Red Apple Mom

January 31, 2011

Harnassing the Power of PTAs & PTOs

Getting issues advocacy work done through a PTA or PTO can be like herding cats.  Volunteers have limited time and PTAs and PTOs are often reluctant to step outside of their fundraising “booster club” model.

Certain events require broader PTA/PTO action though – issues like boundary changes, budget cuts, curriculum or policy changes and school closures.

Too often, PTA/PTO executive boards are nervous about stepping out of their comfort zones and providing leadership in areas that some will say are “political.”  But school issues like boundary changes, curriculum or closures aren’t “political.”  These are serious issues affecting communities and families.  Parents, students and teachers need a voice to advocate for them on these issues with school officials.  PTAs and PTOs are a natural outlet.

One of the most effective tools PTA/PTOs can employ is a “common resolution.”  A common resolution outlines the concerns of an issue and the action(s) the PTA/PTO would like taken by school officials.  I’ve attached a couple of samples here – one for FAIRGRADE which called for changes to the Fairfax County Public Schools Grading Policy, and another from FRIENDS OF COMMUNITY SCHOOLS which calls for a halt to a boundary study in Fairfax County.  FAIRGRADE Resolution , PTA SW Boundary Resolution

A community resolution provides the following advantages for parents, students and teachers:

1.  It demonstrates power in numbers which can translate into influence and ultimately, a shifting of the debate in your favor.

2.  It shows the press that the community is in agreement and speaking with one voice and working in unison to achieve a common goal(s).

3.  If you can get a majority of the PTA/PTOs in your school district to pass the same resolution, it buffers the “divide and conquer” approach frequently adopted by school officials who may want their positions to prevail despite community concerns.

The next time you have a serious issue facing your school community, ask yourself if other schools in your district are facing the same problem.  If they are, hammer out your concerns and solutions in the form of a resolution and start shopping it around to other affected PTAs and PTOs in your area.  Ask them to have their memberships pass the resolution.  If time is a concern, request that a vote be taken by their executive board only.

Once you have all the PTAs/PTO’s on board, or a significant majority of them, do the following:

1.  Send the resolution to the proper school authorities (your superintendent or your school board).

2.  Notify all the PTA/PTO memberships that the resolution was sent to school authorities.  If your school district has a regional or district PTA or PTO council, notify them as well and request their support.

3.  Write up a press release and it to all of your local media.   Attach a copy of the resolution and a list of the all the PTAs/PTOs or the PTA/PTO executive boards who passed the resolution.  Select one person among all of your PTA/PTO leadership teams to serve as a spokesperson about your common resolution and list their name and number on the press release.  Multi-School PTA Press Release

4.  Post a copy of the resolution and the press release to your PTA/PTO website.

Once your common resolution and press release have gone public, monitor all public responses from school officials and decision makers so that you can determine your next strategic move to any action school officials may or may not take.

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