Start Planning Your Teacher Appreciation Week Now

Next to their parents, teachers probably have the largest effect on the lives of children. Many of us can still remember a teacher who made a difference in our lives years ago. This year, Teacher Appreciation Week is May 6-10, 2019, and National PTA has created a toolkit to help PTAs celebrate their school’s teacher with the theme Teachers Are Out of This World.

The toolkit comes with everything you need to let your teachers know that you think the world of them, including:

  • Flyers
  • A Fillable Thank You Card
  • Fillable Certificates
  • Social Media Graphics
  • Suggestions on Other Ways to Be Involved
  • Decorating Ideas

Plan your activities and celebrations now using the toolkit and remember to #ThankATeacher during Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10, 2019.

Parliamentary Procedure for Beginners

As a PTA leader, you probably know that you are supposed to use parliamentary procedure in your meetings, but looking at the more than 800 pages of Robert’s Rules of Orderin the PTA materials the previous PTA president passed on to you might have you thinking, “Really?” Yes, really, but parliamentary procedure isn’t nearly as scary or intimidating as that copy of Robert’s Rules of Ordermake it appear. Here are the basics you need to know as a PTA leader.

Why Parliamentary Procedure?

Henry Martin Robert was a military engineer in the US Army. In the early 1860s while recovering from a tropical fever he had caught in Panama, he was asked to chair a meeting at his local Baptist Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The meeting did not go well, erupting into open conflict over abolition, and Col. Robert decided he needed to understand parliamentary procedure better before leading another meeting.

In looking at the existing manuals of parliamentary procedure, he found them to be often useless or in conflict with each other. He continued to attend meetings that ran out of control, and the guidelines each group was using were poorly written and often contributed to the chaos and rancor. So Col Robert set out to write his own rules for parliamentary procedure.

Robert’s basic premise behind his set of rules was that the voice of the minority be heard, but that the will of the majority prevail. The rules aim to keep the meeting attendees focused on the matter at hand and help them make decisions. The rules are also more important to follow as the size of the meeting gets bigger in order have business proceed smoothly, which is why you’ll see parliamentary procedure used much more formally at the Illinois PTA Convention than in most PTA meetings. As a PTA leader, if you remember that parliamentary procedure is there to make sure all voices are heard and to help your meeting run smoothly, you can avoid some of the nitty gritty details that might get in the way of those goals.

Basic Principles

When using parliamentary procedure, these are the basic principles to keep in mind:

  • Only one issue is discussed at a time.
  • The chairperson is impartial. (That means that as PTA president, you are running the meeting, not influencing the debate.)
  • All members have equal and basic rights to vote, to be heard, and to oppose.
  • The rights of the minority must be protected.
  • No one can speak until recognized by the chairperson.
  • Every member can speak to an issue, but no one can speak a second time as long as another member wants to speak for the first time.
  • A majority vote decides an issue (in all but a few special situations).

The Agenda

As PTA president, you are responsible for preparing the agenda for your PTA meeting and ensuring that it is followed. It is always a good practice to ask your fellow PTA officers, committee chairpersons, and membership if they have items for the agenda. Once the agenda is prepared, distribute it to your members prior to the meeting.

The typical order of business on an agenda is as follows:

  • Call to Order
  • Approval of the Minutes
  • Reports from Officers and Committees
  • Unfinished Business (from previous meetings)
  • New Business
  • Announcements
  • Adjournment

Note that in order to conduct business, you must have a quorum. The quorum for your PTA meetings are listed in your PTA’s bylaws for general membership meetings, executive board meetings, and executive committee meetings. Without a quorum, no official decisions can be made.

Motions

Motions are how business gets done in a meeting, and requires two people—a “mover” and a “seconder.” Motions coming from committees do not require a second, because the body has essentially already seconded the issue by referring it to the committee.

Strictly following Robert’s Rules, a motion must be made and seconded before any discussion of the issue can begin. However, as chair, you can decide to depart from strict parliamentary procedure and allow discussion to occur before the motion is made. This is often done to get opinions from the body so a more precise motion can be made and time isn’t wasted tweaking the wording of a motion. However, if you use this approach, it is important to make sure that the discussion does not wander from the issue being discussed. As chair, it is your job to keep the discussion focused.

After discussion, vote on the motion that has been made and seconded before moving on to the next item of business. A motion must receive a majority of votes to be approved (with some specific exceptions like approving bylaws amendments, which require a two-thirds majority). If there are an even number of votes, which means that the motion must receive 50% of the votes plus one. A motion that is tied is not approved. The secretary should record the exact wording of the motion in the minutes and whether it was approved or not. The secretary does not have to record all of the discussion on the motion.

