Story by Sara Paul
With females dominating the ranks of the Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs), Kevin Lundell stands out as the president of Golden Hill Elementary School PTA in Florida. Full time work-at-home business analyst and full time father and husband, Lundell was appointed as PTA President in May 2017 and was recently asked to serve as the New York State PTA Male Engagement Specialist.
In this one-year term, Lundell will be charged with attending regional meetings, contributing articles to NYS PTA publications, and conducting workshops, to name just a few tasks.
The Village of Florida resident reflects, “The PTA has historically been a female driven organization and I’ve talked with other guys in other PTAs. We need to be involved.”
One of only two male Board members in Golden Hill’s history, Lundell is a father of three girls: Calysta, 15; Shea, 9; and Elodie, 3. Shea is currently a student at Golden Hill Elementary.
In a recent presentation to the NYS PTA, Lundell reported that in 2010, 33% of children in the U.S. live in homes without biological fathers; that a father absent from the household sees his child an average of 12 days per month; and that fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school.
“There’s a real need for male engagement in schools in this capacity and there is a role for guys outside of the classroom in things like sports, clubs and the PTA,” he urged.
Even though stretched thin with work and family, Lundell did not think twice about stepping up to the parental plate to represent Golden Hill.
“My heart wants to help, so I thought ‘Let’s do this!’” exclaimed the proud dad, who enjoys high-fiving his third grade daughter, Shea, in the Golden Hill hallways.
Inspired by the volunteer initiatives of his former employer while living in the state of Florida, Lundell enjoyed working with such organizations as Habitat for Humanity and Big Brother Big Sisters of America.
“It was really meaningful and felt good to make a difference somewhere in some way,” said the Louisiana-born lad, who grew up in Goshen and graduated from the Goshen School District.
After a three year hiatus in Pensacola, FL, Lundell and his family returned to Orange County in 2015. The devoted parent experienced some of the emotional and logistical challenges of joining a new school, sentiments that inspired him, as PTA president, to incorporate a “Tour of the Hill” Day to welcome new families.
Parents and kids can visit the school a week prior to the first day to meet the principal, take pictures in the photo booth and meander around the building and grounds at their own pace.
“Since we had been away a while, I knew how it felt to be in a new school, in a new state. The first day can be very intimidating,” said Lundell.
Under Lundell’s leadership, the approximately 220-member PTA continues to explore new fundraising avenues while also retaining traditional activities.
“I want to know what has worked and what has not worked. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If it worked, great. If not, let’s try new things,” said 40-year-old Lundell, currently the only male member of the School’s PTA Board.
With the support of Golden Hill Principal Debbi Lisack, Lundell and his Board’s innovative ideas such as this fall’s “Trunk or Treat” as well as luncheons for teachers and even a new water cooler for the staff, have been met with positive reception.
“Our Principal is tremendous when it comes to trying new things. We have to try different stuff. We don’t know what we don’t know,” he said.
Lundell looks forward to the “Touch-a-Truck” event to be held on Sat., Apr. 21 from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Golden Hill parking lot, as well as the annual Mother’s Day Plant Sale, typically staffed by moms. This year, however, Lundell is inviting dads, uncles and grand-dads to step up and run the show.
“The same moms run a Mother’s Day event every year. It’s time for the guys to work it. Help your kid wrap up a nice plant for mom,” said Lundell, who is grateful to his own wife, Nicolle, a dental assistant working in Monroe, who works long hours and also volunteers at the school.
Father, businessman, husband, and community volunteer, Lundell stresses that it is a misconception that being a part of something like the PTA requires countless hours at the school. He points out that volunteers can also help out from their home by making flyers, placing online supply orders or cutting out box tops. He also acknowledged that the work of the PTA is important at all schools, as many PTAs offer funding for activities like field trips and book fairs.
Lundell’s advice for parents, particularly fathers, is simple: “Get involved. It really matters. Show kids it’s cool to be a dad and blow up balloons, sell cupcakes or make Valentine’s Day cards. There’s nothing more fulfilling than being part of something with our kids.”