Tuesday, October 15, 2013

PTA Slowly Changes Its Form - What Do Parents Think?

I have been a PTA parent.  I have served on Boards in nearly every postion and, I was co-president of a PTA at a large high school.  I've been to Legislative Assembly and conventions.  I have seen, firsthand, many, many hard-working parents - at several schools - and heard amazing stories of effort at others.  (Sad to say, not every school has a vibrant PTA.)

But, just like the seeming disconnect between our schools and our district headquarters, there seems to be an ever-growing disconnect between school PTAs and their needs and our city/state/national PTAs' goals.

What has always troubled me is that local PTA leaders are always there for the meetings with the Superintendents or Mayor or other officials.  They rise to endorse Board agendas for work at the Legislature.  All this is great but it's high-level. 

It feels like the city/state/national operates at that 10,000 foot level and yet, there are real concerns at the district and school level that you would think would be exactly where leadership would help.

For years I've asked why we don't have PTAs in every school.  Wouldn't that be a good place to start helping those schools become stronger? 

And when we have situations like the growth boundaries, where is the SCPTA to support parent concerns? 


Because I have not heard a word from them nor heard parents say that PTA has been there to support them in their concerns.  The home page for SCPTA lists needing Area Directors, arts grant, resolution for sleep time requirements and school start times, etc.   (One good item is how PTA use school buildings - I'm sure your PTA has seen this but you might take a look if you have questions.)

The Advocacy/Legislative page is outdated (even as it says it was updated on September 30th.).

I got the trigger to write this thread from some unhappiness read from one of the Growth Boundary regions.  A couple of parents said they felt the PTA at APP@Lincoln has been long dominated by NE voices and that they felt no support for the dilemma now for the now-current 3rd graders from the Whitman area who would have to spend 6th grade rolling up with JAMS.  You could hear the frustration.

Now PTA at APP@Lincoln is a different (and probably more stressful) animal as you have kids coming from all over the region.  But PTA is supposed to support concerns that come from all parents.

Is your PTA going to coalesce around a growth boundary issue for your school? I have mostly heard individual parent voices at these meetings so are PTAs rising up to fight back?

As for state PTA, they got rid of their paid legislative voice (which I believe is a mistake), are big supporters of Common Core and have McDonald's as a "platinum" sponsor.

On Common Core, national PTA got a big grant from - who else - the Gates Foundation to push Common Core.  I'll have a separate thread on the PTA's "FAQs" on Common Core and student data privacy because they have left out a LOT that parents should know.

I've tried - multiple times - to contact the SCPTA president, Katherine Schomer, and the Washington State PTA President, Heather Gillette,  just to ask about PTA focus, Common Core and other issues.  No replies. 

I don't get it.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is that new? I thought the plan was - next year, NE app kids roll up with JAMS, 6th grade academy. 2016, NW kid roll up with Wilson pacific, 6th grade academy. In the interim, NW kids get to stay at the less crowded Hamilton, and there will be a model for how to do it, what to improve on, for the NE experience.

I think the problem is there are some NW app parents who are not unhappy with the plan. Their kids get the less crowded , excellent Hamilton after the NE kids get the boot. So the NW is divided, while all of the NE is unhappy with the plan, though I think understandably sees the problem starting next year(which they will be personally tasked with mitigating) as more urgent than the problem starting in 3 years(eons in sps time, I think some people think might not happen).

I don't love the PTA format. I like site councils, but I haven't really been privy to lobbying work that the PTA has done lately, and that could change my mind.

Anonymous said...

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Is this thread about the role of the PTA representing some vs all parents or is it about APP kids not getting a fair shake, a comprehensive Middle School experience, a roll up to WP or whatever, because there are a lot of other threads already talking about all that stuff. Just asking.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

"Is your PTA going to coalesce around a growth boundary issue for your school"

At one school I do not have a PTA, and the school is not especially affected by the latest boundary discussions. It is a gen ed school, and as usual, things are going very well there. So no. At my other school the issue is very complicated, is being affected by several different splits at once at all grade levels, in all regions of town, and I think I have new light to shed on the problem, so see above for my answer to that one.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

There is no PTA at your Gen Ed school? Is there some sort of parent organization there? How is the art and music and enough PE to meet state standards funded?

