In Defense of the PTO

I have just come off a year as the President of my son’s public elementary school PTO {Parent Teacher Organization} and was President-Elect the year prior to that. And I loved it. During those two years, I heard a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about the PTO and am here to clear those up once and for all! {Who am I kidding – but let’s give it a shot} Former HMB contributor Michele wrote a great post early this year on the topic and I love how she says “we are the moms who happily and graciously help make your school awesome.”

My two boys go to a large {878 kids} public school inside the city, in HISD. Every parent or guardian at the school is considered a member of the PTO. There is no cost, no form to fill out, we just ask people to give their time to help make the school better for the teachers, staff and ultimately, the children. There is a PTO Board of Directors which is also large, 40 members, with an 11 member voted upon Executive Board. And we need every single one of those directors PLUS the parent PTO volunteers to keep the school going. Literally. 

Oh yes, HISD will make sure the lights are on and the water is running. They pay our teachers and support staff and supply paper, etc. But that is it. The photo below was taken at our school’s Fun Run to raise money for security upgrades for the school. You know, locking doors, maybe an additional camera, to protect our children from anyone trying to harm them. You know who ran this event? Two PTO volunteers. You know who staffed this event? More PTO volunteers!

In Defense of the PTO | Houston Moms Blog

And our volunteers are not just us stay at home moms. The school would NOT run if it was just us! We need working moms, working dads, stay at home dads, grandparents and nannies. Personally, I will not be a room parent without a co-room parent who is a working mom. {Let’s be clear though, I would be President again if I could avoid being a Room Parent} I am THE WORST at responding to emails, setting up online signups and keeping track of the donations. Oh, I can pop up to the school to take the teacher lunch with those donations, but I have been so lucky to have amazing parents who are at their computer more than I to step right in to help the school. You get that I am generalizing here, with the point that the PTO needs every parent no matter if they work or not.

What I want YOU to know about the PTO

We are not on a power trip. 

Oh girl, I LOVE a microphone and will speak on one anytime it is near. But I, and most PTO presidents, don’t want to rule the show, or the day! We want to lead a group of volunteers and support THEM as they support the school. My actual “power” only came from listening to volunteers and trying to point them in the right direction and keeping people on budget. But I do miss that microphone…

Everyone is welcome

As I said above, our PTO is made of up every parent at the school and I want all parents to know they are welcome – always! It is not a club nor a clique. There is nothing cool about being covered in colored corn starch while volunteering or cleaning up after an event with germ filled kids.

The PTO is not all stay at home moms

At our school we have 3 directors who are men. And work. We have had a past-president who is a male. Similar to the demographic of our country, half of our mom volunteers work. 

We are working really hard for the school

During my term as president, I felt it was important to help the families at our school unfamiliar with the PTO understand that we don’t get paid for being at the school all. the. time. The parents working the school store, the parents working the book fair, the parents selling the drinks and cookies at Bingo night – all unpaid and all giving their time freely. So please have patience when things take longer, or when we are out of the exact color of shirt your angel wanted, or ran out of blue Gatorade all together. Man, those kids love blue Gatorade.

In Defense of the PTO | Houston Moms Blog

Now I totally get that I have this one experience with my one school. I have talked to numerous other PTO Presidents though, but clearly not all. You might have a PTO who seems cliquey or like a secret club you don’t belong to. I would ask you though to think about this though ::

Maybe they don’t know you want to help?

Maybe they could really use someone with your skill set but don’t even know you have it!

Maybe they don’t have any clue they are coming across as a clique? 

You might have to tell me yes, Kinsey, they DO. They are the worst and I don’t even know. But maybe, just maybe they aren’t the worst and you could have the opportunity to support the school using YOUR skills? No one would benefit more from that than your kids. 

As my son Zach says, “The PTO is pretty good.” Wait, that might not be the ultimate selling point…


Need more back-to-school tips? Check out The Ultimate Back to School Guide for Houston Moms!

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