After almost two years of my son attending a charter school that I supported only with occasional volunteer items and hours, I decided to run for the PTO board. The friendly, reliable (and rather loud) morning greeter handed out flyers towards the end of the 2016 school year and verbally assured parents that one did not need to have a lot of money to be a member of the PTO board. Which came as a surprise to me, as I always assumed to be on any kind of board one would need a lot of local clout and big money, or at least a few fancy pantsuits. I don’t have any of those things, but I did have a curiosity about what more I could do for my son’s school community.
Formally, there were elections for the PTO board, though I doubt anyone would have been turned away as there is so much to do throughout the year.
I think I could have stood up and nominated myself, admitted to rampant alcoholism and a continual case of head lice, and I believe I would have still been welcomed with open arms … and a head to head hug because as I later learned, it seems many parents have alcohol and head lice all the time.
Election evening was held with a mediocre turnout and the applicants explained who we were, what we did, what we love about the school and what we would want for the future of the school. Most of us new applicants had very vague ideas about how to answer the questions and joined as general officers, pledging to make ourselves available to help in whatever way that we could. Our board this year is comprised of mostly strong independent women who rarely ask for help so I am sure that I’m not the only one that feels I could have done more.
The PTO board is responsible for community building and fundraising events throughout the year.
Our events range from small and informal, such as local restaurant nights out at Pinkberry, Mellow Mushroom, Nacho Mama and Louisiana Pizza Kitchen to large family fundraising events at Westbank Skate Rink, Sector 6 or City Park. We are always reaching out to local businesses that would like to partner with us, which is mutually beneficial and gives families an excuse to get outside their normal routine (any excuse to roller skate!). Funds from these events go to many different things throughout the year. Our PTO funds go to our Community Cares program that helps families in need at our school, teacher appreciation week, the expansion of music and scholastic programming and buying playground equipment among many other things.
One of the greatest reasons to serve on your PTO board is getting to know the undoubtedly dynamic administration that oversees and determines priorities in your children’s education.
The programs that a school implements are an extension of their interests and beliefs, so it’s important to understand who they are and what their goals for your child’s school are. There are so many conflicting beliefs about what the best thing for our children is and how to get there that it’s immensely satisfying to be part of a collective voice like the PTO. Being on the PTO board gives me a chance to represent parents like myself rather than feeling like my opinions are lost in the whirlwind of social media or a rushed conversation with a busy staff member.
Getting to know the other PTO parents was a huge plus for me, as a single parent relatively new to New Orleans.
We have potluck dinners at our monthly meetings, armed with wine, our calendars, and in many cases, our kids (who have formed their own crew despite age differences). When your children are in elementary school, having playdates with their school friends is essentially like blind dating. They can be great or they can be terrible, but who has time to waste on awkward small talk anymore? I’d rather sit around and make fun of mutual acquaintances I have no right to make fun of because I don’t even know them but have read through five years of online comments on the school Facebook page. Duh.
Being a part of yet another mostly female group is another perk.
Our PTO President has a way of speaking in a kind and humble manner that simultaneously commands attention and respect … which is super admirable to me because I only talk gently to plants at my job and have not yet mastered public speaking. Most of the women work full time as well as being wives and mothers. Watching them expend an enormous amount of energy at the end of a long day (and our meetings are on Mondays, no less) for the improvement of their children’s school is inspiring and motivating.