It's the "Never Ending Story, Part V," starring Jane Willie.
Part V? No, you didn't read that wrong. We're not talking movie sequels here.The Never Ending Story is how Willie would describe her last five years in the PTA - only she'd star in a book, not a movie.
It may only be February, but Willie, PTA president at Salt Lake's Bennion Elementary School, is already planning next year's PTA activities. Willie, who is in the first year of a two-year PTA presidency, had this year's "Get Jazzed on Reading" program set long before Bennion, a year-round school, ushered in the 1990-91 school year last July.
"It's never ending," said Willie, who can only guess at the number of hours that she devotes to Bennion weekly. "We're always planning ahead, and when we're involved in an activity or program, everything else gets put on hold except being wife and mother - and sometimes that does too."
When the first of her four children entered Bennion five years ago, so did Willie as a volunteer. Now three children are in school, but Don, 3, the unofficial assistant PTA president, is well-known in the halls of Bennion.
Her first job was coordinating Bennion's massive Reflections contest, the PTA fine arts program open to every child in the school. "It's a six- to nine-month project if you do it right," she said.
Next came the office of PTA vice president, but she often filled in for the president, who had 11 children and was going to school herself.
Willie's presidency has focused on reading. Last year, Willie, with the help of her PTA board and PTA family life commissioner Mary Myers, pushed the Bennion schoolchildren to read 1 million pages. Bennion's efforts won the National PTA Reading Award, which is given to only one school in the country.
This year the goal is 1.5 million pages. Jazz basketball star Thurl Bailey kicked off the year's theme of "Get Jazzed on Reading" by talking to the Bennion pupils about his favorite books. His appearance - and Bennion's accomplishments - are featured in the March issue of the national women's magazine, "Good Housekeeping."
This month the PTA is promoting family reading. "The whole idea is to get parents to sit down and read with their kids," Willie said.
At reading assemblies, where top readers and top reading classes are honored, principal Patrick Garcia dresses up as his favorite characters. He recently talked to the children as Tom Sawyer. In addition, PTA secretary Cindy Steenblik comes as The Reading Caterpillar.
Garcia is thrilled with the PTA reading program. "I'm seeing kids very willing to read. Kids who are reading all the time will become better readers and that will pay off for us in the long run."
Without the PTA and presidents like Willie, schools would have difficulty designing and promoting schoolwide reading programs like Bennion's, Garcia said. "I feel extremely fortunate that our PTA is so very active, concerned about students and willing to help out."
A successful reading program, where parents can easily see the benefits, has also helped Bennion's PTA. Willie reported that PTA membership jumped 38 percent this year, and the number of volunteers has increased, too.
Willie plans to continue the reading program next year, but it will probably be more low-key, with pupils concentrating on reading specific types of books rather than a specific number of pages.
When her presidency ends, Willie plans on "taking it easy for about a day, and then I'll probably volunteer in my children's classrooms."