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Successfully Running a PTA or PTO
My Life in the PTA
I have been involved in my children's PTA for the last seven years. I spent one year as a treasurer and two years as the president. During my time in the PTA, I have met lots of different people, engaged in a lot of different activities, and learned a lot about how these organizations operate. I will hopefully share a lot of my thoughts, feelings, and observations from many different points of view while giving some tips along the way of how to make a successful parent organization.
The first thing to remember is a parent organization is not run or managed by a school or a school district. PTA's and PTO's are not-for-profit organizations that are run independent of the school and have their own rules and by-laws for which they most follow.
That being said, a PTA or PTO can not run within the school without the permission of the principal. The principal has the right and the ability to remove or not allow an overbearing PTA or PTO to operate in the school.
We help each other, and without that partnership, neither is successful.
What makes a successful Parent Teacher Organization
A great PTA or PTO understands the importance of Volunteers, Fundraising, and partnering with the school.
There are three things that will make any PTA or PTO successful; the Schools, Fundraising, and the Volunteers. Tying these three items together and working together you end up helping each other achieve the goal of happy children who are eager to learn.
A PTA or PTO needs a school to operate, and they need the principal to want them to operate there. I was lucky that the people in the school supported the PTA, the principal came to every monthly meeting and each month a different set of teachers came to the meetings. The principal included the PTA into the school functions and allowed us to put on many school functions: back to school party, curriculum parties, fun fairs, hoiday shoppes, all kinds of things.
As an organization we knew this was a two-way street, we had to give back to the school as well, we help by finding volunteers for the library, we had a parent assigned to each classroom as the classroom coordinator. These volunteers helped arrange the classroom parties, found volunteers to make copies for the teacher, help solicit for classroom donations. It was a definite win-win situation for the parents and the teachers.
You need to get your money from somewhere, so you do have to fundraise, unless your lucky enough to have someone leave your PTA a bunch of money. So what are the best fundraisers? Check out my lens on Not For Profit Fundraising for fundraising ideas and ways to make each event successful.
Of course, you may decide that you are fundraising for a particular goal, if this is the case, make sure you let everyone know why you are fundraising. Talk to local businesses, they always want to help with the schools in their neighborhoods. Don't worry if they don't, keep asking as they will when the can.
These are the life and blood of your organization, if you don't have any volunteers you are going to have to do everything yourself, and then you will just be exhausted. If someone volunteers for a certain task, make sure to call them even if you have too many. The personal touch with volunteers is very important, you need to thank them every time they volunteer. Volunteers need to feel welcome, if they don't have the freedom to be creative or come up with their own ideas, they will stop volunteering. I can't say this enough, volunteers need to feel welcome. Volunteers will fail at times, and that's ok, not everything goes the way its supposed to, as a member of the PTA you try to make the best out of every situation.
The PTA Officers
PTA President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary
I'm reminded of a quote from the movie "Remember the Titans", where one of the players looks at his team captain and says, "Attitude reflects Leadership, sir". The PTA or PTO will reflect the attitude of its leadership over time. If the leadership is positive, nurturing, and caring, the volunteers will be. If the leadership is ungiving, lazy, and back stabbing, so will the volunteers.
No one wants to be a PTA officer, I don't know why, as it is one of the most rewarding volunteer jobs you can do while helping your school. Here are some tips for each of the different officers.
This can be the easiest or the hardest job as an officer. Your main responsibility is to organize and motivate everyone else in the PTA. The President should listen to everyone and make decisions. The PTA President leads the monthly meeting, sets the agenda, and provides direction to the other officers. The PTA President approves every expenditure, signs checks, and makes sure everything is running in accordance with the PTA by-laws. As a President, you will probably be in front of a microphone at least once a month during the school year.
PTA Presidents come in all types; do it all yourself to delegate to everyone else. Neither is right or wrong, and it usually depends on the situation. I have a full-time job, so I couldn't do a lot and delegation was the right route for me over the two years I spent as President. My predecessor is a stay-at-home mom and a do-it-all yourself type. What you learn really quickly as President is you can't please everyone, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try. So my best advice, be yourself, make decisions so you can sleep at night.
PTA Vice Presidents
My elementary school's PTA has three Vice Presidents. One for Classroom activities, one for School activities, and one for Fundraising. The Vice Presidents need to be very organized people as they do most of the heavy lifting. They are organizing most of the PTA committees and making sure each event they are in charge of is being scheduled and getting organized by the event's chairperson.
The PTA Secretary takes notes at each of the PTA meetings, runs the membership drives, officer in charge of publishing the school directory and the monthly PTA newsletter, and creates the end of year PTA book. The end of year PTA book are reports from each committee chairperson about their committee. This serves as a way to pass information from one year to the next and highlights anything that went well or didn't go so well.
The PTA Treasurer is in charge of everything financial, writing checks, depositing money in the bank account, reporting at the monthly meeting the current financials, and preparing tax returns if necessary. When writing checks it is important that the Treasurer and the President sign every check. This provides a sense of security that no one person can write and approve a checks. You don't need to be a CPA to be the PTA treasurer, but you do need to be able to track deposits and checks in a checkbook or software such as Quicken.
PTA or PTO By-Laws
get to know your by-laws as they rule the land
An officer's best friend is the by-laws which governs the running of your PTA or PTO. The PTO or PTA President should run the entire organization within the rules of the by-laws. Doing something the by-laws expressly prohibits is a big no-no.
The by-laws will explain each voted on position in the parent organization and all the information that pertains to running a PTA such as:
1. How often should a PTA or PTO meet.
2. How do changes in the PTA or PTO budget occur.
3. Who can vote at a PTA or PTO meeting.
4. What meeting format will be followed. Our PTA follows Roberts Rules of Order.
5. How many people need to be at a meeting to make a quorum. A quorum is needed to vote and actually run an official PTA meeting.
6. How can a PTA or PTO officer be removed from their office.
7. Who can collect money. What procedures should be taken when money is collected before it is handed to the PTA Treasurer.
8. How many officers are in the PTA or PTO and what are their duties.
9. The fiscal year of the parent organization, which may be different than the calendar year.
10. How many years a person can serve as a PTA or PTO officer.
11. PTA or PTO officer elections procedures.
12. Procedures for amending the PTA or PTO bylaws.
13. Procedures for handling bad checks or debt.
These are a few things that should be found in your PTO or PTA by-laws. Everyone should have a copy of the PTA or PTO bylaws or at least access to the document. This is definitely a document that should not be kept in secret and made public. Our state PTA requires that by-laws be updated at least every 2 years and our district PTA tracks the changes and signs off on every PTA's by-laws.
On April 20, 2009 this lens was LOTD