My experience with PTO has been quite a unique one. What started out as a journey of leadership has turned into one of exploration . Not only have I learned about what PTO is and is not, but I've also learned about myself and others. I've evaluated my self worth and examined the roles of leadership. I've explored the dynamics of an organization and put into practice the principals set forth by Parent Leadership Training Institute. In doing so, I've learned that an organization that I've always had so much respect for is not all that I expected. In fact, I've actually become a bit disappointed with my PTO experience.
I started out with all the drive and energy an involved parent could have. Not only did I go to my first meeting with that enthusiasm, but I volunteered for an officer position and got one. I became co- Vice president.
This was no ordinary PTO though. This was a start up PTO at a new exciting school- The Western Academy of International Studies magnet School in Danbury, CT. Even the name had expectations derived from it!
The doors just opened up with this school after ten years in development. All eyes were on us. PTO was wanted. There was supposed to be two Co-presidents and one vice president; but five minutes before the meeting the new to be President asked my other co vice president if she minded being vice president with me. She wasn't a happy camper about this but accepted. This would carry over throughout her term.
If you ask me, personally I feel we never really needed two vice presidents. We should have had two co-presidents from the start. My co-vice president is very good with computers and served a purpose right away. I on the other hand have tried to salvage a role for myself from day one; its really never been defined. I just try to volunteer for as much as possible and sign my name to everything. I sort of feel that's my position.
Don't get me wrong I'm assigned to chair specific fund raisers like yankee candle and programs like natures classroom but it still never seems like enough. Yet everything is time consuming and work. Because its not a position like treasurer or secretary which is constantly measured by what you do it never gets reinforced or even noticed. So its all pretty unfullfilling.
To make it even harder, communication between the boards suck. We rarely talk to one another by phone. Almost all communication is via email and even that is scarce at times. I've become a scavenger for information to find out what's going on all the time and keep up, because sometimes for whatever reason I don't always get all the emails.
Our meetings are almost three hours long! We are trying to work on cutting them down to two hours . Obviously much two long. We follow a strict agenda and don't have much room for miscellaneous business . I think that's a problem. I think we need more room for open forum and parents to have a voice. Then I think our meetings will go by faster because they won't get out of hand. People will know they will have a specific time period to speak and be heard. They will know their voice matters and we care. I think that's what parents most want from meetings.
I joined PTO to enact change and became an officer to have a say in that change. Though I agree parent involvement brings about change and enrichment programs and so forth are positive change, which PTO is responsible for - I don't think its enough. I feel PTO still focuses on fund raising and event coordination more. At least, that's what I have noticed so far.
Don't get me wrong. As in my other article, we have done a lot for AIS in a short period of time; from programs like yoga, to book swaps and fairs to teacher appreciation and earth day celebration.
We've participated, contributed, volunteered , organized etc.. nothing bad can be said about that. All of that is positive and encourages parent involvement within the school. Even our fund raising has brought in funds which have been put back into the school. I won't discount those efforts. Its surely better than nothing.
Looking at the entire picture and going through it I'm not sure it matters for me, or makes a difference if I'm an officer or just a parent volunteer in making a difference. Where it does matter is to my kids. Being an officer definitely takes time away from my own children. Whether its setup or clean up. Late meetings or alternative ones. There's always something else that has to get done that members don't account for. The board always has to take up the slack. Whether its extra time at home on the computer or time away from home, the kids pay a price.
My kids at least, just want time me with them. They want me at the functions with them. As a board member, or even a PTO member your there not just for your kid but also for others. This is a reality I have been awakened to. If you want to be for your own, you should just be a volunteer. As a volunteer you can be selective with what you choose to do. Your not obligated to do anything. As a board member I FEEL obligated to do almost everything especially in my position undefined as it is. Also I don't feel like I have a close nit support network with my other board members which I think you should have.
All of this makes me re-evaluate PTO and my given position of Vice President. Maybe I'm better off being just a parent volunteer? What do you think?
-- Amazing Gaze