Donna ISD parent Baldemar Garza makes it a point to volunteer regularly at Veterans Middle School, his son’s campus. Garza said it is important for him to be involved because that is how he learns about what is going on.
“I volunteer quite a bit at my son’s middle school,” Garza said. “That’s how I become aware of the monthly parent meetings that the school has. The district itself has a lot of programs, many of which people are not aware of, so volunteering is important to me. That’s how I find out what’s being offered and how I can help my son succeed in school.”
Donna ISD administrators know too well how critical the role of a volunteer plays in a school district. That is why they honor these special individuals every year with a Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast.
“Our volunteers are not paid employees. They’re volunteers who help out throughout the district,” Director of Parental Involvement Tomas Tamez said. “They volunteer countless hours over the course of the year to assist our teachers who ultimately assist our children. So, as a district we truly appreciate their efforts and the help they provide to our children.”
In addition to the appreciation banquet, DISD also acknowledges volunteers who contribute significantly. “The volunteers log in their hours throughout the year and if they work more than 500 hours, they are presented with a plaque and recognized at a school board meeting in June,” Tamez said. “Last year, we had around 40 volunteers who exceeded 500 hours and 15 individuals who surpassed 1,000 hours. That’s commitment.”
As of May 1, 158 volunteers across the district have logged in more than 46,108 hours. The majority of them are parents of children who attend DISD schools. The campuses count on them to alleviate additional tasks so teachers can focus on their students.
“Our teachers have many tasks aside from preparing lesson plans and teaching their curriculum,” Tamez said. “They also spend extra hours preparing materials for example lamenating, making copies and cutting arts and crafts. The volunteers help the teachers complete these tasks so our educators can have more time to concentrate and plan on instruction.”
The parents help out with other duties as well. They are given their assignments at their campus Parent Volunteer Center. Each school except for D.A.E.P. and 3-D Academy has one. “The Parent Volunteer Center may assign the parent to tutor children, work lunch duty, or assist at the school library by doing things like categorizing books,” Tamez said. “The tasks vary depending on the needs of the campus and the needs of that particular Parent Volunteer Center.”
While Tamez is grateful for the volunteers, he said that the district is always in need of more volunteers. “We understand that not everybody can volunteer especially if both parents have a day job. We are extremely proud of those who do. They are a valuable resource in our district.”