Frequently Asked Questions

Question MarkFrequently Asked Questions

  1.  What is the purpose of a PTA? 

The mission of the Patrick Henry Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) is to support community building and enrich the educational environment for our children.  The PTA is made up of parents/guardians and teachers of students at Patrick Henry.  Any parent/guardian or caregiver of a Patrick Henry student can belong to the PTA and any teacher at Patrick Henry may join the PTA.  Membership is $10/family per year.

  1.  When does the PTA meet?

The PTA meets 6 times per year on the first Tuesday of the month.  Click here for the meeting schedule and to export to your calendar.  Free pizza is served from 6:30 to 7:00PM and the meetings run from 7:00-8:00PM in the school library.  Free childcare for potty-trained children is provided by teachers and staff.  The children go to one of the Kindergarten rooms to play during the meeting.

  1.  What does the PTA do? 

The Patrick Henry PTA is engaged in a wide variety of activities that include teacher support, grade-level grants, school beautification, and more.  The PTA funds these activities through fundraising throughout the year.  More information on PTA activities and fundraising is below.

  1.  How can I participate in the PTA?

There are many different ways to get involved in the PTA.  We always have a need for volunteers!  Volunteer opportunities range from one-time help at an event to being a room parent to leading an activity like the Read-a-thon.  It all depends on your availability and interests.  A list of volunteer opportunities is available on our website.  Membership is $10/family per year.  Membership forms are available on our website.

  1.  Who runs the PTA?

The PTA is an all-volunteer organization.  An Executive Committee is elected each Spring to lead the PTA in the following school year.  The Committee is comprised of a President, President-Elect, Past President, three Vice Presidents (Fundraising, Outreach, and Education), Secretary, and Treasurer.  In addition, the Principal sits on the Executive Committee.

  1.  What if I have an idea or a question, but can’t come to a meeting?

You can always email anyone on the Executive Committee at any time with an idea, question, or just to talk.  Our contact information is on the PTA website.

  1.  Tell me about some of the PTA Activities.
  • Back-to-school Picnic – The Back-to-School picnic is held on the first Friday after school starts and is free and open to all Patrick Henry families. A simple picnic of hot dogs, sides, beverages and dessert are served. It’s a great way to meet new friends and catch-up with old ones.  It is held on the blacktop adjacent to the playground from 5-7PM.
  • International Night – International Night celebrates Patrick Henry’s cultural diversity.  Families volunteer to display tables showcasing their heritage.  Tables can include pictures, music, food, games, toys, and more!  Typically there is also dancing and singing from local cultural organizations.
  • Reflections – Reflections is a program sponsored by the National PTA organization that encourages children to explore the arts.  Each year Reflections is organized around a theme with different competition categories.  For 2014-15 the theme is “The World Would be a Better Place If…” Competition categories include dance choreography, music composition, film production, literature, photography, and visual arts. Students who wish to participate create a piece of art for their selected category.   Work is judged at the local, then state, regional and national level.  In the past Patrick Henry students have won awards at many levels!
  • Class Grants – New in 2013-14 the PTA provides grade-level grants for teachers to take the children on curriculum-related field trips or engage in a special activity.  Grants are for up to $1,000 for each class grade (e.g., Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade) and up to $500 for specials (i.e., Art, Music, PE, Spanish, and Communications).  In 2013-14 the children attended performances at Lisner Auditorium and other local theaters, and visited museums.  Grants were also used to purchase Sqords (child-friendly fitness bands) and materials for the annual school musical.
  • 4th Grade Trip to Williamsburg – 4th Graders are given the unique experience of an overnight field trip to Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown, Virginia as part of the Virginia History curriculum.  Each child is able to attend the trip at no charge. The PTA contributes $5,000 to the trip to help cover expenses.  The rest of the funds are raised through 4th grade-sponsored fundraising throughout the year.  This trip is an important part of our students’ learning experience and valued program at Henry.
  • Teacher Appreciation – The PTA provides a variety of opportunities to show our teachers and staff how much we appreciate their dedication and hard work.  At the beginning of the school year each teacher is given a $50 Target gift card to help defray costs associated with setting up their classrooms.  In the Fall and Spring the PTA provides lunch for the teachers during Parent-Teacher conferences.  The PTA purchases sandwich platters and parents are asked to provide drinks, side dishes and desserts.  And, during Teacher Appreciation Week in the Spring the PTA hosts a week-long celebration of our teachers.  The PTA also recognizes staff during the year with flowers, gift cards, and other tokens of our appreciation (e.g., Administrative Professionals Day, Nurses Appreciation Day, Principal Appreciation Day).
  • School Beautification – New in 2013-14 the PTA engaged in a large project to renovate the front gardens and Patrick Henry’s unique outdoor classroom, also called the “Habitat.” Patrick Henry’s Exemplary Project is “Henry’s Helping Hands:  Creating Connections Through Service Learning.”  Each student and grade-level are given instructional time in the school Habitat to learn about plants, birds, animals and insects, and their role in our ecosystem.  In 2013-14 the PTA purchased new picnic tables, sheds, and had the gardens and beds renovated.  As we move into the 2014-15 we will finish the renovation work and look to continue improving our school environment by focusing on the gymnasium and others parts of the school.

These are the highlights of the PTA activities.  Throughout the year we also support other smaller projects as the needs arise, like purchasing new technology equipment for the morning news program, iPads and apps for the classrooms, new fish for the school pond, digital cameras for all to use, couches in the front lobby and more!

  1.  This sounds great, but how do you pay for all of it?

The PTA conducts several fundraisers throughout the school year. The fundraisers are generally consistent with the PTA’s mission to build community and enhance the educational experience for our children.  We try to avoid asking parents and students to sell items.

