My Chin is Up and My Eyes are Dry
It started innocently enough. My child entered Kindergarten.
My belief system was precise–education begins at home and a parent who is active in their child’s curriculum produces a successful child.
We attended Back to School Night and a paper came in the pamphlet inviting us to join the PTA. We sent ten dollars to school with kiddo for our dues and I included a note that said, “If you need help with anything, let me know.”
I received a phone call from the President of the PTA asking if I’d like to be the chairman of the Sixth Grade Party at the end of the school year.
I had no sixth grader. I’d never had a child attend this school. Fear poured out as sweat beads as I swallowed hard and said, “Okay.”
I also volunteered to do Box Tops.
Mid-September I attended my first PTA meeting. It started late. I seemed to be the outsider. In the end, I wasn’t sure we accomplished anything. I attributed this to my former career in Middle Management that my expectations were off kelter.
Two weeks later, I received a phone call from the PTA President. She needed to step down. It was too much with her Mary Kay Business. The emails were overwhelming. Yada yada yada.
My heart was beating rapidly. My reflexes were lethargic. Breathing was difficult.
It was for my child. I said, “Um, okay.”
My husband was not happy. “Where are you going to find the time?” He taunted. It was true. My plate was full, but my kiddo needed me.
For five days, I let it sink in, and then it was time to go sign the paperwork, officially making me PTA President.
I walked the 1.18 miles to the school. I introduced myself. A woman who works at the school pulled me aside and suggested I be co-President with the elected President. I said, “I’m pretty sure I can do this. She sounded very overwhelmed. I’d prefer to simply be the President.”
It fell on deaf ears because next thing I know, the elected President was there telling me we were going to be co-President. She’d “help me”.
No matter what I said…she was determined to be my co-President. Or me hers.
Gathered in the Teacher’s Lounge, I asked what platform we should take. I suggested we go the route of a reading program. “It’s expensive to take cupcakes and treats to school. I know we are an economically struggling community. What if we bought bookplates and a child had the option, on their birthday, to bring a book–not even a new book, just a book in good condition, and donated it to our library. We put the bookplate on the cover that says, “This book was donated by Johnny Student on his 8th Birthday”. It helps build our library, encourages reading, and gives the means to share the celebration of a birthday and child.”
My new co-president replied, “But the kids like sharing treats with their classmates.”
I asked what she felt was important for us to support and she replied, “The school store.”
Within five days of our initial meeting, I went to the school to do some flyers promoting the PTA as a Child Advocacy Group. Seeking even silent members. My reign of Presidency followed a poor fund-raiser and very little budget to do much of anything. The principal, in passing, said she’d like to meet with me regarding the School Halloween Carnival. Our meeting would take place at a time agreed upon, within the hour.
I explained to her the Principal had requested a meeting regarding the Carnival.
“She’s going to ask you for money.”
I’d reviewed the budget. “We don’t have any money to give her.”
“We can take a little from here and some more from here and we can give $200.”
I went back to making my copies and sorting them by classroom.
When I was finished and walking towards the teacher’s mailbox, the co-President met me in the hall. “We’re doing the Carnival.”
“We’re giving the $200?”
“No. We’re doing the Carnival. Everything.”
“It’s already planned right?”
I choked back the tears. The Carnival flyer had gone home from the school. It was 18 days away.
I went home and started networking. Seeking sponsors and trying to find a way to pull this all off. My co-President was in charge of buying prizes for the games.
We pulled it off and actually, I found a grant for $500 that came with 12 volunteers. Without the volunteers, the carnival would not have happened. There weren’t enough PTA volunteers to work the games. I sat on the stage, gathering new members and organizing the line for Curious George.
The Co-President took her children around to the games. She was in front of my husband and children. He wanted to know why I didn’t go with my children.
These would be the events…my children missed out on because “Mom has to work the _____” By mid-November, I was exhausted. We are a one car family, my husband uses it to work. The weather was turning dreary and my just about four-year-old had long days standing next to a copier, parading the halls for box tops, and attending meetings.
I asked my co-president to resign. Our partnership was more her volunteering for us than producing for us.
I’m a believer in the PTA. It’s the organization that gave us Hot Lunches at school. It’s a child advocacy group and I’ve seen amazing things happen in schools under the helm of a strong PTA.
It takes a very special individual to be a PTA President. I’ve learned this year that I am NOT that person. I cried. I banged my head against the wall. I cried. I tried to share my vision. I cried. I volunteered. I cried.
In the end, I stepped down, opting not to run for my second term.
My advice to the 2010-2011 PTA Presidents:
1.) Put the kabosh on cliques. They will prevent valuable volunteers from coming forward.
2.) Lean on your Council Leaders
3.) Vent to Council…it’s not the place to do it within your organization
4.) Keep it fun but keep it accountable
5.) Learn to say NO.
6.) Work out a plan so that ALL PTA Board Members can share the activity with their own children.
I missed out on things that would have helped me be a much stronger leader. The elected President attended the PTA Conference. There she had the opportunity to network and be trained. I didn’t know what I was doing, what things meant and the importance of committees. I was a lost sheep and therefore, my board, who is all seasoned, didn’t necessarily give me the best advice.
Hang in there. It’s a long, hard road with a lot of work, but in the end, it’s for the children.
I’m bidding farewell to my PTA Presidency. I did some great things..like put more money in our account than I had for my term and increase membership by 260%.
My chin is up and my eyes dry.