In a county with 134,000 students in 199 public schools, five will be a crucial number tomorrow.

Five parents per school.

That's the target that Prince George's County school officials have set for recruiting parent volunteers to get free training on how to help teachers in the classroom.

"Calling all parents: Give your time. Assist a teacher. Help your children achieve," says the narrator of a video posted on the school system Web site advertising the Parents Assisting Teachers program.

At the end of the two-minute video, two youngsters surrounded by school officials say: "Parents, we need you. Go to our schools, please."

The program's very existence underscores a perennial issue for many of the county's schools: It's hard to get parents or other family members to help. Often it's hardest to find volunteers in the lower-achieving schools that need them most.

School system spokesman John White said this week that about 700 volunteers have applied for the program. Some schools, he said, have more than five applicants. Still, it's a fraction of the 995 needed to fill five slots per school.

Tomorrow is the deadline for applications. Prospective volunteers should call the school system at 301-552-4294 or register online at

PTA Council Loses Two More

On the subject of parents in schools, the controversy at the County Council of PTAs took another twist last week. A movement to oust county PTA President Darren Brown picked up six votes from the 12-member executive board of the council, falling two short of the two-thirds majority required for action, Brown's critics said.

Walter Searcy, the PTA council's first vice president, quit after the failed vote. So did Mary Lehman, a district representative from Laurel. Their resignations added to a string of vacancies in the organization listed on its Web site (

Brown, elected to a two-year term in an internal vote last spring, did not respond to requests for comment. Critics had faulted his leadership style and his role in a school uniform dispute at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale.

The vote occurred in a closed-door meeting Nov. 9 at state PTA headquarters in Glen Burnie. Mary Jo Neil, first vice president of the state PTA, said afterward that she wished details of the group's dispute had remained out of public view.

"Ideally, we work internally," she said. "We do it in-house and we build trust."

Another Missed Deadline

In the previous academic year, the county school system missed its Sept. 30 deadline for an independent audit of its financial books. It turned in the audit about nine months late. This school year, the system missed the deadline again.

White, the system spokesman, said officials hope to have the audit of the 2004-05 financial statements completed by Nov. 30.

So far, though, the school system is not in trouble with the state. Its previous audit delay caused the state to freeze tens of millions of dollars in aid. Ultimately, the money was released. But school officials want to avoid a repeat of that scenario.

More Katrina Evacuees

Update 1: The number of students in county schools who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina has climbed past 200 for the first time, to 206.

Watch List Grows

Update 2: The number of county schools on a state watch list for needing improvement has climbed to 76, from 73 the previous school year. The list is based on No Child Left Behind test ratings and graduation and attendance figures. Last week the state added 21 of 25 county high schools to the list. Critics of the federal law say it fails to give credit for relative progress made in lower-achieving schools.