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These Long Island PTA dads give their all for their kids' schools

Michael Gittens helps his son Noah Gittens, 6,

Michael Gittens helps his son Noah Gittens, 6, and Sophia Ramkalawan, 6, as they work with straws and connectors in Heather Graham's first-grade class at the Forest Road School in Valley Stream on Dec. 3. Credit: Barry Sloan

The PTA is widely known as the Parent-Teacher Association. But it often seems like it’s the MTA — the Mom-Teacher Association, because the majority of volunteers are women. There are Long Island dads, however, who also give their all at their kids' schools.

“Men really need to step up and do some of these roles that for years and years and years fell on the moms,” says dad Matthew Amore, 33, who is active in the PTA in the West Babylon district. Here are nine PTA dads who make a difference, nominated by their school district superintendents or fellow PTA members:

Dad Chris Maresco, 48, East Patchogue

District South Country Central School District

Occupation Software development consultant. His wife, Joyce, 48, is a teacher’s aide for Eastern Suffolk BOCES

Children in schools Mitchell, 18, is a senior at Bellport High School, and Evan, 11, is a fifth-grader at Frank P. Long Intermediate School

How he’s made a difference When Evan was in Verne W. Critz Elementary School in East Patchogue, Maresco served as PTA president from 2014 to 2016. He oversaw events including Halloween Night, the annual Holiday Boutique, the schoolbook fair, movie events and Mother’s Day Plant Sale. This year, he’s PTA volunteer coordinator at Frank P. Long, and he’s also co-president of the South Country PTA Council, which oversees all the separate PTA school units in the district.

What he has to say “The social aspect of it is great,” Maresco says. “I can’t say enough about all the memories we’ve created. It’s definitely rewarding.” He says he does get “lonely” sometimes being the only man on the boards. “I try very hard to get some of the guys involved,” he says. “A lot of it has to do with them working 9 to 5. It’s hard enough even with the moms working nowadays. One of the reasons I can do this is I’m self-employed and I’m very flexible with hours.”

Dad Mathieu Lanfant, 44, Port Washington

District Port Washington Union Free School District

Occupation Small business owner. His wife, Katya, 44, works for a nonprofit

Children in schools Michele, 14, is a sophomore at Paul D. Schreiber Senior High School, Margaux, 12, is a seventh-grader at Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School, and Mariele, 9, is a fourth-grader at John Philip Sousa Elementary School

How he’s made a difference Lanfant grew up in Paris, and when he moved to Port Washington he was impressed by the school district’s programs. “The way I grew up, I didn’t do a quarter of what they do here. These programs are amazing,” he says. “I became a Class Parent, then I helped on another committee and another committee . .. ” and served as president of the Home School Association — Port Washington’s version of the PTA — at Sousa and at Weber.

What he has to say “One of the initiatives I am most proud of was to bring a parade float for Sousa back to life at our Town’s yearly ‘Pride in Port’ parade,” Lanfant says. Every year at homecoming, the kids build a new float at his house. “It is the best community building activity, especially to rally dads who never get to use their drill at home," he jokes. "By having dads helping build the float, they started to get more involved with the school.”

Dad Michael Gittens, 42, Valley Stream

District Valley Stream 30 Union Free School District

Occupation Works overnights for Verizon. His wife, Christina, is a Brooklyn school administrator

Children in schools Sarah, 8, is a third-grader and Noah, 6, is a first-grader, both at the Forest Road School

How he’s made a difference Gittens served on the PTA’s board for two years as membership chairman and this year is board treasurer. He’s the only man on the board. He’s also co-chair of the school’s fundraising Dance Marathon, in which the kids get pledges and have dance battles between the classes.

What he has to say “It’s still kind of more expected that the women make themselves more available to do these things with the kids,” Gittens says. But he says he loves being involved in what his kids are doing, and working nights allows him to get to school events during the day.  “Once you become a member of the school by having a child in the school, you really connect with people in the community. It provides a strong opportunity to meet as many people as possible by being in the PTA.”

Dad Omar Peña, 40, North Babylon 

District North Babylon Union Free School District

Occupation Night manager at a funeral home. His wife, Jacqueline, 40, is a home health aide

Children in schools William, 12, seventh-grader at Robert Moses Middle School and Kevin, 9, fourth-grader at Woods Road Elementary School

How he’s made a difference Peña chaired the PTA multicultural night each October for the past three years and helped chair the annual Holiday Fair. “This year they asked me to be Santa Claus,” he says. “It should be fun.” Peña also chaperones school trips to locales including the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, Bethpage Village Restoration and more. Last year, he was given an Honorary Life Membership award from the New York State PTA because of his devotion.

