Renewed: Parent and PTO leader Terrie Rayburn speaking at a parent forum at Village Hall in October.TERRY DEAN/Staff

A group of parents at Oak Park and River Forest High School is looking to reestablish the school’s PTO – an organization which has been dormant for a few years.

The new PTO also has a new name—Parents 4 Student Success.

Terrie Rayburn, an OPRF parent and one of the group’s leaders, says the group wants to create a specific focus.

“We still are in fact a PTO,” Rayburn said. “We’ve organized ourselves in four different focus areas. One area is parent involvement and outreach. We (also) have a communications group that’s focused on building our website; a better ability to contact parents.”

The other two areas are student achievement, and recognizing outstanding students and teachers at the school.

Rayburn and a few other parents began talking over the summer about reestablishing, and revamping, the PTO. The group plans to reach out to the public elementary schools which feed into OPRF with Rayburn insisting improving student achievement is not just an OPRF issue.

“It’s not just the high school’s problem,” she said. “It’s not just us saying ‘fix it’ to teachers. It’s parents and teachers; it’s the community as a whole. It’s reaching back to the middle schools and the elementary schools.”

Area schools like Lyons Township High School and New Trier have a parent teacher organization, but OPRF’s had become almost non-existent.

Rayburn and other PTO members are already involved at the high school—Rayburn’s also a member of the Citizens’ Council. But OPRF’s PTO in recent years has had trouble attracting parents, many of whom are involved in other school groups or organizations.

“At OPRF, some of the traditional functions of a PTO, other organizations have adopted,” Rayburn said.

In recent year’s the PTO’s numbers hovered around a dozen parents while other groups, like the Citizens’ Council, has several dozen. But Rayburn said she’s not experienced any “parent burnout” while trying to attract parents. The group had about 40 people at their first meeting earlier this fall, though that number has dropped somewhat at subsequent meetings. The PTO members have been networking with other groups, also with the faculty, administration, and Rayburn has been a frequent visitor at school board meetings.

They’ve also gone outside of the school to promote themselves in both River Forest and Oak Park.

“We’ve had very positive reaction from other groups,” Rayburn said. “We’re willing to work collaboratively with anyone as long as we’re helping kids.”

The group will host fundraisers to help support and sustain itself, but Rayburn said fundraising will not be their main focus. Rayburn said the new PTO will work to get the word out about their group, but also about what’s going on at the school.

“There are a lot of great things that we’ve got going on in that building, and I don’t think people are aware or as focused on it as much. There’s a lot to celebrate but if we don’t, no one else will.”

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