PTA moms - advice? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 09-04-2014, 11:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Smile PTA moms - advice?

My oldest just started first grade at a public school - it's her first year there.


I noticed that there was no PTA type program in place, so I took it upon myself to inquire and now I have a meeting with the principal next week!


Has anyone ever started up a PTA before, or can anyone offer up some advice?


I am looking to gain insight from the principal about the school, what maybe hasn't worked in the past, etc. But I'll also bring along an outline of things I'd like to get accomplished, a timeline, etc.


Anyways - thoughts? And to think I used to vehemently oppose the public school system..

rainbow1284.gif Mama to DD1 (6) DD2 (4) and DD3 (1)
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#2 of 9 Old 09-04-2014, 12:24 PM
 
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There are two separate organizations that you will find in schools - PTO and PTA. One costs a fair amount to join but I cannot for the life of remember which it is at the moment. Might be something to research before your meeting.

Good luck!!
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#3 of 9 Old 09-04-2014, 03:55 PM
 
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I haven't started a PTA but can tell you a few things from what I have seen at my kids' elementary school. This is in Chicago, so I assume it's a K-8 neighborhood school? We are in a Chicago burb, but low-income (Title I) school - the income level will drive your choice of activities to some degree. I think it's a very good idea to ask what has worked or not worked in the past.

Our school's PTA fills in the gaps of what the school can't cover, e.g., scholarships for field trips, bus rental for field trips, uniforms for sports, fundraising for big overnight for the 5th graders who can't afford the trip otherwise. The PTA also organizes events like a kindergarten graduation and 5th grade farewell (it's simple - we serve cake and watermelon to the families after the ceremony where the kids get their names called and sing a song), holds a welcome picnic in the fall, runs the school book store that sells used books for $0.25, manages the school garden, does events for teacher appreciation week, etc. The school events cannot cost too much or a lot of the families can't come, so we tend to have cheap, family-oriented events. Our fundraisers for the PTA are things like gift wrap sale (I hate that, personally!), an annual fundraiser with entertainment (high school jazz quartet-type stuff) and a silent auction of donated stuff in the school gym, and an iPad raffle (they got a donated one, so sold tix for $5).

Basically, you'll want to know the profile of the families at the school to make your activities as inclusive as possible. That includes whether to schedule events during the day or evening - you may want to switch off to accommodate parents working different shifts. Check whether you need an interpreter for events or translator for flyers. Our school houses a Spanish program, so at times both of those are needed.

Another challenge I have seen is people being super enthusiastic with new ideas but then falling down when it comes to the follow-through - usually in terms of having enough volunteers to carry out the ideas. Start small! Institutional memory is also important. Once someone has run an event or program many times, it's easy to rely on them, but you need to train someone else to take over well before that person's kids graduate.

Here is also the page I found for IL PTA: http://www.illinoispta.org/membership.html Interestingly, our high school recently dissolved their PTA is going forward with a less formal group that is not officially affiliated with the administration, although the school holds the parent group's funds (like it holds the student club funds). This means the new parent group doesn't have to be incorporated. So, there are a couple of ways of doing it.

Anyway, best of luck and it would be interesting to hear what happens!

Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (15) and DD2 "I" (11) DH "M"

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#4 of 9 Old 09-06-2014, 05:54 PM
 
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I have not started a PTO/A either but I have participated in parent organizations at all of my kids' schools. I second the idea of researching the national organizations like PTO and asking what has worked (or not) for your school in the past.

Two of my DC's schools have had an official PTO format. I will say that I think the guidelines are helpful but the format is rigid and not all that creative. Two other schools have had a private, personally developed parent organization structure. This is a lot more work (and potential for abuse) but far more authentic and natural.

I agree 100% with Ragana about inclusivity being a primary concern.

Mama to DD September 2001 and DD April 2011 *Winner for most typos* eat.gif
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#5 of 9 Old 09-07-2014, 07:52 PM
 
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There is a PTO Today Facebook group (and probably website too) that has lots of ideas:

https://www.facebook.com/PTOToday

 
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#6 of 9 Old 09-16-2014, 07:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you everyone!!


Here's where I'm at.


I met with the school principal. We are a title 1 school and the issue in the past has been a lack of parent involvement. The school has a high Spanish speaking population and there is just a cultural divide there. We set up a PTO meeting for tomorrow and I made up a flyer (in English and in Spanish) that went home at the open house last week. I'm hoping that *someone* shows up for the PTO meeting, haha! I don't really have an "agenda


Oh - so obviously we decided to go with PTO - as our own organization, nothing national. I have set up a separate EIN for the PTO. I'd eventually like to seek tax-exempt nonprofit status but that requires money and also requires us incorporate in the state of IL (which also requires money!) but we have some time (20 some months from the date we created the EIN).


I have also contacted our aldermanic ward and the alderman (woman? ha!) says she would love to support us. The ward just gave a bunch of money to the school to get a soccer field completed - so I'm not expecting money but if they are able to provide resources then great. I am going to a ward meeting tomorrow night.


Anyways, that's where we're at. The principal is a nice lady but you can tell she's burned out with such a difficult school. The school is not on probation but it has its challenges.


I'm not sure where to go with fundraising but I'm hoping that somehow we'll be able to get some funds in to start something.

rainbow1284.gif Mama to DD1 (6) DD2 (4) and DD3 (1)
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#7 of 9 Old 09-16-2014, 07:33 PM
 
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WindyCityMom, that sounds like a great start! I hope you'll keep posting about this and checking in. It sounds like our schools are similar. Like I said, I was not officially a PTA officer, but I know a lot of the background stuff from knowing the most recent pres (our kids are friends). If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask!

Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (15) and DD2 "I" (11) DH "M"

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#8 of 9 Old 09-16-2014, 07:58 PM
 
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I don't know anything about starting a PTA/PTO but saw you mentioned the fundraisers. The only fundraisers I've seen be really successful in my area are Avon and the Krispy Kreme donuts. The donuts especially were great since they were I think $3/dz and almost everyone managed to sell some even with the low income schools. The other big fundraisers here were events like a fall fest or selling small items in a Christmas shop or Valentine's goodies. Sale days with items like snacks for sale do well too at a lot of the schools - the ones that allow them. Good luck starting your group! I hope you get a good turn out!

Michelle mom to DD , DS , & lil DD plus and spending my days
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#9 of 9 Old 09-22-2014, 04:13 PM
 
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Things that make money, while only taking effort are the best things our school does. About 75% of our fundraising comes from collecting milk caps, box tops, ink cartridges. They are things anyone can do, especially if you get grandparents involved (my dad even saves box tops!) In an environment where communication might be challenging and there is low parent involvement it's going to be the easiest way to make money, because those things only involve time and postage to start earning.

I'd love to help with ideas or anything, I've been at the PTA game for 9 years now, I'm pretty good at it. Also, always willing to help out a fellow Chicago girl
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