Lynn Johnson has volunteered at Fairview Elementary School for six years, but she has considered herself a beneficiary of her service as much as the students.
"It's given me a real sense of community," said Johnson, whose youngest child, Kiley, is a sixth-grader and will attend Robinson Secondary next fall.
"I still see girls from when I was the room mom for my daughter, and she's now in eighth grade. It's been good for me, not just for the school," said Johnson.
Fairview, located on Ox Road in Fairfax Station, was recently honored with the National Parent Teacher Association's top designation for parental involvement, certification as a "Parent Involvement School of Excellence."
Fairview is one of 10 Fairfax County schools to achieve the certification, and it joins Dranesville, Aldrin, Annandale Terrace, Silverbrook, Terra Centre and White Oaks as a certified elementary school.
"I've been at Fairview for 19 years, and with the level of involvement in our school of the PTA, it has always had an impact on academic achievement," said Fairview principal Dr. Margaret Scott. "It always shows that when parents are involved in schools, the academic achievement of students is better."
FAIRVIEW RECEIVED notification of the award in early January, after a two-month application process that culminated with the submission of a hefty packet of materials in late November.
Jeannette Papadakis, mother of two boys at Fairview, said when she moved to Virginia two years ago, she began thinking of how the school could apply for the award. Her children's previous school, in Anacortes, Wash., had achieved the same certification.
"I thought this school needed to go for it, because of the programs and the thousands of volunteer hours I saw being donated. I was just amazed," she said.
To begin the application process, the school formed a committee of about 15 people, which included parents, teachers, administrators and volunteers. The committee had to evaluate the current PTA-related programs and rate their effectiveness, in six categories — communicating, parenting, student learning, volunteering, school decision-making and advocacy, and collaborating with community.
Once committee members analyzed these programs, the documentation of each individual program began. This process was an eye-opener, said Scott.
"You just can't put information on paper. We had to do some very hard looking into how we partner as a school with our community," she said.
In addition, the committee noted special activities, such as a recent walk-a-thon to raise money for homeless shelters, Papadakis said
"I was made aware of how many people contribute in different capacities to their children's education," she said. "You may not read their names or see them at meetings, but they're contributing to the success."
Papadakis lugged the application, which weighed 3 pounds by her estimate, to the post office around Thanksgiving. Now that the school has received the certification, which lasts through 2007, organizers are planning a celebration on April 21, to coincide with its annual "Artist-Author Night."
Johnson was not on the committee but said that being involved in her daughters' lives through their school was a valuable reward.
"I know a lot of people who like to be on PTA, but I liked being in the classroom, and my kids liked me being there," she said. "I remember when my husband would think I was crazy when I would hire a baby-sitter to go volunteer at school."