwork mentality. Mrs. Donaldson supports student success and identifies different ways to communicate with families. She contributed to the development of the school’s first Student/Parent Handbook. As a result of Mrs. Donaldson’s volunteerism, the school community has changed. As the PTSA President for New Hampstead High School, her PTSA was aligned with the district’s PTA theme of “Where Do You Fit In?” She is described as a leader who “possesses characteristics that will inspire others involved and find where they ‘fit’ in this intricate puzzle.”
By engaging parents, administration, students, and community members, she helped doubled its school’s 2015–2016 year-to-date PSTA membership by 121%. The PTSA was formally recognized for achieving this goal in only two months. Her organizational skills, attention to detail, and exceptional work ethics enabled her to lead their PTSA to earn local, as well as, national honors. Mrs. Donaldson registered her school to participate in the PTA’s National School of Excellence Program. Through extensive surveys, analysis, documentation, and Family Engagement events, the school was recognized as being a 2016-2018 National School of Excellence Award Recipient.
Lily Pabian is described by her school as a natural parent leader who leads with her heart and her hand. Because Mrs. Pabian’s parents are Asian immigrants, she understands what it is like to have “parents who speak little or no English.” As Co-President of the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), her focus placed emphasis on “Welcoming All Families” through inclusivity. This entailed reaching out to the school’s Hispanic population by partnering with the Title III Bi-Lingual Liaison and the Title I Parent Liaison. Considering approximately 30% of the school’s population is Hispanic, Lily worked with the PTSA to recruit native Spanish-speaking parents to build ties. Furthermore, after realizing that many of the Hispanic children in the school participated in soccer, Mrs. Pabian secured a free soccer game and established a community partnership with her daughter’s Soccer League, Santos Soccer Club. A community member stated, “These partnerships gave the students opportunities they wouldn’t ordinarily have.”
From band concerts to Title I meetings, to school/PTSA events, it is rare not to see Mrs. Pabian’s smiling face, camera ready, encouraging selfies and recruiting parents. Elkins Pointe Middle School Principal describes her as being instrumental in the school receiving numerous accolades. Mrs. Pabian is described as being “the embodiment” of the PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. She epitomizes family engagement by making parents, students, and teachers at Elkins Pointe Middle School feel “Smart, Happy, and Connected. “
Coastal Middle School’s PTA President, Kathy Restel, is described as “a parent who walks on campus and magically turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.” With her ever-present positive attitude and high caliber persistence, Mrs. Restel creates an atmosphere where every parent, student, faculty member, and community partner feel welcome. Coastal Middle School, designated as an International Baccalaureate World School, National Lighthouse School to Watch, and a Model PTSA School, credits Mrs. Restel as she guides the PTA to provide teachers and students with the resources necessary to expand their knowledge and skills beyond the walls of the classroom or the geographical boundaries of the campus. By offering mini-grants, the “teacher-choice” open-ended funding initiatives are available through the immense success of the PTA’s commitment to a single fundraiser per year creatively called, The Seahawk Strut. Last year, this single event allowed every Coastal teacher who applied for a grant to receive one. As a result, over 30 grants were awarded, yielding a total of over $8,000 going directly into the classrooms and beyond. From colonial gardens to introductory scuba diving excursions in Engineering and Technology, students were able to enhance their learning through hands-on play, imagination, and discovery. This aspiration by Mrs. Restel and her board reap huge dividends, as Coastal students score at or above others schools in the district, state, and nation.
The school cites their PTSA as the cornerstone of their success and Mrs. Kathy Restel as the lead architect in the design. She encourages everyone who enters the building to utilize their various talents and skills to make their school a magical place where learning is fun, the community is a natural part of the children’s lives and a destination where parents, teachers, and students truly know that they are a place of “excellence without limits.”
Antonio “Tony” Wesby
For the first six months, a new school employee thought Mr. Wesby was employed by the district as some type of liaison but later discovered that Mr. Wesby was a volunteer who spent more time at the school than salaried employees did during a week. Being a former student of the very same district, Mr. Wesby sees his time as a way of giving back to the district that helped him become the outstanding individual others see today. Spending countless hours in front of students, parents, school officials, and other stakeholders, Mr. Wesby leaves no stone unturned advocating for students’ rights and success. He is a champion for all students, especially the at-risk population. Previously while employed with the Burke County Public System, Mr. Wesby along with three other gentlemen established a group of boys called “Super Crew.” These young men (ages 8-11) were taught how to dress for success, to value themselves as well as others, and to reprogram their minds for academic and behavioral success.
Mr. Wesby, also known as, “Motivator to the Nation”, is a motivational speaker who goes out into the community encouraging parental involvement in the schools and collaborating with community leaders and officials to come up with ideas and strategies to support student success. As founder of a summer outreach program, he offers the youth in the community positive things to do rather than falling into the trap of negative choices. Mr. Wesby is an avid participant at school board meetings as well as various community meetings in the district. He believes in educating the parents so that the children will have a greater chance at success. The rate of family engagement has increased due to the campaigning efforts of Mr. Wesby and his innovative avenues of motivating parents to participate. Ultimately, he believes “laughter captivates, words motivate, and passion stimulates the lives of those who will truly embrace them.”