By my count, there were about 60+ people at the meeting. It was a regular PTA meeting so they did their business meeting first. (They did their Golden Acorn awards and I really love hearing these stories about such hard-working and positive people.)
The PTA President, Keiki Kehoe, gave some background to the issue saying the PTA had felt increasingly distant from the state PTA. She said that it was a unanimous vote of the Ingraham Board to bring it to the membership for consideration. She spoke of the common bond of all to work for the students, teachers and staff of the school.
The PTO side was Rosemary Daszkiewicz. She laid out the issues:
- costs of giving money to the state/national PTA. At their school, this is about $2k per year. They feel they need every penny as they have number of F/RL students and they struggle (as do most PTAs) to raise funds.
- control over what they do. She said they feel that the PTA's bylaws and requirements restrict what the local unit can do and are not necessarily aligned with what the school community itself wants.
- culture of their school - one community, many voices. She said, "I want my PTA to focus on what is common to us and not what divides us." She said the Seattle Council PTA had not supported them on their MAP stand nor on their support when Principal Floe's job was under fire. The state PTA's support of charter schools at last year's convention was also a turning point for their PTA as well as convention rules that she felt thwarted discussion.
Heidi Bennett was the PTA side. She offered this:
- that the core of PTA is their motto "Every Child, One Voice."
- PTA helps with a school having a 501c3 designation.
- PTA is the nation's oldest parent advocacy group
- that $2k is "a drop in the bucket" for what a school receives in support. She also stated they hadn't spent all their grant money for this year anyway.
- McCleary came through with PTA support and work
- She said there were some issues at the convention but that there was a new WA State PTA president who was aware of them and considering action.
- She said it was their duty to model behavior and not be a school unto themselves.
Input from parents: (they had a pro/con back and forth):
- a former Salmon Bay parent said that one thing that bothers her about PTA is that you have to pay to join. She asked why, as a parent at the school, she would not have a vote on school matters? (Salmon Bay has a PTO.)
- another parent stated that she liked how the PTA worked for legislation across the state.
- another parent offered that she felt that PTA was very geared towards elementary schools and offered less to middle/high schools
- another parent asked if teachers felt supported and valued by state PTA? Mr. Thomas, a teacher at Ingraham in attendance, said he thought many teachers were concerned over the direction of the state PTA.
- another parent said he felt ambivalent about the situation. He said that he "feared promises" from either side. He said that members could be lost either way but that their own PTA had lost members since the state PTA had seemingly sided with having charters.
- a former TOPS parent also concurred on the point of having an organization that any parent could join without paying
- another mom said that she felt that the ability for PTA to speak with one voice was a good thing and more important than smaller issues like dues.
- a parent after that mom said that she felt PTA was a huge organization that did NOT always speak for all schools and their concerns. She said she felt like lobbying for bigger education issues should be separate from what each school needs to run itself.
- another parent said it was nice to have someone to "someone to call." I don't know if I think, from my own experience, that I ever got a lot of help if I did call SCPTA or the state PTA.
- another parent said he went to the PTA convention and was dissatisfied with the workshops, couldn't figure out the voting system and felt it was not organized well.
- Principal Floe spoke up, very quietly and simply. He said he felt leaving PTA would be best for the school given the issues before the group.
I also note that a couple of people spoke about "modeling behavior" for students. I thought that having an open and democratic discussion would BE the best kind of modeling you could do for students, no matter the outcome (but maybe I am wrong).
There was also a brief discussion about how wealthier PTAs could fund more members (and therefore send more voting members) to state conventions. This idea of having to pay to vote - either at the school unit or the convention - seemed to weigh on some people. (It is also quite the time investment to go to a convention as well and you cannot vote unless you are physically there.)
There was also a bit of confusion over whether a speaker from the state PTA was allowed to speak but one woman did identify herself as the WA State PTA Secretary and she did speak.
This was a calm, civil and evenhanded discussion. It was noted that no matter the vote, they would all accept the outcome and work for the betterment of Ingraham. It was also acknowledged that yes, some advocacy strength might be lost going from a part of a larger group to an individual group. It was also acknowledged that if the PTO did not work out, the parents always had the option of going back to PTA.
As I previously reported, the vote was 44-29 to disaffiliate.
It will be interesting to see what other Seattle schools might do, if the state PTA does make changes and how this will work out for Ingraham.