How would you feel or what would you do if parents that hold the PTO power and the PTO purse strings proposed that parents would be required to volunteer a certain number of hours in order for their student to qualify, not receive, but just qualify for a PTO sponsored scholarship?
How would you feel if your award winning, nationally recognized school district was proudly one of the most diverse in the area, not only demographically but that the socioeconomic make-up of each child varied from family to family, city to city, suburb to suburb, and this volunteer requirement could potentially be forced upon these working families?
How would you feel if 47% of your school district’s student population receives free or reduced lunch and this volunteer requirement again could be forced upon the families of these kids that need the scholarships the most?
Here is what certain power parents that rule the PTO at the high school are proposing: in order for high school students to qualify for PTO sponsored scholarships, parents will be required to volunteer 10 hours per year per student only within PTO sponsored events, and volunteering must include working concession stands. This calculates to a total of 40 hours over four years, if a family has 2 children that would be 80 hours, etc. This may not sound like a lot of hours, but there are factors that need to be considered. Read on . . .
Upon hearing this proposal and the concerns from other parents, as a new parent at the high school, I sent an email to the president and treasurer of the PTO asking for clarification regarding this pending requirement for PTO sponsored scholarships.
Please keep in mind that I sent my email to the published addresses listed on the high school PTO website, these published emails are the officers’ personal email accounts. In my email, I asked for clarification as to what volunteer activities would qualify for the scholarships. I asked for the rationale in requiring parents to volunteer the 10 hours per year per student in order for students to qualify for PTO scholarships. I asked if working families and/or families with multiple high school students were taken into consideration. I asked if working the concession stand for a sport was a mandatory requirement and what about those families that do not have a student participating in a sport. I asked if this requirement/initiative was put to a vote of the PTO families. I asked for a current copy of the PTO Bylaws. And what was the response from these power parents?
The reply or lack thereof from the PTO President was, well, not really a reply, but more like avoidance. I was told that the issue would be discussed at an upcoming meeting and she ended the response with, “In the future, please send all PTO related correspondence through the PTO email.” However, again, if you go onto the HS PTO website you will find that the email address she is referring to is NOT listed on this website, again only the personal email addresses of the PTO officers.
I promptly responded to her email, utilizing her personal email address copying the PTO email that she provided but is not published. I also informed this power parent that the PTO website does NOT list the PTO email account only personal email accounts. I then made a formal request for information and repeated my questions. The power parents, I am so not surprised by this, have not returned my formal request sent to the PTO email as I was instructed to contact. Hmm . . this then begs the question what are they hiding if they cannot or will not provide information on an initiative that could potentially be detrimental to many of our school families?
The response or lack thereof, the overall proposal and complete disregard of the socioeconomic make-up of students that really need these scholarships reminded me of a quote by historian, politician and writer, Sir John Dalberg-Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This saying came to my mind, instantaneously, when I heard what these power parents were proposing.
Here is something that was quite ironic, soon thereafter I received an email from the HS PTO asking for volunteers and at the very end of this call for volunteers they state “ALL profits from PTO Concessions go right back to the KIDS! ALL in the form of grants, student incentives, All Night Senior Party, Principal’s Discretionary Fund, Pattonville Education Foundation, college scholarships, and more!” Hmm . . . but what about that volunteer requirement? All profits go back to the kids? Define ALL? Which kids? Here are these same power parents that want to require parents to volunteer in order for these profits to back to the kids. This seems very contradictory to what they are proposing to mandate upon parents.
I’ve been serving on parent teacher organizations since my children were in kindergarten, that’s 10 years of service. It is my understanding that the mission and goals of parent teacher organizations is to support the students, to provide for the students, especially those that need the most help. I fail to see how mandating parents to volunteer 10 hours per year per child over a 4 year period as being conducive to helping students who probably need that scholarship money the most.
Looking at the socioeconomic make-up of our school district’s families, of our students: there are some that live in motels; there are some of single parent homes; there are some where a non-parental member of the family is raising them; there are some that are in foster care; there are some that are at or below the poverty line; there are some where their parents work multiple jobs just to keep the lights on, a roof over their heads, food on the table; there are some where their only hot meals are breakfast and lunch at school – Monday thru Friday. What about them? Who is advocating for them? Who is supporting them? I sincerely hope these parents in power are looking at the socioeconomic and demographic bigger picture that make up the families of our district and not punishing kids because their parents have to choose work over selling nachos at a football game. Here is a NEWS FLASH power parents, not every student in our district lives on a cul-du-sac with two working parents and a house with a picket fence.
