Volunteers at Jefferson Junior High make up for budget cuts

By AIMEE HALL
neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

Jodie Brand can be found at the front desk every Wednesday from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. helping the rest of the office staff. AIMEE HALL/Missourian

When last spring’s budget cuts at Jefferson Junior High prevented the school from hiring a new front office secretary for the 2009-10 school year, Principal Gregery Caine didn’t panic.

Instead, he set out to find a solution.

After researching and talking to other principals in the district, Caine went to the PTA to present the problem to the president, Jodie Brand, and the rest of the PTA members, asking them if they would volunteer their time to fill the position.

“It was kind of a spur of the moment thing,” Caine said.

Brand and the other PTA members eagerly agreed and immediately began to divide days and times among those interested in filling the gap. The position would require volunteers from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

“They were really quick and aggressive to jump on and find a way to help us,” Caine said.

From this position alone, the PTA has donated almost 1,000 volunteer hours over the past school year at Jefferson Junior.

As a PTA volunteer, being the receptionist for Jefferson Junior isn’t just answering the phones. It also includes several other responsibilities:

  • Handling passes for students
  • Filing notes or passes
  • Notifying teachers of sick students
  • Dealing with anyone who walks into the school’s office

“It’s the first person when you come into the office,” Brand said, who volunteers for two hours on Wednesdays. “It’s the first person who will handle the need of the person, be it the student or the parent, as well as we answer the phone so that the administrative assistant secretaries can do all of their jobs. So we are sort of the first contact.”

According to Caine, the school could not have run efficiently without their help.

“Having a smiling face to introduce everyone who comes in has been pretty vital to us,” he said.

One of the office volunteers is PTA member Lisa Humphrey, who is in the office every Thursday from 12:30 to 2:45 p.m.

“The best part is just interacting with the kids,” Humphrey said.

Although answering the phones has been her least favorite part, she still encourages other parents to get involved both at Jefferson Junior and other schools.

“I think it’s the best way to spend free time that you have cause the people who work at those schools are overworked, underpaid, and just need some help,” Humphrey said.

Having volunteers has benefited the front office and the functionality of the school, but Brand said she thinks that it has also benefited the members of the PTA who volunteer.

“It basically makes them more greatly appreciate this budget cut because it really is quite a massive blow to this front office, which is so busy,” Brand said. “It should help to bring, firsthand, the real feel, in a small way, the budget cut and how it’s affecting this entire school.”

Next year, with the new budget cut, the nurse’s aid position at the school will be cut. Because there must always be a nurse on hand at the school whenever students are in the building, not having a nurse’s aid would greatly limit the current school nurse.

“In effect, that nurse could barely even go to the bathroom at this point,” Brand said.

The PTA members have plans to volunteer in the fall for that position, though it will most likely not require as much time as the secretary position in the front office does.

“There are so many things that we can do with the PTA that we couldn’t do otherwise,” Caine said.

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