Founders’ Day, February 17th, celebrates the legacy and work of Alice McLellan Birney, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, and Selena Sloan Butler to improve the lives of children. The date marks the first National Congress of Mothers, held in Washington, D.C. in 1897. As part of that celebration, National PTA designates the week that includes Founders’ Day as PTA Take Your Family to School Week.
This year, PTA Take Your Family to School Week is February 13-17, and the theme is Celebrating the Changing Faces of Families. Research shows that families engaged in their children’s education results in greater student success, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, or parents’ level of education. PTA Take Your Family to School Week provides PTAs with an opportunity to engage the families at their school in their children’s education. It also promotes your PTA and the work you do in your school, which can lead to more families joining your PTA to support that work.
Now is the time to think about how your PTA will bring families into your school building. Do you want to provide the opportunity for families to share a meal with their children, either before, during, or after school hours? Will you work with your principal to provide families the chance to participate or observe in the classroom? Do you have no idea where to start?
If your PTA isn’t sure where to start, both National PTA and Illinois PTA have resources to help you host a fun, pre-planned event for the families at your school.
National PTA also has an invitation letter to send to families and specially-sized graphics for your PTA to use on social media to help you promote your event. Plan your event now to celebrate PTA Take Your Family to School Week.
The start of a new calendar year is about the midpoint of the PTA year. Your PTA may have been less active during the holiday season when so many other events are going on at school and in life. Now that the new year is beginning, it is a good time to reflect on what your PTA has accomplished so far, think about what you still want to do, and consider how you can improve things as your PTA starts back up. Here are four New Year’s resolutions for PTA leaders to contemplate as their term heads into the home stretch.
- Be an advocate. PTA was founded to speak up for those who have no political voice—our children. As the new year starts, resolve to encourage your PTA members to be advocates for children and to be an advocate yourself. A great way to start is to encourage your Illinois representative to support SB550 during the lame duck session on January 9th and 10th. This bill would require testing every unique drinking water source in all Illinois schools for lead and notifying families if levels exceed the federal action level. This bill picked up numerous sponsors after Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield in November, and a big push now can pass this bill in the House and send it to the governor. Just go to our pre-written e-mail, add your signature and contact information, and enter your address (to identify your representative) to add your voice to the hundreds of others calling for safe drinking water for our children. Don’t forget to share the link with your members as well.
- Share more often. Your PTA has already done some great things for your school’s children, families, teachers, and administrators. Share your successes with your entire school and encourage them to join the PTA to help support what you plan to achieve this spring. People often avoid joining the PTA because they are afraid you’ll ask them to volunteer. Let them know that joining the PTA is to support your efforts and that volunteering is appreciated but not required.
- Be more thankful. Volunteers are the life blood of a PTA. Take the time to support your volunteers so that they feel their time and contributions are valued. Find fun ways to publicly show your thankfulness for their hard work.
- Prepare for change. Your PTA will be electing new officers this spring. Review your bylaws regarding when and how you should form your nominating committee. Make sure your officers and committee chairs are keeping procedure books to help make finding their replacements easier. Think about what you have learned that you wish you had known when you started your term, and prepare to share that information along with your PTA resources with your successor. Plan to make the transition to new leadership as smooth and seamless as possible.
Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com.
The Illinois PTA does not allow PTAs to charter Scouting units, including Cub Scout Packs, Boy Scout Troops, and Venturing Crews. This has been a PTA position since 1990. The reasons for this prohibition are as follows.
- PTA insurance specifically excludes Scouting units. This means that your PTA’s insurance will not cover any Scouting-related claims or lawsuits.
- While the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) provides insurance to chartering organizations, it only covers approved Scouting activities. If a Scouting unit leader has Scouts participate in an activity that is either not allowed by the BSA or is not considered age-appropriate, neither the BSA insurance nor your PTA’s insurance would cover the liability. This means that local PTA unit leaders all the way up to National PTA could be subject to a lawsuit.
- BSA chartered organizations (e.g., the PTA) are required to assure that Scout leaders are suitable for their position and must review and sign off on each leader application. While BSA provides a criminal background check of all adult leaders, this is a potential liability for the PTA.