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

It is called a site council, and it is not affiliated with the larger PTA organization. No membership dues, make our own structure. It is great, especially for that community. But though you didn't like what I was talking about above, that was actually on topic, and this is not!

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Ok. Well Melissa can delete the last two comments and this one, and I will leave you to discuss the specifics of APP PTAs and how they will affect comprehensive middle school experiences for APP kids and your 6th grade roll ups.

Gen Ed Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

This thread - for the APP obsessed Gen Ed Mom - is about PTA and its various roles. It's in the title and I reference it constantly throughout.

Anonymous said...

The PTA in its original form was meant to be a group of parents that supported the school and acted as a conduit and a voice between the parents and the school administration and teachers. Times have changed for sure, and the topics have become much more complex, but at the core, parents still want and need a voice at their local level. But they also need to be represented within the district because I see that the school district is providing less and less, and frankly not using critical thinking skills to make some pretty important decisions. And, honestly, the PTA (read parents) is increasingly having to pick up the cost of what many of us considered "basic" when we were in school. I wish we were back in the good old days where music and art were considered important; testing was not this stupid corporate thing we obsess about, class size was reasonable, decisions were made in the best interest of kids, etc. But we are not in the good old days (which had other issues for sure) and now the stakes are higher. Advocacy in every form has become more "corporate" and polished and that seems to be what it takes for more aircover at the district level—and seems to be required in order to get them to listen. So, the PTA is parents doing what they need to do to get the education and resources kids need. Its form has not “really” changed, but times have, so we should not be surprised that things feel different. But, step back for a moment and take a look at the parents who are in the PTA at your school(s). They are right there when you drop off your kids (and you may be one of them), doing what parents and the PTA have always done-getting involved, helping kids, teachers and staff. Tutoring. Monitoring the playground and filling other gaps. Creating community. Subsidizing field trips for enrichment. If you don't like your community-ask yourself-what are YOU doing about it?? If there are schools that don't have PTAs, they need to step up because PTA without parents is…nothing. It only takes one person. In summary, the PTA needs to continue to do the right things for the kids in their schools, but the PTA can and should also organize to do the right things for all kids in all schools. If not PTA, I fear that parents will not have a big enough voice.

Signed,
Seattle School Mom

Anonymous said...

Haven't PTAs been a subset of the parents throughout the history of mankind. Aren't there even jokes and cliches about it, like "the harper valley TPA", and "auction moms", . . . .

It's difficult to make volunteer labor truly representative, given that people have differing abilities to volunteer, organize, contribute. In general, my goal in any school I'm involved with is to have the school well enough managed organized, with sufficient resources, so that the PTA is a social body with little input in the school. I know a lot of folks don't have that luxury.

zb

Anonymous said...

Gen Ed Mom, hang in there. I usually see your point and wouldn't call you any more obsessive than anyone else. You are representing and under-represented point of view. Thank you!

ALO mom

Mary Griffin said...

Seattle Council PTA invited Tracy Libros to their last meeting to talk about growth boundaries. I was there and it was very informative.

RosieReader said...

Organized parents can have a large and positive impact on a school. IMHO its the responsibility of the leaders of those parents to make sure that one point of view doesn't dominate. So if most of the volunteering parents have kids in a particular program at the school, then the parent leaders need to make sure the organization's work supports all programs, not just those of the involved parents.

I'm a fan of self-organized groups. I don't see the State/National PTA organizations providing much value to a school-level organization, and given the amount of revenue that flows up from those school-level organizations to the state/national entities, that's a real shame.

Ingraham and Nathan Hale both voted to disaffiliate from the state/national PTSA last spring. Perhaps other schools will follow suit.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Rosie, when did Hale do that? I thought they were just talking about it.

LN said...

I want to respect GenEd mom and not turn this into an APP specific thread. However, I can't let sleeper's comments and Melissa's possible typo go unaddressed. Apologies, GenEd Mom. I really do get what you're saying.

