Monday, January 23, 2012

Musings from a reluctant PTA President

When I asked Rebecca Geisen to write about her experience so far as PTA president, I knew it was a tall order - she has a lot on her plate!  So I'm grateful that she found time to let us in on a slice of PTA life, told from her perspective.  Thanks, Rebecca, for sharing with us!  /Lora

She writes:

Somehow this school year, I find myself Co-President of the Lewis Elementary PTA. A teacher (who is also a parent) at our school thought myself and another mom would be great for the job and her flattery and confidence blinded me. I thought “I can do this!” I had participated with the PTA the previous two years and had some ideas for making it more inclusive and welcoming. Here was my chance. The other consideration was that the outgoing president assured us that “everything was in order” so it should be a piece of cake. Hmm.

So how is it going?

Well, the first week of school we were notified by the IRS that our non-profit status had been revoked because no one on the PTA FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS had bothered to submit a postcard to the IRS, despite numerous notices and warnings. Then our fundraising coordinator quit in December. I did not anticipate having to start a new organization, navigate taxes and make the IRS happy. Fortunately, we have a strong supportive board and we are making the best of the situation. Our best coping mechanism is to have our monthly board meetings at the bar at Country Bills.

If you are contemplating running for a position on your PTA Board, please know that it is a big responsibility. You are managing an organization and certain obligations have to be met and you are accountable. It requires diligence, patience, grace and super-human communication skills. You must be prepared for the unexpected. Because you are working with volunteers, people come and go – often at the worst time. Also, parents are very passionate and have a tremendous amount of ownership for events and programs that they organize and volunteer. Toes sometimes feel stepped upon. If that is not your cup of tea, you can have just as big an impact by simply volunteering for your favorite event. Many of our most valuable parents operate behind the scenes and don’t even come to regular meetings.

Despite the challenges, I am a committed PTA parent. The PTA serves such an important function in many schools, especially with such tight school budgets. Being part of your school’s PTA is a great way to support your school and have a say in how money is spent to support critical programs and materials that you may not otherwise have, such as garden programs, on-line academic programs, library support, etc. While PTAs focus a lot on fundraising, for many schools, it is the backbone of the school community. In my school, the PTA is very involved and we have an amazing group of dedicated parents who help with community events and fundraising. I am humbled by their energy and dedication and amazed at the talents they bring to the school. So, would I do it again? Overall, it has been a very rewarding experience, one that has helped me in many other aspects of my life – but you might want to ask me again in 5 months!

Rebecca Geisen
Water Bureau

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