- BSA chartered organizations are to ensure appropriate facilities for the Scouting unit for its regular meetings. Since PTAs generally do not have facilities of their own, they cannot meet this requirement.
- Several requirements of a BSA chartered organization are in conflict with PTA bylaws; therefore PTAs cannot charter BSA units.
- The association shall be noncommercial, nonsectarian, and nonpartisan. While not specifically supporting any religion, BSA does require faith-based activities as part of its program. PTA is open to everyone who pays membership dues regardless of whether they have religious beliefs or not.
- The name of the association or names of any members in their official capacities shall not be used…for any purpose not appropriately related to the promotion of the Purposes of the association. While the BSA does great things for children, their activities are not related to PTA purposes and mission.
- The Illinois PTA or any of its divisions may cooperate with other organizations and agencies concerned with child welfare, but a PTA representative shall make no commitments as an individual that bind the group represented. The BSA chartered organization is to appoint a Chartered Organization Representative who serves on the local Scouting Council and the local Scouting district boards as well as district or Council committees.
The Boy Scouts of America is a fine organization with a distinguished history nearly as long as that of PTA. Their aims of citizenship, physical and mental fitness, and character development are ones that any PTA member would hope a child would develop as they grow. However, due to the reasons cited above, the Illinois PTA does not allow local PTA units to be the Chartered Organization for Scouting units and PTA leaders shall not sign any chartering or renewal agreements with the Boy Scouts of America.
Photo © 2012 by Choo Yut Shing under Creative Commons license.
Even if you’re not a PTA president, December is a busy time of year, filled with holiday shopping and decorating, end of semester projects, holiday concerts, and more. If you’ve got a PTA meeting and a PTA event or two, it can be overwhelming. The key to avoiding burnout as a PTA president is to delegate, but doing that is not always easy and may not come naturally. Here are 7 keys to successfully delegating.
- Delegate tasks to the right people. In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins compares leaders to bus drivers who need to “get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” In other words, don’t delegate your tasks to the first person who volunteers to do it. Make sure they have the skills to do the job. If you have a volunteer in mind, target them and ask them directly, face to face, to take on a task.
- Give them the tools to get the job done. PTA provides its leaders with more information and resources than they can probably use in a year, but all of it is information a leader might need. This information needs to be shared, so make sure that the people who need the information you have receive it. Don’t assume that everyone knows what is out there. Look through the Illinois PTA Local Unit Packet, pass around the USB drive to everyone on the board to copy what they need, and point people to the resources on the National PTA and Illinois PTA
- Be specific about the task. Make sure that the person you are delegating to understands what they are being asked to do, what the budget is, what paperwork needs to be done, and when it needs to be completed. Ask if they have any questions not only when they first get started but also after they have been working on the task for a while. Sometimes you don’t know what questions to ask until you get into a project.
- Set them loose. When you delegate a task, don’t spell out exactly how you want it done. Instead, focus on the results you want. No one likes to be micromanaged, and micromanaging a delegated task doesn’t reduce your workload.
- Generally offer advice only when asked. About the only unrequested advice you should give is pitfalls and stumbling blocks that have come up from others doing this project in the past. If your PTA has a procedure book for the program or event, those potential problems should already be noted in it. Do check in periodically to see if they have any needs or problems that you can help with.
- Have their back. If a disagreement controversy arises, don’t leave the person you have delegated a task to dangling. Remember that everyone needs to focus on the results and not the path to those results, especially if the disagreement is over a “but we always have done it this way” issue.
- Provide thanks and solicit feedback. Be sure to publicly thank your volunteers after a task, program, or event is completed. Ask them to review how things went and to identify what went right, what went wrong, what could be improved, and what they would do differently the next time. Make sure that feedback is included in the procedure book.
At times, it may feel like it would be easier to just do it yourself rather than to teach someone else to do it, but delegating work has long-term payoffs for your PTA. You will have more energy as a leader, those delegated small tasks are more likely to take on bigger ones in the future, and people will be less likely to run away from the PTA president’s role in the future because they will see that the PTA president doesn’t have to do it all.