TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS, AT SCHOOL
February 21, 2012
These days, if you have something to promote, you'd better have a publicist or you're sunk. Think actors, athletes, brand-name products, vacation destinations, you name it. Everyone or everything, including schools, could use a little spin to gain attention and garner favor. Lucky thing Carmel Elementary in Woodstock, Ga., has just such an individual in its corner: Gary Parkes. The father of two uses his considerable marketing experience and business acumen to help the school scale new heights.
When he's not at work as a mortgage broker or an independent marketing consultant, Parkes is likely to be volunteering at Carmel Elementary or working the phones on the school's behalf. Parkes used his networking skills to drum up more than $100,000 in donated goods and services for the school's annual fall festival in 2010. He has also helped raise awareness of the PTA's good work among school families and the larger community.
Parkes began volunteering during his daughters' preschool days. He later progressed to room parent in his eldest's 1st grade class where, he says, "Yes, I was the only male room parent that year and the only one since then that I'm aware of." As a matter of fact, he's room parent again, this time in his youngest's 2nd grade class. He clearly relishes the classroom time but has taken on increasingly more prominent duties at the school through the PTA.
You could say Parkes stumbled upon his true calling a few years ago while serving on a PTA board nominating committee. At that time, some fellow parents asked if he would consider taking on a vice president position. "I said, why not? There's a need and I can do it." He served a year as vice president, and he's now in his second term as copresident. In both capacities, he soon realized the strengths gained in his professional life would serve him well in tackling PTA challenges.
With any organization or product, it's important to get the word out. Parkes has been most effective in this regard, resulting in dramatically increased PTA awareness and membership involvement. Communication is clearly his forte, as evidenced by the lengthy in-house newsletter he produces each month. He recently became a community blogger for the main NBC affiliate in the area, allowing him to share school news with a larger audience. Parkes has also landed coverage for the school in local newspapers and has been quoted in the New York Times talking about school volunteerism.
He modestly brushes aside such accomplishments, preferring instead to focus on upcoming goals like the school's current campaign to acquire a defibrillator. If anything, he will admit to being particularly proud of a "Resuscitate Recess" initiative the PTA launched whereby footballs, jump ropes, Hula-Hoops, and other play-worthy equipment were provided to all grade levels. "I remember asking my 1st grader what she did at recess and was absolutely appalled to learn there was nothing for them to do," he says. That conversation was the impetus for the program.
"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about," said poet and novelist Oscar Wilde. Parkes certainly keeps the conversation going at Carmel Elementary, and the school benefits handsomely from his efforts. Obviously it pays to have a professional in the mix!
Writer: June Allan Corrigan
Photo: Robin Nelson