PTA Politics.

I’m not trying to launch a political career or anything, but now that my daughter is in the first grade, I’ve decided to join the PTA at her school. I enjoy being involved in my children’s schools; my kids get so excited and feel so important when their mommy is in charge of something, and I like the feeling of being a part of the community. But that being said, as a working mom, it’s not always easy to fit in the meetings, or to find the time for yet another responsibility. At our preschool, the Parents Association was pretty laid back. You did what you could, you came to the meetings you could make, and they were grateful to have any help at all. But at my daughter’s elementary school, the PTA is run like the United States Army. Meetings are held on the first Wednesday of each month. Each committee is expected to give a brief and succinct report. Receipts must be turned in within thirty days. Unlike the harried mothers of two and three year-olds at the preschool, the grade school moms seem to be professional parent volunteers, and they take their jobs extremely seriously. The attitude is not one of gratitude, but rather, of expectation. As in, ask not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school. Or, to be more exact, as in, your child attends this school, and if you want your child to have a good experience here, then you’d better get off your lazy ass and pitch in, or else don’t even think about complaining, bitches. I’ll be honest: it’s more than a little intimidating.

 

But nonetheless, I enlisted. Well, okay, techinically, I was recruited. At the end of last year, I was called by the former PTA President, who explained that, now that I’ve had a year to “sit back and see how things work,” I should really think about chairing a committee. I told her that I was slightly wary of committing to something like that, since I also have a job and a four year old at home. But she assured me that the PTA was friendly towards working moms. I’m a doctor with a full time practice and four kids, she said, not a little impatiently, and I’ve chaired every committee there is. And I was like, well, that’s just fantastic. There goes my cover. I mean, what do you say to something like that? Sorry, but my two kids and my part-time job as a writer are more demanding than you could possibly understand? Uh, no. What you say is Sir, yes Sir, may I have another.

 

And so, cut to: last Tuesday, the day before the first day of school. I’m crammed into a pint-sized chair in the school library, with about forty or so other moms, plus two dads. The new PTA President is at the head of the table: blonde, no-nonsense, and totally devoted to making our school the best it can be.

 

Catinmyhat
09.29.10

Having felt rejected and dejected by my kids elementary school PTA mafia, your article put a smile on my face. The comments too were priceless. Now I know why some of the mothers previously all over the school have practically vanished. The new crew that came in (current PTA board) has taken over the school and put in their own rules--which teachers to give special x-mas and end of year gifts, which parents get to go on the special field trips and so on. I guess somethings never change as is apparent from the article and comments written 2 years ago.

Thank you for your honesty.

ABUSEDvolunteer
04.03.09

I have been a volunteer for over 22 years. Having the been the direct result of being one of God's little jokes, my children are 31, 21, 13, 10 and I have an 11 year old grand-daughter! I have been involved in the PTA for more years than I have not so PTA has beeen a part of my every day life. Always keeping with the goals and objectives of the PTA, I have served in every position at least once and sometimes more than once. This year, October 2008, I suffered the tragic loss of my baby brother who was killed in a car accident and then just 4 days later, my dear mother passed away after a 2 year battle with cancer. I was overwhelmed with grief, and still am trying to keep myself busy...throwing myself into everything, almost to ignor and escape my loss. You would think that someone, anyone from our elementary school PTA would have come to offer condolences...NO WAY...nothing, except in November, I received an email from our new, untrained and very inexperienced PTA President who first started by offering condolences and then asking me to chair 3 committees (one that should have been planned for the Monday after Thanksgiving, then a Breakfast with Santa and finally, ByLaws/Policies and Procedures Chair. I thought about it for a couple of days and then knowing that life continues, I agreed to assist.
Since that day, my life has been a living hell. I was already a member of the YearBook Committee...and that's where my problems all start...the yearbook chair seems to think that the yearbook is HERS, the committee is HERS and that the members of the committee and all the information regarding the yearbook...you guessed it...IS ALL HERS.
I could never ask a question without attack, criticism or unwaranted abuse and the latest will shock all parties.
Late last night, our treasurer was sent a letter regarding monies that had been collected for yearbook payments (sales ended a week ago)...in the letter, she "cc'd" me and told the treasurer to "advise me" that nothing about the yearbook is any of my business! I found it bizarre and refused to respond except for the fact that her comments were in violation of our PTA CODE OF CONDUCT because nothing about the email or comment was positive or productive. "The YearBook Chair" had cc'd the PTA President so I responded to the PTA President, Tresurer and Principal asking the PTA President for assistance.
NOW HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS AS I PROVIDE YOU WITH THE RESPONSE FROM THE PTA PRESIDENT (who cc'd EVERYONE, including our local PTA Council President)...her response was, and I quote (without names)..."Since you seem to have all of the answers to everyone's job, you can have mine. Please do not contact me anymore with regards to this or any other PTA matter. As of 11:32 pm I have resigned!!!!!!!
THAT WAS WHAT I FOUND IN MY INBOX THIS MORNING! My husband, being an educator for more than 40 years, is appalled by this behavior and so am I.
Thoughts or comments?

Angela Kortz Funke
11.21.08

By the way if anyone wants to directly respond to me about my question about what the PTA does or what they can or should be doing, you can also email me at kortzfunkeatty@cs.com I decided to give you my email address when I saw the date on the last posted comment. But I will check here again to see if anyone else comments, and I am hopeful they do. By the way I am an attorney who works Mon - Fri until 2:30 when I pick up my elementary student daughter and then at 3:30 I pick up my middle school daughter and then I am off to their violin private lessons or group lessons, or chamber music, or flute... so I am busy too. Angela Kortz Funke

Angela Kortz Funke
11.21.08

So what is a PTA's role in a school anyway? Or better what are their limitations? Last week my daughter told us at the last minute she had a concert scheduled at school. As usual, my husband and I were excited to see her singing with chorus and the family went to the event not knowing what else was going on. When we got there it was a PTA meeting, apparently they were asked to perform at the end of the meeting as a draw. I have never been to a PTA meeting, and I wasn't unhappy I was there, but in fact was glad and happy to see how it was run, but I had preconceived expectations. Officers were being placed in and they clapped for each other. Then proceeded to mention the devastating budget cuts and how they were buying supplies for teachers and mentioned paper clips, and paper. They then turned to the small audience and asked if anyone had any questions. I have to tell you my background. This was a public school, and I had attended two private schools all of my elementary and High School years, and would have sent my children but for the $18,000. a year price tag on elementary and High School tuition (it seemed ridiculous when you compared it to college costs in my day and even now). So I was and am feeling guilty about the public verses private school debate and the quality or lack there of weighs heavy on my thinking lately. So when they asked the question, does anyone have a question I jumped in and asked a question about the function of the PTA and what they do. Boy was it an immediate lions din response.
I basically stated that I had never been to a PTA meeting and since I was there I wanted to know what other issues that they take on. What they do. For example, I said, Kentucky has one of the highest drop out rates in the country, and there was just news statement out about how the drop out rates have just gone up even higher. And I said basically that, I heard them talking about buying paper and paper clips for teachers but are you looking into the content in the classroom, and what we can do to battle the disturbing trends and concerns about kids education now. Because having more paper or paper clips really has nothing to do with education really and I was concerned about education. Well, it was as if you could hear a paper clip drop in the room and the woman (President of the PTA) who just told us she was a micro biologist had a very pained and pinched look on her face and responded, "Well, that's not supposed to be what we are doing and anyway I don't know if any of us are educated or equipped enough to do that." I replied well, you just said you were a micro biologist and we have parents who are attorneys, and even an architect who you said was doing the landscaping for the grounds, I think clearly you have parents from all walks who are people who are very equipped. The Principal then jumped up and had the same pained and skeptical look. He said, I just don't understand what the High School drop out rates have to do us, with elementary school what we do doesn't have anything to do..." I interrupted we'll I beg to differ I think that the elementary school is a most important building block and it has everything to do with the foundations that they need to be present to be able to be prepared for High School and avoid dropping out. The micro biologist spoke up, "well it is just not our place, it is the Board of Education," the Principal then said that "well, we have someone that sits on the Board of Education from the PTA..." I interrupted again: well, then you must have a roll somehow, why do you have a member of the PTA... The Principal interrupted me this time: but that is just a voluntary thing. Well, I said, I just thought that because I am here I might ask these questions....the President Micro Biologist said, well we do fund raisers and I shut my mouth and she then went on to talk about gift baskets, etc. During this time, my shy husband had moved about three inches, he is always soooo uncomfortable when I ask questions like this. But they did ask if anyone had any questions, and I was not trying to offend anyone. My middle school daughter, who is shy too, was sitting up high in the bleachers reading a book while she waited for her sister to appear and sing and dance. After the performance she ran up to me book in hand and was grinning ear to ear. My little one blurted out, I don't know why it took so long for us to come out and sing, and the middle school daughter still grinning said gleefully it was mommy's fault, she asked a question and she laughed I just knew it was going to make someone mad. I was glad she was grinning and I was glad she got it. I looked at my daughters and said you should always never be afraid to speak up and ask a question, speak your mind, and energize thoughts and maybe make impressions that lead to more thinking on important subjects. So I went on the web and asked the question "just what is a PTA supposed to do" and I immediately found your web site. Any thoughts or response about this exchange that left me a little more concerned. Angela Kortz Funke

Joy
10.30.08

I am a working mom who has found a way to participate in my child's school life, while still at the office. It is a website that sends out sign up lists by email. Everyone has the same chance to sign up, whether they are at the school picking up their child, or on a business trip in Italy. I am a room mom, and can send out these lists from work, or home, and people really appareciate it. The website is Jooners.com. They have examples for classroom parties - I used it for the Hallowe'en class party, and I'm sure they must have some for Thanksgiving. My teacher is now using it for Parent teacher conferences!

BKaudon
09.13.08

As a PTA member and part time working mom I have experienced some PTA politics. I am one to look for solutions instead of bashing so I’m rising to the occasion this year and rolling with the punches as they come along. Think about the pluses of the PTA. Your kids see you involved in the school. They love it. You will make connections with other parents you wouldn’t see in other settings. Okay, they all won’t be your friends by the end of the year but if you at least make 1 new friend it is so worth the PTA effort. You’ll make a positive impact on the poorly funded school system. You can help raise money, building community the classroom as a room parent or inspire parents with a parent education series. To facilitate PTA friendliness towards working moms you can suggest meetings in the early am or after work hours. I was the President of a pre-school. We met at 7:45am and almost all on the board were working parents. You can suggest you’ll hire a babysitter to watch young ones during the meeting. And, you can sign up volunteers online with Jooners.com sign-up sheets. This way parents with office jobs can sign up for tasks and really participate at the school. No need to see that hand written sign up sheet at the class door. Just sign up as a volunteer from your office, Blackberry or iPhone.

skane414
09.12.08

I love this post. It is so, so true. I am a PT working mom of 3 with a 2 1/2 year old at home and on the days I don't go into the office I volunteer. Well it is hard to do stuff with a 2 1/2 year old hanging on you so I do less. When I say no to things, I get alot of negative feedback and the "work" topic always gets some type of comment. I still think there are many issues that SAHMs have about not being in the official workforce. I have done both and I do think SAHM is harder! I give them props, why, why don't they ever give props to others? The PTA is so cold, I hate going to meetings. Plus, if they ran a business, they'd be out of business by now.

prmomma
09.12.08

So funny. My mom was so involved so when my kid started kindergarden I went to the first meeting and what a joke. It was ok we have this much money, need to do this, and here is a performance by some of our students. My mom was surprised. I found out the PTA is run by 5 moms who just rotate jobs. Its hard to break in. You have to chair a committee which they don't want unless you are always up there. Well I can't. I stay at home with the baby and I work 3 different jobs from home. I do as much as possible in the class but I swear the school is run by the mommy maffia. They have no younger ones at home or they can afford daycare and stay at home. Well what's the point of staying at home if you are a professional volunteer and put the younger kiddos in daycare. And Lord forbid you go up there onle a couple times a month. You get dirty looks from other professional volunteers. They aren't aware I do work at home for the teacher at night. I have to say the teachers are grateful for anything I do. Well thats my thought.

smirky375
09.12.08

In my experience, the PTA is not friendly to working moms. I was actually told to not be a room mom and let the SAHM do it. Also, I am a teacher. I work the same hours my kids are in school and I can't exactly dash off to a PTA mtg. Which bty is held at 1:30 in the afternoon! Who can make that?

jenjen
09.11.08

must we politicize everything??? I was enjoying this immensely before a divisive comment about Sarah Palin was thrown in - buzz kill....