BLTs have come into focus for me because of the issues at Stevens Elementary. Read about that here. Seemingly one of the issues for parents at Stevens was not being allowed to be part of the BLT and the PTA not having much traction when they raised serious issues about the leadership of the school. (To note, the principal at Stevens Elementary is leaving that school but it is unclear if she is moving on to another school in the district or leaving the district altogether.)
The issue of BLTs is governed by both Board policy and the teachers' CBA. (Links here from reader Ann D.)
The board policies around BLTs can be found in the links under "Governance", F20.01 and F20.02
The Seattle Education Association Collective Bargaining Agreement about BLTs (p 12)
The Board "encourages" the formation of "governance structures" and membership is to be determined by the bylaws for each group. Bylaws have to be approved by the Board. There is to be a "balance" between staff and parent/community populations. Meetings are to be open. Central Administration is to facilitate the organizing of these groups.
I'll have to ask the Board office for a list of officially approved school governance teams and then find out how many actually exist at schools. I have experienced and heard from others widely varying accounts of how well these teams work. I have also heard that most of the parents selected from for these teams tend to be PTA board members which makes for a cozy decision-making foundation for a school if it's the same parents on PTA and BLT boards. I have heard of principals hand-picking everyone on the BLT.
Here's what one reader said recently:
That last sentence is a key point. Not all parents in a school belong to PTA and yet they still should have a voice.
Then there is the issue of PTA. I'm a PTA person but, over the last several years, have found myself completely flummoxed by the state and national PTA actions. That WAPTSA set up a lengthy and complicated process for anyone to submit an issue to be consider for the legislative agenda is very troubling.
As for Seattle Schools PTAs, I think we have had fairly good leadership in Seattle Council PTA but that PTA, like the district, is a slow-moving tanker. I think it hobbles the organization not be able to act nimbly on issues.
I haven't checked in awhile but, if you check school websites, it appears most schools have a PTA or PTO (parent teacher organization.) How big or strong they are is really the question.
The Soup for Teachers group seems to be working hard to find "sister school" relationships for PTAs that have low membership or zero-low fundraising ability. I recall trying to do that when the principal at my sons' elementary school moved to a southend school that had a very small PTA. The distance and time factor made that relationship hard to grow. But I support what SforT is trying to do. There is expertise and help that even on a small scale could help parents at other schools.
In another thread, I saw this input from reader Ramona H that I thought really spoke to both the issue of BLTs and PTAs:
In my experience there are 2 views of building leadership teams.
One is purely a labor management agreement, in which case staff looks at community and families and thinks, I don't want them dictating my workplace procedures, climate, etc.
The other view is blt as shared decision making on issues that affect kids. The cba supports the former, and board policy the latter. It has been that way for years.
And involving PTA just sets up so many problems. PTAs are private organizations, and schools should not be in the business of discriminating against parents who don't belong to a private group. And the fact that so many focus on fund raising to my mind exacerbates problems with budget decisions. As in, can we pass along this expense (materials, library support, etc) to an outside group. That starts an insidious process.
Unfortunately, I don't see staff -- administration or teaching corps -- embracing public decision making. They are just too bought into labor negotiation model. Not a civic engagement model.So what is the role for parents? I can say from living abroad twice that other countries generally don't see parents so much as partners and don't involve them in any school decisions. (I think the role of parents in other countries is more functional - get your kid to school on time, homework, etc. - and helpful - volunteer for class parties and field trips.)
But this is the United States and it seems parents definitely want to be involved and have a say.
But let me ask this - do you think if you felt your school was well-run - both by the district and by the principal/staff - would you want to be involved in its governance?
And, if the school was funded to include librarian, at least a part-time nurse and counselor and arts, would PTA really just be about organizing and funding enhancements like school events?
I understand that KUOW is working on a story about PTAs and their funding-raising so stay tuned for that.