What he has to say “A lot of times people assume the PTA has to be just the moms,” he says. Peña also is the class parent for the first time this year for Kevin’s fourth-grade class. “They called it Class Mom up until this year,” he says. “Now they call it Class Parent.”

Dad Gregory Bodkin, 44, Levittown

District Levittown Union Free School District

Occupation Compliance officer for a brokerage firm. His wife, Tina, 42, is an administrative assistant in a law firm

Children in schools Tyler, 14, is a freshman at Division Avenue High School, Matthew, 13, is an eighth-grader and Nicholas 11, is a sixth-grader at Wisdom Lane Middle School.

How he’s made a difference “I’ve been on the board in some way, shape or form for eight years,” Bodkin says, most of that time as treasurer or PTA delegate for the Abbey Lane Elementary School or Wisdom Lane Middle School. He’s particularly proud of instituting new events that have become annual occurrences, such as the annual Back-to-School Barbecue for families at the Abbey Lane, which happens on a Friday evening at the beginning of the school year. That’s an event that draws dads, he says. “They want to get behind the grill and help serve the food,” he says.

What he has to say Bodkin says he grew up with a single mom, and it inspired him to make sure he is an active dad for his children. “There’s nothing more exciting than to see a kid smiling and having fun,” he says. “Knowing all the kids and seeing them grow up . . . it’s really cool to be a part of that. I want to give these kids everything I never had, especially my own.”

Dad Matthew Amore, 33, West Babylon

District West Babylon Union Free School District

Occupation An operations manager for Best Market. His wife, Danielle, 33, is a stay-at-home mom

Kids in schools Sophia, 8, is a third-grader and Savannah, 6, is a first-grader at Santapogue Elementary School. Amore also has a 15-month-old son, Chase.

How he’s made a difference Amore kids are still young, and he joined the PTA for the first time this year. “I wanted to be a Class Dad,” he says. “You have to be in the PTA to be a Class Dad.” Now he’s super involved, attending all PTA meetings and looking to serve on the board next year.

What he has to say Kids need to see gender roles evolve, he says. “At some point we have to break that barrier and not be looked at as less manly,” he says.

Dad Mark Stuparich, 44, Freeport 

District Freeport Union Free School District 

Occupation New York City firefighter. His wife, Nora, 48, works for a medical liability insurance company

Children in schools Kerry, 16, is a junior and Kayla, 14, is a freshman at Freeport High School

How he’s made a difference Stuparich has been active in the district’s PTAs for 13 years, since his older daughter was in pre-K, he says. He started out helping at field days and book fairs. When his older daughter moved to the Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School, Stuparich served for two years as PTA president there. “It was fun work,” he says. This year he’s a vice president on the Parent Teacher Student Association at Freeport High School.

What he has to say The moms tease him about being a PTA dad — “the other woman that were on the board with me, they were all happy they had somebody there to lift all the heavy stuff,” he says. 

Dad Tom Frey, 49, East Moriches

District East Moriches Union Free School District

Occupation Owns a construction company. His wife, Mary, 49, is a purchasing technician

Children in schools Audrey, 10, is a fifth-grader at East Moriches Middle School, and Lila, 7, is a third-grader at East Moriches Elementary School

How he’s made a difference Frey just chaired the Trunk-or-Treat Halloween Dance for fifth- and sixth-graders at the middle school. He’s also volunteered for events including the annual Harvest Fair, helping kids to decorate pumpkins, and the annual basket auction, selling tickets at the door.

What he has to say “I do it because my younger daughter has special needs. That's an expense for the community and I want to be able to give back,” Frey says.

Dad Wayne Raso, 51, Bellmore 

District Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District

Occupation Truck driver. His wife, Cheryl, 55, is a teacher in Queens

Children in schools Jared, 15, is a sophomore at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District.

How he’s made a difference Raso has volunteered with the PTA since his older son, Zachary, now 18 and in college, was in kindergarten. "Here we are, twelve years later," he says. This year, he’s PTA president at the high school.

What he has to say Being on the PTA for high school is far different from in elementary school, when the tasks were more about arranging events for the kids. In high school, it's more about fundraising events, he says. “My job is to figure out fundraisers to make the school cash,” Raso says. “The more money that we make, the more we can give out.” The PTA uses the funds to sponsor breakfasts and luncheons for the kids and for staff members, and to award college scholarships to students, Raso says.

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