1. I think Melissa made a typo when writing the Whitman kids go to the JAMS roll-up. I think she meant John Marshall/Wilson Pacific. I am not aware of a new plan.

2. Sleeper, your statements are inaccurate and divisive. The plan is being balanced on the backs of Whitman service area APP enrolled and eligible kids currently in the 3rd grade (1st and 2nd graders, too, but they at least avoid John Marshall and won't be starting the roll-up). There are only about 50 of these kids (at most). There will be even less if the roll-up at John Marshall happens since the APP eligible kids won't enroll for that! The only accuracy in your statement is that current 4th and 5th graders in the Whitman zone are slated to stay at Hamilton. Yes, like you, I unfortunately think many of them will keep their mouths shut since their kids will fare OK.

The plans all stink except, POSSIBLY, for the folks getting to stay at Hamilton in an established program. I say "possibly" since who knows what will happen to that program. The NE plan stinks, but it's better than what the current 3rd graders in the Whitman service area face. The JAMS kids will at least have some kids in all grades allowing for at least some math options, some sports, some music, some electives. They will also be at an actual comprehensive middle school location. Conversely, at BEST, 50 APP kids (plus some number of GenEd kids) will be at John Marshall for 6th grade and moved to Wilson Pacific for their 7th grade year.

Please note, Sleeper, I did NOT say the JAMS was a good solution. It just sucks a little less than what my 3rd grader in the NW is facing.

Now, to the PTA comments. As you can see by sleeper's comments, SPS is closer to meeting the goal of dividing and conquering a unified APP North PTA voice. People are now forced to choose what to fight for. Unfortunately, some may choose to protect what Sleeper mentions - staying at Hamilton in lieu of fighting for all kids. Next, if JAMS is a done deal, you'll have a much, much, much larger group of people working to make that the best it can be. Tell me, Sleeper, how much weight are 50 of us going to pull at a John Marshall roll-up?

My other kid is in a NW school. The PTA there is collectively fighting the boundary change to benefit all kids in the current boundary. It is much easier to unify their voice since they are geographically linked.

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is the thread for this, and it am finally learning my lesson about posting in the right thread. I have been posting in another thread, the interim one where Eden just posted her proposed plan, and will try later to reply to you there if you'd like to continue. I do disagree with a few of your assumptions(esp whether there will be a full middle school at JAMS next year).

-sleeper

Eric B said...

North Beach was out in force at the Ballard boundaries discussion. I presume that was organized by the PTA (someone had to distribute purple T-shirts), but I don't know that for sure.

I think the larger PTA organizations (city and state) have value insofar as they amplify their members' voices. If they use their members as a backdrop for whatever other voices they present, then they're not useful.

With the PTA lobbyist gone, I can definitely see a local school PTA asking what benefit they get from the larger PTA organization and the dues they pay.

Melissa Westbrook said...

LN, you are correct; I misspoke. As I said elsewhere, I am trying to get my head around these issues but I think the Whitman APP one seems very unfair.

LN said...

Sleeper - OK, deal, I'll meet you on the other thread.

Having a kid in GenEd and APP, I really want to be respectful of GenEd concerns because I have MANY!! The rigor needs to increase 10 fold. Have pull-outs to help struggling kids catch-up instead of holding everyone back. It works well if the PTA supports a strong tutoring program.

Eric B - You are right about North Beach. It was the administration and the PTA who rallied the troops to Ballard HS. At the risk of shooting my other kid in the foot, I was happy to see the NB turn-out and not another meeting hijacked by Lincoln. The admin and PTA are rallying the entire school to rally for the current boundary to protect the community.

mirmac1 said...

Frankly, I don't think Gen Ed Mom is no more or less APP-obsessed than many other commenters. I find her postings polite if very direct, and offering a necessary counterpoint.

RosieReader said...

Melissa, Nathan Hale's vote was after Ingraham's, mid to late June. I just checked, and they haven't updated their website yet.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Hale PTA meeting where they decided to leave the PTA. I know I reported it here but it must of have lost.

HP