  • Grocery Store School Rewards Programs – Giant, Harris Teeter, Safeway and Target each have school rewards programs.   Each program operates a bit differently, but in general you “link” your loyalty rewards cards (like your Giant card or Harris Teeter VIC card) to Patrick Henry and a portion of your purchases are donated to the PTA.  The more cards that are linked to Patrick Henry the more the PTA earns.  This is an easy way to earn money for the school.  Information on how to your cards is available on our website.
  • Fall Read-a-thon – New in 2013-14 the PTA sponsored a Fall Read-a-thon to raise funds and encourage children to read.  Children set reading goals for the 2-week reading period and ask family, friends, and neighbors to sponsor them with a set amount or amount per minute of reading.  During the two-week reading period children are encouraged to meet their goals through daily challenges at home, classroom challenges, and “stop and read” periods throughout the week.  Prizes are given to all who participate, and top readers can win special prizes like a scooter, school spiritwear, books, and more!  If the school reaches certain goals everyone gets a special party and a “super-secret surprise day.”  It’s great fun for all!
  • Silent Auction – In the Spring the PTA holds a Silent Auction at the school.  A committee of parents solicits donations from local businesses.  The teachers provide fun activities for children (like Pizza in the Habitat or a movie after school).  And each class contributes a basket of goods.  The items are displayed in the hallways of the school.  While the children watch a movie in the gym parents can bid on items from the Auction.  It’s a fun, family friendly night that provides funds for a large portion of the PTA budget.
  • Silver Diner Night –Silver Diner Night is a Patrick Henry institution. Normally held in October each year, the PTA organizes an evening when Henry families go to Silver Diner in Clarendon for dinner and 20% of the profits from that evening go to the PTA. This is quite a fun evening. Teachers join in the fun by seating families and serving food. The PTA sponsors a raffle. Kids have fun seeing their friends and each year we take over more and more of the restaurant!
  • Book Fair – In December each year the PTA sponsors a Book Fair in the library.  On the first day of the fair, students go through the fair with their classes and make out wish lists which they will bring home. Should you decide to purchase books, you may send money in with your child, or visit the book fair yourself. The fair is open throughout the school days, various mornings prior to school and after school as well as one evening in conjunction with the Winter Concert.  Proceeds from the Book Fair are used to update the library.
  • School Photos – School photos are taken in the Fall and Spring each year.  The vendor returns a portion of the proceeds from the pictures to the PTA.
  • Box Tops for Education– Box tops are small labels on various products (like cereals, granola bars, apple sauce, Kleenex) that are worth $0.10 each.  Parents are asked to collect box tops from products they purchase and on the last Friday of every month children bring in their box top “dollars” (10 box tops taped to a form that can be found on our website) and “buy” trinkets.  It’s a really easy way to earn money for the school!
  • White House Christmas Ornament sale – In the fall, White House Christmas Ornaments are for sale through the PTA. The PTA is able to buy the ornaments at a discount rate and then earns approximately $2 per ornament sold.  Ornaments are a great holiday gift!
  1.  What is After-School Enrichment?

After-school enrichment programs are offered in the Fall, Winter and Spring. Classes offered once a week.  A volunteer puts together a selection of courses for each semester and then students may sign up a class that interests them. In the past courses have included: Kid’s Fitness, Yoga, Engineering for Kids, Chess, and more! A list of classes available and a sign-up form will be sent home in the students’ Thursday packets. There is a fee for the classes that is paid directly to the organization or person offering the class. The PTA does not make any money off of these activities.

  1.  What is Spiritwear?

Each Fall and Spring the PTA sells school spirit wear, like t-shirts, water bottles, backpacks, pajama bottoms and more.  The selection changes each season and sizes are available for children and adults.  A very small portion of the proceeds go to the PTA.

  1.  What is the School Store?

The PTA has a school store that operates from 8:20-8:40 Monday-Friday, selling pencils, erasers, notebooks, and other school supplies.  The store is staffed by volunteer families and it is a self-funding operation.  Items are sold at cost and funds are used to purchase inventory.  The store is located in the window to the right of the front office.

  1.  What are Parent/Teacher Conferences?

Parent/Teacher Conferences are held at the beginning of October and March. Teachers will schedule times to meet with parents to discuss their child’s progress. There is no school on these days; however, the PTA hosts a teacher luncheon where families provide food for the teachers on conference days. Conference typically last approximately 15 minutes; childcare is not provided.

  1.  What are teacher work days?

Teacher work days are in-service days where the teachers have meetings, work on grades and attend workshops and classes. There will be NO SCHOOL on Teacher workdays.

  1.  What are Early Release days? 

Early Release days occur periodically throughout the year. On these days, students will be released at 1:26 pm. Extended day will still occur. Because Patrick Henry is a FLES school, we do not observe all Early Release days other schools in the county do.  Please consult the school calendar for a schedule of Early Release days.

  1.  What is FLES? 

FLES stands for Foreign Language in Elementary Schools. The Spanish FLES Program is a proficiency oriented program designed to develop novice level Spanish language skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing and to develop an openness, understanding and appreciation for cultures of Spanish-speaking countries.

  1.  What is a Thursday packet?

Each Thursday, a white envelope containing important information will be sent home with your child. Important information will be included in these packets, including a weekly newsletter with information on upcoming events and announcements.

  1.  What is the Patrick Henry listserv and how can I join?

The PTA has established a listserv for communication with Henry families. When you join the PTA and complete the registration form, there is a field asking for your email address and you will automatically be added to the listserv.  You can also send an email to

  1.  Are there other ways to get information?

The PTA website is also a great way to get information.  The address is  The PTA also has a Facebook page where information on upcoming events is posted.  We also post pictures of PTA-sponsored activities that occur throughout the year.  You can “like” Patrick Henry Friends and Family to get more information.