Debating Motions

When chairing a meeting, it is your responsibility to ensure that the discussion sticks to the issue being debated. Don’t hesitate to bring the group back to the issue if you feel the conversation is wandering off topic. Everyone has been in that meeting where the chair didn’t do so, and the meeting dragged on and on without coming to decisions.

Make sure that everyone is recognized by the chair before speaking. This will help you control the meeting and keep the discussion focused. Make sure that everyone who wants to speak has the opportunity to do so. If as chair you sense that the discussion has come to consensus, don’t hesitate to state what you are hearing as the group’s decision and then ask if they are ready to vote.

You may have a member “call the question,” which is an attempt to end debate and vote on the motion that is on the floor. As part of Robert’s Rules to protect the voice of the minority, a motion to “close debate” or “move the previous question” requires a two-thirds majority to pass. If it does, then you move to vote on the motion on the floor without any further discussion.

Note that discussions can get out of hand and run long. As chair, you can keep the debate moving by making sure everyone has the opportunity to speak once before anyone can speak a second time. If necessary, the group may also vote to limit the amount of time any one person can speak or limit the amount of time for debate on the issue. Since the group imposes those time limits on itself, it can also extend those times by voting to do so.

Amending Motions

Under strict parliamentary procedure, your meeting body will change the motion on the floor by amending it by:

  • Inserting extra wording to the motion
  • Striking existing wording in the motion
  • Striking some wording and inserting additional wording to the motion

In practice, as chair you may allow informal amendments to be made to clarify the wording, provided the maker of the motion accepts the recommendation.

The Role of the Chairperson

When strictly following Robert’s Rules of Order, the chairperson does not participate in debate, and if they want to do so, they must temporarily give up the role of presiding officer until the motion on the floor is voted on. The chairperson also does not vote on a motion. The reason behind these rules is that the chairperson is supposed to be impartial while controlling the meeting. There are some exceptions to these rules.

  • The chairperson can vote if their vote will either make or break a tie. Remember that a tie vote on a motion means that it is not adopted.
  • The chairperson can vote if the vote is by ballot.
  • If the group is small (e.g., a committee) and operates informally, it is okay for the chair to participate in debate and vote.
  • If the members of the group have been chosen to represent specific areas, groups, or interests, the chairperson may participate in debate and vote so their constituency is represented properly.
  • For executive boards, executive committees, and standing or special committees, the chair may have the same privileges as other members to make motions, debate issues, and vote.

Keep in mind that if you as chair decide to participate in debate, you should not abuse the privilege and should avoid dominating the discussion. After having taken a side, it is vitally important that the chair continue to run the meeting impartially.

Creating a Social Justice Reading Group for Children and Their Families

Seeing an increase in intolerance shortly after the 2016 election, National Education Policy Center(NEPC) director Kevin Welner and associate director Michelle Renée Valladares were discussing how to address the issue with their young children. They decided to collaborate other parents and their children to create an intergenerational social justice reading group. The aim was to provide a learning experience to counterbalance the negative political comments about people of color, immigrants, and other historically disenfranchised groups.

They decided to share their experience running the reading group with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. Through this collaboration came a new Reading for Social Justice guide.

The guide provides everything a group of parents or teachers need to set up a social justice reading group for families, covering:

  • Things to think about before starting your reading group
  • How to organize your reading group
  • How to set content and literacy goals for your group
  • How to select what books to read
  • How to run your reading group meetings

The guide shares the experiences of three reading groups from Colorado, Texas, and South Carolina. There is a recommended book list and places to find other similar lists. The appendices provide information for teachers on laying the groundwork for a reading group, a planning workbook, and a sample teaching strategy.

There are benefits in creating a reading group for both adults and children for everyone involved, including improvements in school climate, in family and community engagement, and in reading and language skills. Other benefits are:

  • Reading groups support children in processing current events and hard truths about the world around them.
  • Reading groups help children situate present events within a larger historical context of social injustice.
  • Reading groups facilitate social emotional learning.
  • Reading groups develop critical thinking and literacy skills.
  • Reading groups build family and community engagement.
  • Family engagement bolsters students’ academic performance.

Check out Teaching Tolerance’s Reading for Social Justice guide and start planning for your reading group.

Nominations and Elections—A How to Guide for PTAs

One of the critical roles given to a PTA’s general membership is the election of its officers, a process that begins with the election of the nominating committee by the general membership. Nominating and electing a good slate of officers is essential for a PTA’s success.

