Veep

So there is another thing that I did a few months ago and never wrote about…

Last May I volunteered to be my daughter’s school’s PTA vice-president. I agreed because I was told that one of the co-presidents at the time was going to be president again. I figured if someone who knew what they were doing were running things, I could serve as a helpful support person while learning the ropes. Then I could take over the following year when she termed out.

Well, that person didn’t stay on as president, but I’m still the VP. The two other new officers (the president and treasurer) are also first grade parents, which means they have (also) only been at the school for one year. Luckily the treasurer has a son going into third grade and she’s been working with the PTA in some capacity for a while. Thank god one of us knows what she is doing, otherwise we’d be flying blind.

I’ve mentioned to a few people that I’m the VP at my daughter’s school’s PTA and every time I’ve been met with a resounding, WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING? Sometimes this question is expressed in a transparent facial contortion, but most of the time people just ask me outright. No one can understand why I would do something so…stupid? Unnecessary? Thankless? Labor- and time-intensive?

I guess for a lot of people it is a foolish thing to do. We’re always being told the importance of saying no, of not taking on too much. Interestingly it was while reading a chapter in a book about intentionally creating a meaningful life that I decided I would say yes when they asked me to be on the PTA (I knew it was only a matter of time before it happened). Community is important to me and if I’m part of the PTA I can cultivate community at my daughter’s school.

Yes it will be a lot of work. Yes, sometimes it will be stressful. I acknowledge and accept that. I sent my daughter to a lower-preforming urban school because I want to be a part of the solution, I want to affect real change in a place where my efforts might actually be of consequence. Just sending her to that school is not enough, I need to do more. This is one way in which I can help.

It’s going to be a challenge. This school has a lot dividing it, with a Spanish immersion and GenEd track, with elementary and middle grades, with primarily Hispanic and African American families. Heck, the school is even housed in two buildings that are kitty-corner to each other! But they are working hard through their One School initiative to bring all these converging groups together into a inclusive, cohesive community. I hope to help them do that.

Unfortunately the PTA officials are not the only inexperienced leadership at the school this year. The principal left rather abruptly over the summer and the former VP is stepping into the position moving forward. She has been at the school for three years which is good, but those are her only three years of administration experience, which is less good. I hope can step up to this challenge, because the school definitely needs strong leadership. The new VP comes from across the bay and doesn’t have any administrative experience that I know of (none was mentioned in the letter to parents announcing the change in administration). I’ve met with her once and she seems competent enough. I’m hoping together they have what it takes.

This Saturday is the Back to School BBQ. It’s technically not a PTA event but it’s clear the school is relying on us to make it happen. It requires a lot of planning, coordinating and executing. A lot of meetings. A lot of emails. (Oh my god! So many emails!) It’s going to be our first official event. I’m nervous, and excited. Sometimes I wonder if I made mistake, taking this on, but then I remember that the whole point was to make my daughter’s school a better place, and then I stop wondering.

Here’s to a good 2016-17 school year… at my school and my daughter’s.

8 Comments

  1. I’ve been a member of our condo HOA board for 10 years. And though there are differences with the PTA, I always marvel that people back out of such opportunities and then are completely in the dark with their investment. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Yes, there are people who abuse the system. And yes, there are many moments I’m flying blind and wondering if I should just quit. But I also know how important these things are and the stronger your board, be it PTA or HOA, the better the organization runs.

    And isn’t it funny how people flock to schools that have strong PTAs?

    Even though all of you are new, I’m willing to bet the former president and other members would be open to offering advice and suggestions. In addition, we started using an app called Asana to organize different projects and tasks. It’s been far better than email.

    So I’m going to be the odd duck and say “Bravo!” Even if it’s a lot of work, there is a lot of good that comes out of doing this. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

    1. Thank you for your support. I do appreciate your kind words which help to remind me why I’m doing this. I really do hope I can help make some positive changes for the entire student body. I know it’s an uphill battle, but I feel it’s one that’s worth fighting.

  2. Good for you for taking this on…I have the same ideas about community yet I haven’t done anything intentional to cultivate it. I am going to at least JOIN the PTA this year, whether on not I make it to any meetings (they seem to be held at 10AM on Tuesdays) You really can’t complain when you don’t participate in the process, and if you want things to change you have to get involved.

    1. Ugh, 10am on Tuesdays?! I think the PTA at my school is like that and I always wonder why they do it then…don’t they realize how many interested parents they exclude when they have the meetings during the work day. The meetings at my daughter’s school are in the early evenings and they provide lunch. Not many parents come regularly… that is one of the things I’m going to be trying to change this year. 😉 I really want to get more people involved, especially the Hispanic and African-American families, which make up 60% and 30% of the school population respectively but are barely represented in the PTA. We really need to change that.

      1. It’s amazing how much there is in this country that still (apparently) assumes there’s a stay at home parent who can attend meetings, take kids to activities (we have a very hard time finding stuff that starts after 5 plans you can only squeeze so much on Saturday), etc. during the day.

        I plan to join PTA but that’s all the commitment I can make for now. Good luck, you are taking on a lot!

  3. Instant thought A was Why? Second instant thought B was Well OF COURSE.
    It will be insane. But all the newness also brings enthusiasm and an absence of ‘tried that negativity’. And, when people come together genuinely wanting to support their school and community things happen and they are good things. By being part of this group you will find lots of support and new friends and you will accomplish creating the school you want for the next years for not only your daughter but also your son.
    Yes, insanity. But also “YES!!!!!! GO FOR IT”. And please share to us the trials and Successes of your time in this organization. It does sound like your teaching year is going to be powerless and filled with difficulties, having this as a building block for seeing yourself in a positive achieving role will help. And, I expect this will make it easier for your husband to support your extra role and duties as you have supported his with his organizational non-work role. (no idea what it actually is) and maybe he will end up working jointly with you in this as the children are also his. SO!!!!!! Proud of your insanity and supporting you!

    1. Yes, that WHY?! is what most people think. I would probably think it too. But this is important to me and I think I can be of some help, especially since I speak Spanish and it’s a Spanish immersion school. I also appreciate being more “in the know” and having some connections there. That’s a nice added bonus.

  4. 38 years ago (when I did the same thing you are doing now) and the PTA had evening meetings, we found that if we individually asked people to show up and to bring a friend with them ‘Because We Needed Their Advice’ it really worked and more people showed up. (Use ‘advice’ not ‘help’ so they aren’t afraid you are going to ask them for time/money right off the bat.) Then actually do Ask what they want the PTA to do. Schools with more people at their PTA meetings really do change schools.
    Good wishes!

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