Moms lead PTO to serve more than students

The role of Monroe School Parent-Teacher Organization president is a big one. Co-presidents Lara Massouras and Dana Reko work together to get the job done.

"I knew how thoughtful and resourceful she was from our interactions there," Massouras said of her PTO partner. Already a PTO board member, Massouras recruited Reko to be the board's vice president of communications.

"She was, of course, a great fit and I am so grateful she stepped up to be co-president with me this year," Massouras said. Both women said they see the role of president as an opportunity not only to enhance their own children's education, but the experience of every teacher, staff member and student at Monroe.

Monroe's student body consists of slightly more than 300 children in kindergarten through fifth grade. The faculty and staff numbers just over 50. Through a variety of avenues, including community events, staff lunches and grants to provide teachers with enhancements for their classrooms, the PTO strengthens the school and builds community, the co-presidents said.

Both Massouras and Reko have children who attend Monroe, but Reko's experience with Hinsdale schools began when she was a student herself.

"I had such a great school experience in Hinsdale," said Reko, who moved back to the village eight years ago to raise her own children in the District 181 schools. "I always knew I wanted to be involved with their schools."

Massouras grew up in Ohio but also was drawn to Hinsdale for its schools, moving here with her family nine years ago. When she stopped working outside the home just a few years ago, she wanted to find a place to volunteer. The PTO "seemed to check all the boxes," Massouras said.

One of their goals as co-presidents is to bring back events like culture night and the science fair. Both Monroe traditions suffered from the shutdowns caused by COVID.

"We're trying to get these things on the calendar and make things happen for them," Massouras said of the PTO's dedication to Monroe's students.

Monroe's Family Fun Fest is coming up Friday, May 19. Held in the field behind the school, it brings the entire Monroe community together to enjoy music, inflatables, a rock climbing wall and more.

"It's something that everyone really looks forward to," Massouras said.

Meanwhile, the PTO is gearing up for staff appreciation week. Held May 8-12, the week includes meals for the teachers, massages and treats, all provided by the PTO.

Of course, all of these events require funding, which also is the responsibility of the PTO. In addition to a major auction event held every other year, the PTO also organizes wrapping paper sales, parents' nights out and student events like the Orange Ruler Fun Run held in September. All of these activities raise money while building community, Reko and Massouras said.

Membership in the PTO is optional for parents, but more than 95 percent have chosen to participate in one way or another. Many take the next step to be part of one of the PTO's 45-plus committees or even to serve on the board.

"It's important to enhance the learning experience for all students and the staff," Reko said.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean