Monday, September 29, 2008

Hot topic: PTA

A topic idea from an SF K Files visitor:

"How about some sort of call for effective methods/approaches people have used in PTAs around the school? That is, What works? What doesn't? What does it take to be an effective PTA member or contributor? How does one do that if one is not really an alpha PTA type? (not that there's anything wrong with that...but many aren't, but still might want to help out...)"

24 comments:

  1. Not all schools have PTAS. Many of us don't want them.

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  2. 7:03am - please elaborate the reasons why many people do not want the PTA. Is it too formal? Alpha parents?

    I noticed all the kick ass districts outside of SF seem to have strong PTAs. It seems to be the formal mechanism for parent involvement (which of course, if you have a stay at home parent is much easier to accomplish).

    Also a mechanism for fundraising, but there are other ways to achieve that goal also.

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  3. I would be afraid of a sfusd PTA - How could anyone agree on anything? There would be one group demanding everything be translated into Chinese, another group screaming "LA RAZA!", another group too intimidated to suggest DOING anything, because that might be elitist.

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  4. I think the PTA's at most schools are pretty nuts and bolts. Lots of planning and doing, not much philosophizing, which suits me to the ground. A lot of people are active in the PTA who can't necessarily attend the meetings either. Most of the PTA meetings I've been to have been a lot of fun -- so much fun that we have to adjourn to a bar so the principal can lock up and go home!

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  5. 7:44

    Many schools have PTOs instead, and that way they don't have to pay dues to the PTA, keep all the records and do all the paperwork and abide by all the PTA rules and elect officers and keep minutes and all the other procedural crap you have to do.
    PTAs are not supposed to be only for fundraising, I think they have to do 3 non-fundraising activities for every 1 fundraising activity they do; since many people have limited time and only want to help their schools make money with their limited volunteer hours, some find PTOs more conducive to their school's needs.

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  6. PTA is an advocacy organization for the interests of public education and children's and family issues, as well as a support group working within schools.

    A PTO is working within a school to support that particular school and its students, while a PTA or PTSA (the individual PTA can choose to add the "S" for student) is working for that school but also for ALL public schools and ALL children.

    A PTA skeptic said to me the other day that they haven't been very successful advocating for education. Yet there's a long list of achievements over the years that are heavily attributable to PTA. The National School Lunch Program is one of them -- the fact that our schools offer free meals to poor kids at all. The K-3 class size reduction implemented in California in 1996 is another (before that, K-3 class sizes were 33-34). PTA advocacy helped achieve legislation limiting junk food and soda sales in California schools (after many failed efforts, it happened after PTA got involved, 3-4 years ago). So you get the idea.

    The PTA view on fundraising is that advocacy for adequate education funding is its top priority, so that's why the national and state organizations emphasize that PTA is not primarily a fundraising organization. The National PTA has lobbyists in D.C., and state PTAs have them in all state capitols (there are eight in California -- volunteers, but skilled and experienced ones).

    The National PTA's motto is "Every Child, One Voice."

    The California State PTA website probably gives the best overview: www.capta.org

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. I think there is also a fair amount of accountability when you are affiliated with an organization like PTA. For instance, I can think of one school in particular that until very recently did not have a PTA - they had a PTO. And with the PTO, the officers (or really just one officer) had the perfect opportunity to skim a little money off the top of all the fund raising... and skim they did.

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  9. Accountability?

    http://tinyurl.com/4yuawc
    16K embezzled from PTA funds

    http://tinyurl.com/4fvhmw
    30K embezzled from PTA

    Just because they say they are the PTA doesn't mean that the money is safer.

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  10. Unscrupulous people can always find a way to steal, procedures or no procedures. How can people steal from kids, though?

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  11. This conversation is going in an odd direction. PTAs have done so much for schools in this city. Yes, they have their faults but those are so minor compared to the amazing things parents have done for schools. Please everyone share some of the great things PTAs have done for your schools.

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  12. Sure, it can happen by anyone, anywhere. But when it happened at said school, since there was just an informal PTO, the crook essentially got away with it.

    When you are part of a national organization, there can be more repercussions. The temptation is there, sure. But more likely there will be a lawsuit.

    I suppose that's what I meant by "accountability."

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  13. PTAs and PTOs do great things. Neither are immune from potential theft of funds. I don't think it was fair of Joy to insinuate that.

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  14. I'm sure some PTO's have good procedures too, but I know that PTA's have a lot of procedures to ensure that theft doesn't happen. Of course, anyone with determination can still get away with it (or try) but a lot of safeguards are built in to the system.

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  15. apparently not enough safeguards

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  16. That's why most organizations (including the PTA) require audits. It's impossible to guard against every kind of theft without making it impossible for an honest person to do the job. And, most people are honest.

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  17. Wait a minute... I'm not "insinuating" anything... the thread starts off about how people don't want PTAs.

    I KNOW PTAs and PTOs do good things. I NEVER said they didn't. You people need to chill out.

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  18. I think there are many ways to participate in your child's school, PTA, PTO or not.
    You can volunteer in the classroom, chaperone field trips, work in the library, tutor, etc, all without joining the PTA/PTO. I'd assume all schools do that slightly differently, but most often it's between you and your individual teacher.
    I know lots of parents who just aren't into meetings, don't have babysitting, or whatever, but who contribute in a huge way to our school. One way is to pick an event or activity at an event and make it yours. Run a booth at a carnival? Plan a restaurant night for a fundraiser? Maybe hook up with a friend and do it togther. Trust me, if you handle it, no matter how small, it will be greatly appreciated.
    I think an important thing for the PTA officers to be able to do, is to make everyone feel valued and help people find something or somewhere to contribute. A lot of parents feel uncomfortable jumping in or unsure what they can offer. If you know parent x is into art, hook her up with the mural committee, or introduce her to the art teacher. If everyone finds that little thing that they like to do, the work gets shared much more.

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  19. Another benefit of being affiliated with the national PTA is that it provides insurance for PTA-sponsored events. I organized the school festival lo these many years ago at Miraloma and paid for the bouncy house with my credit card. Afterward, I realized that I most likely would have been held personally responsible if, God forbid, an accident had happened. When the parent organization officially became a PTA we learned that we were covered by insurance, and that it specifically excludes activities like bouncy houses at school carnivals, because they are so dangerous! Besides providing a benefit to the school, PTA membership also provided a good lesson.

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  20. What I wonder about is how "political" the PTAs are at various schools. For instance, on this blog I've heard that Clarendon has a really rabid parent group. You're either in or you're out, as Heidi Klum says. Very clique-ish. What are the other schools like?

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  21. I found it very useful to attend the occasional PTA meeting to learn more about what goes on in the school, including in the upper grades. There's only so much you learn from your child and the twice a year parent/teacher conferences.

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  22. I was so impressed by the first PTA meeting at Jose Ortega. Our PTA president kept it to just one hour. Babysitting and dinner were provided. About 40 parents showed up. They quickly ran through projects. The principal attended and gave a report. A teacher liaison was there as well. It was a great way to learn what's going on at the school. Very low-key yet informative.

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  23. My first PTA meeting at Grattan was just as Kate described. An efficiently run meeting, about 60 participants, very focused, very inclusive of incoming parents, etc. I did not find it to be "political" at all, but I am also new to the school so time will tell.

    There seems to be a great relationship between the PTA and the principal at Grattan, which is so important. The organization serves a critical role in the school without a doubt.

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  24. In my experience, PTA/PTOs are too busy trying to accomplish the never-ending list of basic activities to spend much time on controversial issues. The only arguements we have ever had is when Dads get involved....

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