PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Donna Clifton almost single-handedly saved the Parent Teacher Association in Portsmouth.
“I’m a pusher. I don’t go away easy,” said Clifton. “I am here to stay and I am here to fight for our kids.”
Two years ago, Clifton started asking questions after realizing there were no members of the PTA at Brighton Elementary. Then, she learned a majority of the district’s 19 schools did not have a functioning group.
“There’s something wrong,” she thought. “I am trying to understand what is the disconnect? Why is it that we can’t get our parents involved in our schools to make a difference in our schools?”
Clifton says, at the time, parents complained the schools were not welcoming and there wasn’t anything for them to do.
Determined to put the past in the past, she got to work. Clifton says she spent countless hours over the next year going to schools, PTA meetings, recruiting officers and helping chapters with paperwork.
As of January, all 19 schools are now in good standing with the Virginia PTA.
Membership has grown to 2,000, but Clifton believes more parents of the 14,000-plus kids need to sign-on as advocates.
“We are trying to advocate for funding for the children,” said Clifton. “They are our future, and if we don’t do what we need to do for them to make sure they have what they need then our world is going to be in trouble.”
Superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy credits Clifton with saving the PTA.
“She definitely revamped the whole structure of our PTA, and I owe her a lot for that,” said Dr. Bracy.
Eight of the city’s 19 schools are fully accredited by the state. Clifton believes a strong PTA can help by putting more volunteers in the classroom.
“We need mentors. We need people coming in reading to our kids. We need people coming in tutoring our kids,” said Clifton.
She says it’s now her passion to get the community connected.