Monday, June 9, 2014

What No One Tells You About Being PTA President Part II

People Are Always Thanking You

People kept thanking me for all the stuff PTA did for the school. The problem was, I felt (and still feel) like I was the worst PTA President that our school has ever had. I cancelled quite a few programs, made a few decisions without any input, and basically did the minimum that I could get away with. I felt so phony when people would thank me.

You Are the Backup

If someone doesn’t show up for something, the President has to either find someone else to do it or fill in herself. This is how I ended up running a book fair, putting together teacher wish lists, and attempting to scale back the amount of prizes we handed out to students.

You Never Know What is a Sacred Cow

The previous year our PTA had 6 t-shirt options, two of which I personally thought were hideous. The t-shirt committee of myself and one volunteer made the decision to sell off what we had left and only order one t-shirt style and one zip up jacket style. No one complained directly to me, but I heard about it from the previous board. It appeared that anytime I made a decision someone didn’t agree with it and would complain. But never to me, making me wonder how many people were upset with it, and how many people didn’t care.

My daughters school is a great school, and the principal and staff were fairly easy to work with. I have friends who had much worse experiences than I did, and I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to deal with those issues. What we all have in common is we are not volunteering for any PTA positions the following year. We’re actually moving to a brand new school that has a brand new, as of yet not set-up PTA, and I have no intention of signing up to do anything other than occasionally helping in the classroom. I know that I have valuable experience that could help out the new PTA, but I also know that I cannot handle another year of being in charge of anything.

Dumpster Diving

You will do anything for Box Tops. I have actually boosted my kid into recycling bins to grab Box Tops off of cereal boxes. I have my family members and neighbors that don’t have kids in school saving Box Tops for me. At church events I will check the garbage can for Box Tops. I pulled Labels for Education out of a campfire. Being PTA President made me realize how little money our schools get to operate, and how desperately we need any source of revenue we can find.

Dealing With Parents

You discover the easiest way to get someone to shut up is to try to get them to head up a committee. Nothing shuts up a parent like asking them to head up Red Ribbon Week. We had students begging us to do a nerd dress up day during anti-bully week, so we did. The kids and teachers loved it. We had the most interesting spread of nerd concepts that I have ever seen, including a second grade boy who thought dressing like a nerd was having his snow pants hanging down like baggy pants. My kid wore a shirt with a picture of Captain Kirk on it that I made her especially for the occasion. By all accounts it was a successful day, other than the parent complaints that started pouring in. None of the complaints related to anyone having made fun of another kid, they were all about “how do you explain what a nerd is to a 7-year-old?” None of the parents who complained had ever attended a PTA meeting, no one expressed any concerns about the dress up concept until after it happened. And none of these parents took us up on our offers to come to the meetings and discuss things directly, or be involved in planning the next dress up concept.

The next year we tried to make sure no one could get upset about anything, and then the parents complained that the dress up days were too repetitive and not creative enough! And they still didn’t come to meetings, or give any helpful feedback.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What No One Tells You About Being PTA President Part I

It Doesn't Sound That Hard

Last Spring I made a fateful decision that I eventually regretted. In my defense, I was in Hawaii at the time, and in such a relaxed state that it seemed that anything was possible. What was the decision? I decided I would be take on the position as President of the PTA at my daughters school. There were two reasons that I had considered it, the first being that I really believe that the PTA enhances the student experience, and the second being that no one was willing to take the job. My husband thought I could handle it, so I sent an email off to the current president stating that if no one was willing to do the job that I would do it.

Perhaps the fact that no one was willing to do this job should have given me a clue.

The Past Becomes Precedent

I recruited some helpers for school registration day, the day where you try to hustle people to volunteer for unfilled positions, join PTA and sell Spirit Wear. I was prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that our PTA apparently provides lunch for the school staff working that day. Luckily our Treasurer was prepared and took care of it.

During Back To School Night I was informed that the PTA always gives each teacher a big container of hand sanitizer. This would have been nice to know about earlier in the summer so I could have ordered this and not ended up scouring every Wal-Mart across the county to get enough bottles. Also, why the crap is the PTA supplying hand sanitizer to the teachers? Shouldn’t the principal make sure his staff has the supplies they need to do their jobs? I was also handed a list of teachers who needed floor fans for their rooms. It turned out that last year the PTA had purchased a few fans for teachers who had extremely hot rooms during the last few weeks of school, and it morphed into the PTA supplying fans for everyone. A few months later I even got a request to replace someone’s fan that was broken! Half of our teacher appreciation budget was spent before school even started.

I learned that if you do something once, the expectation comes that you will do it every time.

Tranquilizers are a PTA Presidents Best Friend

After a series of unfortunate events, including an exploding casserole dish, a leaking disposal and a complete inability to focus, I found myself in my doctors office, crying as I explained that I just couldn’t handle things anymore. I rarely cry, and this was only three weeks into the school year. The doctor suggested that maybe someone else should be the president, and I sobbed as I explained that no one was willing to do it and I was stuck with it. I left his office with a prescription for two anti-depressants and a tranquilizer. Without those meds, I don’t think I would have made it through the year. I was able to stop panic attacks from coming, and just chill out. This was especially handy the day that I found out the book fair chairperson was on a trip to Disneyland and I needed to run the book fair. I managed to get through that without it being a major fiasco.

Several of our local Presidents ended up on medication. I think it takes a certain type of person to handle this job without cracking up, and it turns out that I am not that person.

You Start Sneaking into School the Back Way

I got to a point during the school year that I would bypass the office when I went into the school because I was tired of getting bombarded with requests to fund things or provide volunteers for something. I even considered getting putting on a disguise.

Advance Notice? Hah

“By the way, vision screening is tomorrow. You need to get 8 parent volunteers.” “Picture day is tomorrow, we need 3 volunteers.” These are things that had dates planned in advance, and if I had been given these dates in advance I wouldn’t have had to scramble at the last minute for volunteers.

People Avoid You

All of a sudden people don’t answer the phone when you call and turn the other way when they see you coming. It’s like they know that you’re going to ask them to chair the school carnival or run Anti-Bully Week.

You Need a Smartphone

I don’t see how anyone did this job before the iPhone. It didn’t take me long to figure out that if it wasn’t in my phone calendar with notifications set, it wasn’t going to happen. Facebook is the fastest and easiest way to get last minute volunteers and make announcements. Text messaging was invaluable as a means of communication. Seriously, how did people do this job before Smartphone?