One of the top things about buying real estate in Ponte Vedra Beach, aside from the beach, is the school district. Families in Ponte Vedra Beach are fortunate to be part of the St. Johns County School District which is consistently the #1 A-rated school district in the state. In 2023, St. Johns County School District ranked #848 of over 10,000 schools according to 2023 Niche Best School Districts in America. Transitioning schools is difficult at any age for students, but changing high schools can be really hard on our young adults. Ponte Vedra High School is fortunate to have an amazing Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) with Lyn Gabrielsen at the helm leading the organization to benefit both faculty and students alike. We caught up with Lyn to find our more about the PTO in Ponte Vedra High School to gain some insight into what parents of PVH students can expect.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how/why you became involved in the PTO
I’m originally from Macon, GA, where I taught high school English for 12 years before I met Jimmy and moved to Ponte Vedra Beach. When my children started school, I jumped in with the PTO’s at Ocean Palms Elementary, Landrum Middle and now Ponte Vedra High School. I saw a need for our schools to raise money and support our teachers and staff.
What’s the most impressive thing about Ponte Vedra High School that you would like others to know?
Ponte Vedra High School excels in every area–academics, athletics, and the arts. It’s amazing to watch our drama kids on stage performing “White Christmas” or our boys golf team winning state yet another year! To make this culture of excellence possible is a commitment from our administration and teachers who support our students and their talents and interests.
What areas would you consider for improvement?
Honestly, after working with the teachers and staff for 3 years, there are no significant areas that need improvement that have not already been addressed. We communicate like crazy, offer support for struggling students, do all we can to support the classroom teachers. The only area of improvement I would advocate is a raise in teacher pay, which, obviously, is not an internal challenge, but one at the state level.
What can we do as a PTO to make our families feel like family and a real community?
High school is a challenge for families to feel a part, primarily because our kids really don’t want to see us on campus or have us super involved with them! If your high schooler plays a sport or is involved with the arts, you will feel more part of that community. Unlike elementary school when my kids would light up when they saw me in the halls, Kate and Jimmy would hide! 🙂 Seriously though, the PVHS PTO tries to communicate as much as we can through social media and emails. I make my “sales pitch” at the beginning of the year by asking for money, not a time commitment, and I hope that is OK with most of our busy parents. They trust us to be good stewards with their donations.
Do you have a particular fundraising goal and area to use the money in mind this year for PTO dollars?
We don’t actually fundraise as our membership and community partner donations make up our budget. We do not have one large project but spend our time and money on teacher grants/requests, student support/events, and as needed projects and requests from the administration.
What’s one thing a new parent in the community should know about your school?
Everything you ever want to know about PVHS is on the website…I promise!! And, if you don’t understand something, please, contact me or any of the assistant principals who will be more than happy to help!
If you could ask one thing of each parent at your school, what would it be?
The past 10 or so years have given me the opportunity to see “behind the scenes” at three of our schools and a little bit of the SJCSD inner workings. We are not perfect…we’re growing so fast, we’re working with state funding that doesn’t support our teachers, we sometimes make judgement calls that aren’t the best or most popular, but very fine people are working hard every day with one goal in mind: providing the best learning environment so that our kids can be successful, happy and loved. The majority of our parents get this, but some don’t and they seem to be the loudest. PVHS parents have the reputation of being bulldozer parents, not even helicopter parents, which is not good, ya’ll! We need to be partners with the teachers and staff rather than large, destructive pieces of machinery! 🙂 My challenge is to the parents who are unhappy or seem to find fault in more than they find good, take a deep breath then get involved. Make changes if you see a need. Get to know the people who are with your kids every day from 9-4. Whew. I’ve been holding that in…
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About the Author
Jenn Heller is the Operations Manager for The Volen Group, Keller Williams Luxury International, a top real estate team in Ponte Vedra Beach. Jenn has over 18 years experience in Real Estate all in Ponte Vedra Beach, she is an Atlantic Beach resident via Long Island, NY since 1991, a book worm, and loves sports, dogs and the beach.