Nominations and Elections Timeline

Because the nomination and election of officers is a central part of how a PTA operates, most of the information you need on how your PTA conducts this process will be in your local PTA bylaws. Article VI—Officers and Their Election contains most of the details.

To determine when nominations and elections need to occur for your PTA, you have to work backwards from the election date. Section 2b of Article VI says when the election of officers is to be conducted. For most PTAs, this is the last PTA meeting of the school year. Once you know the date your PTA will be conducting the election, Section 4b of Article VI states that the nominating committee must report the slate at least 30 days prior to the election meeting. Because you will want to give the nominating committee time to do their work in determining a slate of candidates, you will need to elect the nominating committee a month or two prior to when the committee needs to make its report.

So for a PTA holding an election at their May general membership meeting, the nominating committee will need to make their report in April. That means that PTAs should be electing their nominating committee in February or March at the latest.

Nominating Committee

Section 3 of Article VI states that the nominating committee is to be elected, and Section 4 spells out how big the committee is and where its members are elected from. PTAs are encouraged to have their nominating committee made up of an odd number of people so that the committee is less likely to have a tie when voting between multiple candidates for the slate.

In general, a PTA’s executive board (officers and committee chairs) and the general membership each elect nominating committee members and one alternate from their body. The PTA president may not serve on the nominating committee. The nominating committee meets immediately after their election and determines its own committee chair.

Nominating committee members should review the duties for each office, found in Article VII of the PTA’s bylaws, to familiarize themselves with what skills the committee will be looking for in candidates for each position. Those already in an officer position and eligible for reelection should be considered by the committee, but the committee is free to nominate someone else for the position.

The nominating committee should keep all discussion of potential candidates confidential within the committee. That allows committee members to speak freely on the qualifications of each potential nominee without fear of having critical comments go beyond the committee.

The committee must have the consent of a proposed nominee to slate them, and the proposed nominee must be a member of the PTA or of the PTA for a feeder school for at least 30 days prior to the election in order to be nominated (Article VI, Section 4d). Where the committee is considering between two or more potential nominees, the committee selects the nominee by majority vote by ballot.

Nominating committee members may be considered as a nominee for an officer position. If that is the case, the committee member being considered leaves the room for the discussion of all nominees for that position and does not return until the committee has determined their nominee. The alternate member from the body (executive board or general membership) replaces the committee member who was excused during consideration of nominees for that position.

When the nominating committee decides on a candidate for a positon, they should contact that person while the committee is meeting to confirm their agreement to be nominated. The committee nominates one person for each officer position listed in the bylaws and makes its report of the nominees at least 30 days prior to the election meeting.

Elections

At the election meeting, the PTA president has the nominating committee chair again read the slate of candidates nominated by the committee. The president then asks if there are nominations from the floor, going through each position one at a time. If someone is nominated from the floor, the president should confirm that the person has agreed to be nominated and has been a member of the PTA or a member of the PTA at a feeder school for at least 30 days. When there are no further nominations from the floor, the president declares that nominations are closed.

Section 2b of Article VI states that the election is to be conducted by ballot, but that if there is only one nominee for an office, the election for that position may be conducted by voice with a motion from the floor to do so. That means that if there are two candidates for President, but only one candidate for Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer, a motion can be made to conduct the election of the latter three positions by voice, but the election of the President would still be by ballot.

Conducting the election by voice vote is a two-step process. First, the motion is made and seconded to conduct the election by voice for uncontested positions. This requires a majority vote to approve. A second motion is then made to make the nominated candidate(s) the elected officer(s) for those uncontested elections.

When a ballot vote must be conducted, the President appoints three tellers to handle the election. The tellers are to:

  • Verify that the person being given a ballot is a PTA member
  • Informs each member to indicate their choice by making an “X” in the box next to the person’s name that they wish to vote for (i.e., not a check mark, but two crossing lines)
  • Collects the ballots or makes sure that they are deposited in a sealed ballot box
  • Retire to count the ballots when the polls are closed
  • Report the results of the ballot election without declaring that the individuals are elected, and hand the report to the PTA President

In order to vote in the election, a person must have been a member of the PTA for at least 30 days prior to the election. This 30 day membership requirement for both candidates and voters is to protect your PTA. It means that a crowd of people cannot walk into your PTA’s election meeting, pay membership dues, and then nominate and elect a candidate who just joined the PTA that day.

When the election is concluded, whether by ballot or voice vote, the President declares who has been elected for each position. Those newly elected officers will assume their official duties as described in the bylaws (Article VI, Section 2c).

Additional information on nominations and elections can be found in the President section of the Illinois PTA Leadership Resources.