Disqus

Sunday, April 14, 2013

PTA News

A bit of a roundup of PTA news.  (Please keep in mind that I am a long-time PTA parent.  I think, on paper, PTA is a good thing but it doesn't always play out the way you might hope in practice.)

First up from the Washington State PTA, news from their upcoming convention.  You may recall that they have teamed up with McDonald's for sponsorship of the convention.  I recall that, at the time, it seemed like an odd pairing given the childhood obesity rates in this country and the food that McDonald's serves.  But The WSPTA offered a spirited defensive saying McDonald's was making an effort to provide better choices to parents.  That may be true but it doesn't make McDonald's fast-food into health food.

Now I see that in their PTA convention materials that not only will McDonald's have a presence at the convention, they actually will be presenting at the convention.  Their "director of nutrition" has a spot in the convention lineup of speakers. 

At the same time, the national PTA is all about healthy snacks at schools and said that parents should let the USDA know this:

Current national standards for snacks and beverages sold in schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs are out of date and don’t address calories, saturated and trans-fat, salt, and sugars, which are key public health concerns for child nutrition and obesity. While some states and schools have made progress to improve the nutritional quality of school snacks and beverages, all children across the country deserve healthy options. Research shows that unhealthy snacks are still widely available in schools.

I sense a disconnect here between the National PTA and WSPTA.

Second, Ingraham High School is considering leaving PTA and creating its own PTO.  

This is noteworthy for several reasons.
Although there are several PTOs in our district, I believe all of them are at alternative schools.  And, that most of them started out this way and were never part of PTA.

Also, the thoughtful manner in which Ingraham came to the decision of having this discussion warrants merit.  (For the record, they will debate and vote at their regular meeting on May 20th.)

Their PTSA president, Keiki Kehoe, explains in a letter to parents that there was much frustration within their PTSA with the WSPTA over the charter school plank they had last year.  I think the discomfort was not just about charters but also at the way in which the push for charters was handled by WSPTA.

At their 2012 summer retreat, their Board discussed the concerns over the state and national PTA policies and decided to continue internal discussions and have now brought the issue to their membership.

Here's what they will ask:

At this meeting, we will ask the membership to elect new officers for the coming year and to vote on the question of whether to continue our affiliation with the state and national PTA or to become an independent parent organization, administered locally, by Ingraham parents, teachers and students.

Here is a link that contains the letter to parents and FAQs for both sides of the issue.

One issue that has come up is that the Ingraham Board carefully read the state PTA bylaws about leaving PTA.  They thought they understood the process for disaffiliating from the WSPTA but the pro-side spokesperson for keeping PTA at Ingraham, Heidi Bennett, seemed to think there was some other process involved.

So the Board did what they should do and contacted the WSPTA directly.   They say, at the end of the letter:

Again, I'd like to make sure you agree with my perspective, or to understand yours.

The replies, from a couple of different people at WSPTA, including President Novella Fraser, were frosty to say the least.  There was a one sentence e-mail acknowledging their request.   A week went by so again, a member of the Board follows up and again asks:

Thank you again for your help in ensuring that the Ingraham WSPTA and the greater Ingraham Community can address this potentially difficult discussion with kindness and clarity.

President Fraser's answer was a reprinting of the pertinent bylaws. Not so helpful if you are seeking clarification of the bylaws.   (The bylaws state that a Region 6 director has to be there and the Ingraham Board acknowledged that and said she was welcome.)

Then there's another e-mail from WSPTA saying "assisting and consulting on disaffiliation is not in alignment with.." their mission.

So there are bylaws about disaffiliation which are not clear and the WSPTA won't provide any clarification. So, if the Ingraham parents do decide to break away, is the WSPTA going to swoop down on them legally if the WSPTA perceives they did it incorrectly?  A bit of a Catch-22 there. 

Ingraham's PTSA is likely to have a very spirited discussion.  I have looked at the issue of PTO and PTA and there are pluses and minuses to both.

But if it is autonomy, keeping all your money and the ability to truly address what matters to your school is what you seek, a PTO is likely to make more people happy.

I am aware of several other schools that are not happy with PTA and are also considering what to do.  

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The PTA was once a progressive organization from the Progressive Era. No more.

DWE

Anonymous said...

One thing that keeps groups at our school tied to PTSA is the liability insurance that covers our events. Is it cheap/easy to get that coverage otherwise?

-PTSA volunteer

RosieReader said...

Yes, it is easy/cheap to get insurance. Can someone from Salmon Bay post the name of their carrier? It's just a tiny bit more than the PTSA's package. THere's also insurance available through PTO Today.

Anonymous said...

Salmon Bay is insured by AIM. Cost is not much.
Beth