Yolanda Judge, president of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) at C. Paul Barnhart Elementary School, was selected as Charles County’s 2015 semifinalist in the Maryland Parent Involvement Matters Award program. As the county winner, she is now eligible to be chosen 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 school systems in Maryland, and features five levels of criteria: communication, volunteering, learning, decision making and community collaboration.
Judge was chosen to lead the Barnhart PTO as its president earlier this school year and has served as the school’s representative on the Charles County Public Schools Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) for the past two years. Barnhart Principal Troy Barnes nominated Judge for the award and said that without her dedication to the school community, the PTO would not exist at his school. “Ms. Judge is the reason behind the success of our PTO and a vital member of our school community. Our success is directly related to her commitment, time and effort. She is an advocate for children, a dedicated member of our school community and the sole reason why we still have a PTO,” Barnes wrote in a nomination letter.
At the end of last school year, leadership roles on the Barnhart PTO became available, but no one immediately volunteered to oversee the group as its president. Barnes said he was concerned that the PTO at his school would be disbanded from lack of interest. Judge volunteered to run as president and was unanimously selected to lead the group. Barnes said Judge immediately began working to increase parental involvement.
At the start of the school year, there were 28 families that participated with Barnhart’s PTO. With Judge’s leadership and enthusiasm for community and parental involvement, the Barnhart PTO participation grew to include more than 78 families. Judge also helped to establish several PTO committees to organize activities to benefit the entire school community and increase parental involvement. She created a Box Top for Education committee to recognize students who participate in the program, and established an event-planning committee to coordinate school-related activities and events. Judge also worked with the PTO to launch a volunteer committee, which includes more than 80 parent volunteers, to support in any areas of need or with activities at the school.
Some of the activities Judge has helped to plan this school year include a Fall Festival, Breakfast with Santa, spirit nights at local businesses and PTO luncheons for staff. More than 400 parents, students and staff attended the Fall Festival, and another 300 attended the Breakfast with Santa. Barnhart Vice Principal Krista Sevajian said Judge has been instrumental in increasing parental and community involvement.
“During open house, book fair nights and casual walks in the Lancaster neighborhood, Ms. Judge will show up with flyers and a gigantic smile welcoming parents to come out for PTO events and meetings. Ms. Judge is relatable and friendly, therefore parents are even more receptive than ever before to volunteer and participate in schoolwide events and PTO initiatives,” Sevajian wrote in her award nomination letter.
Judge has served the Barnhart community for the past four school years and has a son that attends the school. She said she is humbled by her selection for the award and excited to represent the Barnhart community and Charles County Public Schools in the PIMA program.
Judge will be recognized at a special ceremony on June 5, where the five finalists and the state award winner will be announced. The statewide winner and finalists are eligible for a cash prize to further their efforts to improve the public schools they represent. The PIMA program is supported by several organizations including the Maryland Parent-Teacher Association. For more information about the awards program, visit the MSDE website at http://marylandpublicschools.org/pima/.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,500 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Pamela K. Murphy, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.