In addition to winning an award from the National Catholic Educational Association, the diocesan PTA has been doing its best to give some funding back to school PTAs. From left, Father Michael Kennedy; diocesan PTA president Paula Pangilinan; Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.; JoAnn Tier, superintendent of Catholic schools; Father Christopher Dayton and Father Leandro Dela Cruz pose for a photo at the diocesan PTA’s 2018 fall conference held at Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton.  John Blaine photo
In addition to winning an award from the National Catholic Educational Association, the diocesan PTA has been doing its best to give some funding back to school PTAs. From left, Father Michael Kennedy; diocesan PTA president Paula Pangilinan; Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.; JoAnn Tier, superintendent of Catholic schools; Father Christopher Dayton and Father Leandro Dela Cruz pose for a photo at the diocesan PTA’s 2018 fall conference held at Trenton Catholic Academy, Hamilton. John Blaine photo
" Our biggest initiative at the diocesan level is to create a unified group among all of our PTAs. "
Paula Pangilinan knows exactly where she would have been April 14 if it hadn’t been for the COVID-19 pandemic – in Baltimore, accepting the National Catholic Educational Association “Lead, Learn, Proclaim” Award.

“It was exciting to be recognized for what we’ve been trying to create, which is a communications strategy for the 21st century,” said Pangilinan, Diocese of Trenton PTA president.

The NCEA awards honor those whose ministry is Catholic school education and who have demonstrated a strong Catholic educational philosophy as well as exceptional efforts, devotion and achievements. The diocesan PTA was one of 27 recipients selected from more than 150,000 teachers, administrators, diocesan leaders and organizations.

Among the initiatives for which it was recognized: biennial retreat days for PTA units, the fall and spring PTA conferences, and a PTA extranet for idea-sharing and community-building.

“Our biggest initiative at the diocesan level is to create a unified group among all of our PTAs,” Pangilinan said. “Each school PTA is unique to that school, and that’s important. Our goal is to unify everybody to be part of the larger PTA while still keeping their individual personalities. So the award celebrated the fact that we have been coming up with new and innovative ways to accomplish that.”

Recipients learned in March of their awards and had been set to be recognized during the NCEA’s annual convention in April. Coronavirus restrictions may have prevented that from happening – but the diocesan PTA has been busy doing exactly what it was awarded for –keeping the lines of communication open with diocesan school PTAs in the four counties.

Early on in the pandemic, Pangilinan explained, the diocesan members held a virtual meeting and made some immediate decisions to get monies back to the school PTAs. Those announcements were made in a Facebook video that also went to reassure schools that they are not alone.

Among the decisions: forgiving the per-capita payments each school PTA gives to its Regional Board with plans to reimburse those that already paid, and canceling the spring conferences.

In addition, this would have been the first year for the Sister Dorothy Payne, SSJ PTA Leadership Award, set to be given out at the fall conference. The award is named after Sister Dorothy, founding president of Hamilton’s Trenton Catholic Academy, who died in 2019.

Instead, the PTA Board chose to take the $2,500 approved, add to the funds and give each school PTA a $100 stipend.

“We know that getting financial relief to all our PTAs is most important, and we feel confident that Sister Dorothy is guiding us in these efforts,” Pangilinan said.

JoAnn Tier, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, called these efforts and the award proud moments for the Diocese, especially as the diocesan PTA supports 29 elementary schools, six high school communities and 12,267 students.

“The PTA members give of themselves to benefit students, their families, and the Catholic schools that many call home,” she said. “The membership of the diocesan, regional and local PTA units give of themselves in leadership, in building community and in supporting Catholic education. For over 94 years, the work of the PTA has been evidenced in building a strong foundation. The roots run deep.”