The first time Max Pacineau went to a PTA meeting, he determined he was not simply going to sit there. He would ask a question.
He found he had many questions and before he knew it, he was answering them as well as asking them. Somehow, in the process, he had become PTA president at Parkview Elementary in Salt Lake City."Once you take that first step, it's not as hard as you anticipated," said Pacineau. He has become so involved in school voluntarism, in fact, that his influence is felt throughout his own Salt Lake District and statewide.
He is chairman of the Glendale Middle School school-community council and serves, as well, on a Title 5 parent advisory group. When the State Office of Education began organizing a push for more parental involvement, Pacineau was on their list of effective parent leaders they wanted to include.
Spreading the message to other parents, particularly minority parents, is gratifying, but the bottom line is how his involvement affects his relationships with his own children, Pacineau said.
"My children know I'm a part of the school and they can't get away with much," said Pacineau, a divorced parent.
Pacineau came to Salt Lake City about 15 years ago from North Dakota. An Arickara Indian, he can relate to the uneasiness many minority parents have over becoming involved in their children's schools.
"Many of them have a hesitation to be in an active role. But once they take the first step, they find it's not as hard as they anticipated," he said.
Keeping too-few PTA workers from burning out while trying to address all the possible needs in a school is a delicate balancing act for a president, he's found.
"We have enough projects to keep everyone busy. I try to spread the assignments around so nobody burns out." Boosting self-esteem among students is a prime objective, and setting up a recognition program was one of the PTA's projects. They also support a reading program and help provide such essentials as coats and eyeglasses for children whose families can't afford them.
Principal Jan Wilde heartily endorses her PTA president.
"It's wonderful to have a male image in the role of PTA leader," she said.
"He works full time and is involved in his union, but he puts in hundreds of hours at the school."
Pacineau believes every parent can find time to serve at school if they make the effort. He did.