We Are The PTO. Do What We Say.

I'd rather eat glass than be in the PTO

When my older son was in elementary school, I avoided joining the PTO. It’s not that I was a loaf; I participated in Cub Scouts, lent a hand in Little League and youth soccer as team mom, volunteered in classrooms, and took on small projects for some teachers.  Sometimes I regretted the choice to stay out of PTO, since the PTO moms seemed to have an “in” with some of the teachers and school admin.  Perhaps my son would have been even more successful in school if I’d volunteered a little more of my time.

That was my thinking when I finally joined PTO when son #2 was in kindergarten.  In our town, all public kindergarteners attend the same school, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet moms  from all over town, before the kids split off into three different elementary schools. Apparently, dads won’t join unless there’s a ball or fire or camping or something involved in the organization.

At the first board meeting, it was apparent that most of these moms knew each other already! I was older than they were (“Wow, you have a son in senior year and one in kindergarten! You look so young!”) They must have sensed that I was willing to do whatever I could to fit in. “We have an opening in the communications job. Would you like to do the school newsletter?”  I said yes without knowing just how much work that would involve.   I mean, I had been on the high school newspaper, rounding out that brief career as editor of the opinion page, so I’m not work-a-phobic.  As newsletter chairperson, I was required to attend all board and general meetings, take notes, gather announcements, write the newsletter, meet with the principal for approval, then publish the thing and get it copied.  After that, all I had to do was count them out by classes and distribute them to all teachers and staff.  It was a full-time, thankless job.  Worst part was that no matter how hard I tried, I was the newsletter lady and although I met several teachers, I wasn’t an officer in the organization and really didn’t establish any long-term connections with the rest of the PTO moms.

It was a blessing in disguise.

The PTO officers ran that organization like they were CEO’s of  a bank.  They were pushy and unopen to new ideas.  We do it this way. Blah blah blah.  I was sick of them before we hit the Christmas winter break, and I dreaded going to the board meetings.  The only saving grace was my chumminess with the principal, who knew my son by name and became aware of his challenges.  When I brought the newsletter to her each month, we’d have little chats, and I was not just another face in the school.

So, I shut up and wrote my little newsletter, got it out on time, for the most part, and finished out the year.  Needless to say, I have not been interested in any further PTO activity.  Still, I buy overpriced cookie dough, frozen pies, and endless magazines, just so I have to spend only 7 bucks to send my kid on a field trip.

When I got the email from the Middle School PTO, concerning their upcoming fundraiser,  I was a little surprised, even though I was familiar with their M.O..

One of their annual fundraisers is called the Coffee House. It’s a Friday evening when the kids can come to school, hang out, have snacks, listen to tunes, dance, etc.  We used to call them dances, but I guess this is looser than that.  Parents are welcome, and there are raffles and silent auctions.

Each team/class creates a basket for the raffle, and they are themed.  Son’s class has been assigned the theme of “Pop Culture.” Fine and dandy.

The thing that annoys me to no end is that this email states the theme and suggests donations for the basket.  There’s a long list of suggestions, too, and an invite to buy gift cards for the basket from a site that benefits the PTO, meaning,  wow, a double bonus for the PTO coffers.

Nowhere in this email is the word “please.” No “Please consider donating an item for the raffle basket.” No “We would appreciate a donation.”  Not one polite word asking for my thoughtful gift to their raffle.

It’s just: We’re having a raffle. We would like these things, and they are due on February 1st.

And then there’s the “thanks in advance.” Sorry, that’s too little, too late.

But I guess I should be happy enough to see a thanks in advance.  After all, they are the PTO.

11 thoughts on “We Are The PTO. Do What We Say.

  1. mjrc 01.26.11 / 5:16 pm

    i’ve never done the pto. i realized a long time ago that my talents (ha!) would be better used elsewhere. god bless you for hanging in there for even one year!

    i think people forget how far a little kindness and politeness will get you in life. it’s too bad.

    • agedhipster 01.26.11 / 6:32 pm

      Thanks, marcy. That year wasn’t as much fun as I had hoped! I volunteered in the classroom, too, and the teacher was fabulous. I met more moms in that bunch, and they were mostly awesome ladies. (not one was also a PTO mom!)

      Yeah, I think we’re becoming less polite, and it’s not a good thing.

  2. Marie 01.26.11 / 9:26 pm

    How tacky! I noticed a line on a flyer I just tossed in to the recycling bin… I only glanced at it, but it was a flyer for cheerleading sign-ups and listed all kinds of dates & mentioned a “mandatory candy fundraiser”. Oh really? A mandatory fundraiser? WTF?

    I’ve never been to a PTO meeting, but I do volunteer at some of the events & in the classroom. Glad the teacher took me up on it this year! Mostly I meet the parents at birthday parties… and we know a bunch from preschool, the Y, the library,… I can’t say I actually know any of the PTO crew! Don’t think I want to go there! 😉 I like meeting the other “older” moms, being one of them myself!

    • Agedhipster 01.26.11 / 10:57 pm

      I’m sort of surprised that candy sales are still approved, with all the furor over our nation’s fat kids, etc.
      We had mandatory candy sales in high school, and I hated them!
      You go, Marie. Do your thing and have some fun. I had fun in those classrooms, too! The kids will remember you!

  3. Paula 01.27.11 / 12:06 am

    I could never deal with fundraising myself, so I just gave money and didn’t participate (bad mommy!). I liked to volunteer in the classroom when my kids were little and be around the kids rather than the moms, lol.

    • agedhipster 01.27.11 / 10:04 am

      The kids were always more pleasant to be around. I loved helping with craft projects, but helping out with reading or math was challenging, especially when I didn’t have the current math lingo! (same thing happens at home when I attempt to help with homework.)

  4. music obsessive 01.28.11 / 9:44 am

    Hi. This hits a nerve even at this distance across the pond. My children’s school is just a money-making exercise in disguise. Go within 100 yards and you get hit for coffee/cakes/tickets to something-or-other or roped into organising something to make more money. What a way to run a school! I thought it was about educating children, not an excuse for the PTA to hound you to death.

    • agedhipster 01.28.11 / 8:44 pm

      I had no idea you had PTA craziness over there. We are equally hassled!

  5. Don 01.29.11 / 2:46 pm

    Wife was PTA treasurer one year. Boy did she discover how bitter the politics of a grade school! Also that the previous treasurer was loose in the accounting, likely to her own benefit. But there was nothing she could do except swear off further involvement.

    Now she works at a challenged school with a PTO that’s fairly dormant because the parents are too busy sleeping off their drug use. Loves her job, though. When you are one of the few positive influences in the lives of four hundred kids you get a lot of hugs.

  6. Clay Boggess 02.09.11 / 9:57 am

    Why is it so hard for some people to say ‘please’ when they are requesting things or actions from others? It’s because they think everyone else is supposed to appreciate them for what they are doing.

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