On re-engaging parents, the PTA has a lot of work to do   2 comments

So 3 weeks into the school year, and I decided to give this PTA thing another chance. I will admit that I only attended one meeting last year and I will explain why (not that I need to). At last year’s meeting, everyone in attendance received a copy of the PTA’s projected budget for that school year. It’s part of my nature to read (and re-read) anything handed to me, so that time was no different. As I scanned the projected budget, I noticed that the PTA listed a $20,000 contribution to the school. Hmmmm. I thought, “Why in the hell would the PTA want to donate that kind of money to the school? Especially since this is a Title I school and there’s no money to carryover from last year? So, I asked one of the board members and a few parents to see if they knew; no one did. That really bothered me, on so many levels.

Despite my reservations, I made an effort to stay involved. I became Room Parent for my then 3rd grader’s class; the Kindergarten teacher had a ParaPro so she didn’t need as much help. I often sent classroom snacks to both teachers, went on field trips, etc. But I have to admit that chaos and disorganization are two of my biggest pet peeves and my interaction with the ‘school’ was limited to the aforementioned activities. Communication from the PTA often came late, or not at all; the Teacher Appreciation Week celebration was ill-planned. Any time one parent asks another (during the week of the celebration) what they are supposed to send, there is definitely a communication problem. Sadly, that was not the first issue with the PTA.

Well, new school year-new attitude (for me, at least). I made a commitment to get more involved with the PTA this year; I even emailed all the members to express an interest in doing so. No one ever responded, but I overlooked that. So I was excited to attend the ‘General Meeting’ ( pay attention to that phrase) held this past Monday. As I stood in line waiting the enter the cafeteria, I overheard the girl at the table asking parents for the membership cards:

Me: ‘Do we have to have a card to attend the meeting?’

Her: ‘Yes, I think so. Let me check.’ So she asks one of the Co-Presidents, who confirms.

Me: Are you serious? Why do you need a membership for a ‘General Meeting?’ (Not general membership meeting, just a general  meeting-there is a difference.)

Co-President: Well we are voting today and only members can vote.

Me: I understand how non-profits work, as I have developed one and sit on the board of another. But my point is this: You all sent home flyers, to every kid in this school, stating there would be a ‘General Meeting.’ Nowhere on the flyer did it state that the meeting was only open to parents who officially joined the PTA.

Co-President: Well, you are welcome to join the PTA and attend the meeting.

Me: (She has no idea how far I’ve come as I’ve aged, but my babies are standing next to me so I better keep it together.) Again, you are missing my point: This was not advertised as a members only meeting, hence my insistence upon sitting in. Furthermore, I do not plan to officially join until I see how things are run. (Reaching my level, I stood to the side to gather my composure. Another PTA member walked past me, so I asked her if she could answer some questions for me.) I came early so I could attend the PTA meeting but I was told that I couldn’t sit in unless I was an official member.

Other PTA Member: Who told you that? We want you here. You can stay and join the PTA. We need all the parents we can get. (Again, she missed the point but at least she listened.)

Me: Your fellow board members told me that. Look, people complain that parents are not involved but when we try to get involved we have to deal with drama and people who obviously don’t know what’s going on. The flyer said ‘General Meeting.’

Other PTA Member: I understand what you’re saying. And you are right, the flyer did not say it was only open to current members.

Long story short: She talked to the other members (I am sure I was all kinds of crazy b@*&%$#, but I don’t care) and she told me that I could sit in on the meeting. But why all the drama? If you are really trying to re-engage parents, why make it so difficult, especially when it’s obvious that none of the members have the slightest clue as to the correct manner of conducting a meeting? I can see this is going to be a long and very interesting school year…..

Everyone is not built to be a chief.


2 responses to “On re-engaging parents, the PTA has a lot of work to do

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  1. Wow, my experience with PTA has always been much more positive than this article. Maybe parents don’t “volunteer” as much because of people who come to judge instead of help. Bless those that volunteer, we may not have all the answers or do things exactly the way you like them but we are there day in day out. We say “yes, I’ll help”, do our best and support our schools, while raising our families and often working additional full-time jobs. “Volunteers”, what would we be without them?

    • I certainly hope that I did not imply that it was about doing it my way, because that was not my intent. My concern is the lack of organization and the fact that I was being turned away from a general meeting (which was the first meeting of the school year) without having the opportunity to determine if I even wanted to be a part of the PTA. As a follow-up, I did volunteer for several committees, including writing grants to fund some of the PTA’s initiatives; no one followed up on that. I sent several emails asking them when they wanted to get started, requesting info on the mission, programs, goals, etc. That was back in November. I finally got a response to my offer of volunteering for the Arts Committee in February. There is no way to excuse that because it is just plain messy and poorly planned.

      Thanks for your input though!


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