Victoria Kelly, the Parent-Teacher-Organization (PTO) President and parent of two students at Mary H. Matula Elementary School, was recently selected as Charles County's 2013 semifinalist in the Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award program. As the county winner, she is now in the running to be selected as a finalist for the state award.
The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) created the awards program to recognize Maryland parents who have made contributions to public education and to highlight the positive impact parents have on public schools. The award recognizes parents from local school systems across Maryland who are nominated in five areas of parental involvement: communication, volunteering, learning, decision making and community collaboration.
Kelly said she is humbled by her nomination and to be recognized for her dedication to Matula and the school community. “I am truly honored to receive this award. Parent involvement is key to student success, so watching parent involvement at Matula grow over the past year gives me great hope for our students' futures. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve my children's school in any way I can. It is a joy to be a part of a community like Matula's,” she said.
Kelly was nominated for the award by Sheryl Dominicis, a Matula parent, for implementing schoolwide initiative called “Crossing the Threshold.” The initiative focuses on increasing school and community involvement by providing opportunities for parents to “cross the threshold” or attend school events and/or volunteer. Her nomination was also supported through letters of recommendation from Matula Principal Timothy Rosin, Matula second-grade teacher Suzy Grund and Mary Winkler, a fellow Matula parent.
As part of the Crossing the Threshold initiative, Kelly has coordinated several events at the school to bring parents together with their children. Before the school year began, Matula hosted a meet and greet social for parents. Kelly helped publicize the event among parents and PTO members were able to connect with and talk to parents in attendance to help create a sense of community. In the fall, Matula hosted a Muffins with Moms and Donuts with Dads event in which more than 350 parents joined their child for breakfast before the start of the school day.
Kelly also coordinated a fall festival at Matula which featured craft activities, games and a pumpkin carving contest for attendees, and a winter wonderland featuring a breakfast with Santa. For both of these events, Kelly reached out to members of the La Plata High School student government association and JROTC cadets to solicit student volunteers interested in helping and receiving community service credit. Matula Principal Timothy Rosin said these events were well attended and are two examples Kelly's dedication to increase parental involvement and support.
“Mrs. Kelly spearheaded this project to get more parents to cross the threshold and get more involved in our school and she succeeded tremendously in doing so. Mrs. Kelly puts her everything into what she does at Mary H. Matula Elementary School to positively impact the school community. More parents have crossed the threshold into Matula this year than ever before due to her continuous efforts and contributions,” Rosin wrote in a nomination letter.
In addition to planning schoolwide events for the Matula community, Kelly arranges monthly PTO spirit nights at local restaurants, communicates with parents by e-mail and Facebook and sends home monthly newsletters to reach parents who are not always able to attend school events or volunteer during the school day. She also secured grant funding from the Town of La Plata to help with school grounds beautification, operates the school store two days a week and helped secure a coach for the school's chess club.
Kelly also has a passion for highlighting successes in the Matula community and for school safety. She regularly sends information to local media outlets for publication and includes news items in monthly newsletters. She also shared ideas with school staff regarding the installation of locking doors that separate the school lobby from the main office to ensure all visitors enter the building through the main office. Additionally, Kelly has spoken before the Charles County Board of Education to advocate for school safety and students in Charles County.
Winkler said Kelly's efforts have a positive impact on the Matula community. “Her dedication to building parent involvement, improving school safety, enhancing fundraising efforts, cementing a strong community connection, and bringing joy to school for the students seems to be tireless as she accomplishes all of these efforts with a positive attitude while wearing a smile,” Winkler wrote in a nomination letter.
Kelly will be recognized at a special ceremony on May 17 at Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore County, where the five finalists and the state award winner will be announced. The statewide winner and five finalists will be awarded a cash prize to further their efforts to improve the public schools they represent.
The main sponsor of the awards program is Target Corporation. The program is also supported by the Maryland Parent-Teacher-Association (PTA), Cullins Tracking Inc., Harvest Enterprises, Inc. and the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, Inc. For more information on the award, visit http://www.msde.maryland.gov/MSDE/audiences/parents/pima.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,700 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 caring community schools that offer a technological advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.