Newport News, VA
Setting a Course for Success
September 11, 2013
A year and a half ago, the PTA at Saunders Elementary hit some rough waters. The president had abruptly resigned with no clear successor in place. Worse still, the coffers were empty. A wave of uncertainty washed over the community about the fate of several events at the Newport News, Va., school. Would the 5th grade class have a proper graduation? Would the school’s annual field day even take place?
Fortunately, a resourceful and clear-thinking individual stepped up. It might have been more than coincidence that he happens to be former Navy. Chris Guimond bailed the Saunders PTA out of its tight spot that year. He made sure the 5th graders had a great graduation and he somehow found the money to stage a bang-up field day, too. Then he shored up the PTA’s financial situation in the 2012-13 school year, working hard to get them back on track. Even better news for the K-5 school is that Guimond shows no signs of slowing down.
Despite full-time employment and a family of his own, Guimond embraces the role of PTA president wholeheartedly. As he spends most of his free time at the school, he jokes that it spares him from having to do chores around the house. “There’s a special satisfaction you get out of helping kids versus doing your own stuff,” he says. “I’d rather be volunteering than doing housework because then I’d be home all by myself.”
Luckily, his wife is understanding. Perhaps it’s because she’s a 3rd grade teacher at the school who benefits from his fervent support of staff. He started a store in the teachers lounge that offers snacks and beverages. Some of the proceeds were used to bring in lunch during Teacher Appreciation Week and also to host a back-to-school breakfast. Another salute came in the form of s’mores kits, which he assembled and placed in the teachers’ mailboxes after winter break. The treat and accompanying message stating “We need s’more teachers like you!” was warmly received.
In December, he took a week off work to supervise a holiday gift shop held in the school auditorium. The opportunity for kids to buy gifts for their families proved to be a profitable fundraiser that followed on the heels of an equally successful fall carnival and book fair. And he has great plans for the coming school year, among them a student store for school supplies and a movie night for kids coupled with a parents night out.
While Guimond has shown himself adept at managing large-scale projects, he’s not above handling day-to-day matters like assisting in his wife’s classroom or those of his two children. On his days off, you’re likely to find him in one of those three places. If not there, he might be pouring his energy into assisting the yearbook staff or helping maintain order in the noisy lunchroom. “There isn't much I don’t like doing for the school,” he says.
Although Guimond was up to the challenge of taking on a PTA in disarray, he doesn't wish the same for his eventual successor. “I’m trying to get the PTA to the point that when I do step down and somebody else takes over, they’ll be able to move right in and not have to build it up. It’ll be there,” he says. It’s a noble quest, and one he seems likely to attain. Like so many Superstar Volunteers before him, it’s the kids’ smiles that keep him going.
Writer: June Allan Corrigan
Photo credit: Louis Fronkier