I am unsure as to the monetary amounts of these PTO sponsored scholarships, however, a small amount can make a huge difference to a student looking to attend college or trade school (every penny counts in achieving higher education). It could buy books, a laptop, contribute to tuition. What about these students? Why keep much needed funds out of the hands of the kids that the organization should be sponsoring the most if the organization is there for ALL of the students?
Lastly, I just do not understand why these parents in power are adverse to a dialogue with a parent concerned that the needs of the entire student population be met and students should not be penalized for having working families. Again, could they consider moving from their tunnel vision to the bigger picture or is it about flexing the power they believe their parent positions hold?
Thank you power parents for not responding to my emails. Had you just responded to my emails, I would not have such a hot topic to write about. Word of advice – respond to email inquiries.
Here’s my last NEWSFLASH – Scholarships should be based on merit or need or citizenship or a combination thereof, not based on a parent being VOLUN-TOLD or ELSE.
The 2014-2015 school year will mark the implementation of the Common Core Standards within 45 states across our country. As with any educational plan (i.e. No Child Left Behind), it is been met with great scrutiny.
What are the Common Core Standards? According to Patte Barth, Director of the Center for Public Education, “The common core standards are intended to define the knowledge and skills in English language arts and math,” (April 25, 2013, para. 2). The mission of the Common Core Standards is to create a universal understanding of what students need to learn in order to be contributing citizens within our society. The ambitious goals of the standards would improve student performance within math and English, making the U.S. competitive with high-achieving nations across the world. According to Dennis Van Roekel, President of the NEA, “Common Core addresses inequity, providing a wide set of standards which ensure a complete education for all students increasing the likelihood that they will graduate from high school ready to succeed,” (May 7, 2013, para. 9). The implementation of the Common Core Standards boasts a bipartisan approval of governors, educators, teachers unions, business leaders and policy makers.
How will the Common Core Standards affect my children? In the 2014-2015 school year both of my children will be in middle school and will experience seven class periods versus the current eight class periods. This would mean tougher choices in what courses they would be permitted to take. For example, in addition to the cores (math, science, communication arts, social studies and physical education) this school year my son takes three electives (orchestra, a gifted course and a foreign language). Next school year he will lose one of his electives and have to choose two out of the three. That will be a difficult decision for him, but one he will be forced to make due to the fact that the standards are forcing more core classroom time (math, science, communication arts and social studies), reducing time for students to take fine arts or foreign language courses.
I am still on the proverbial fence regarding the Common Core Standards. On the one hand it appears to be a step in the right direction to attain an educational policy that addresses the needs of all children and allows for teachers to do what they do best, that is teach. However, what is the cost of these standards when it comes to the type of education our children will be receiving? They will be forced to make difficult choices when it comes to fine arts and foreign language programs. As educational budgets get tighter and schools are forced to cut programs, will fine arts and language programs meet their demise? Will these standards make our children more competitive within the global market? Will this jeopardize the formation of well-rounded children? Are fine arts and foreign language important aspects of the curriculum?
I have argued in the past that No Child Left Behind failed schools, students and teachers with its stringent guidelines. The Department of Education realized how debilitating No Child Left Behind was on educators and granted waivers to states in an effort to give power back to school districts to educate children. However, will the Common Core Standards be a repeat of the restrictions of No Child Left Behind or will this be the final attempt to equal the playing field for education across our country?
Articles of Interest & References:
Barth, P. (April 25, 2013). The Common Core Standards: Truths, Untruths and Ambiguities. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patte-barth/the-common-core-standards_1_b_3149738.html
Common Core Standards — http://www.corestandards.org/
Editorial Board. (May 27, 2013). Caution and the Common Core. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/28/opinion/caution-and-the-common-core-state-education-standards.html
Van Roekel, D. (May 7, 2013). Common Core Standards: Get It Right. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-van-roekel/common-core-state-standards_b_3231085.html
Who is responsible for educating our children? Is it the school district? Is it a neighboring school district? Is it solely the teachers? What about parent involvement?
Recently the Missouri Supreme Court attempted to address these concerns when it upheld a state statute and ruled that children from unaccredited school districts can transfer to accredited districts. The cost of these transfers would be absorbed by the unaccredited school districts. The decision affects three districts in Missouri, two of which are in my area. These two districts have announced which suburban districts they will transfer students, to the surprise of the receiving school district. Each school district is looking at upwards of 400 or more students per district in these transfers with little say in the matter.
Turner v. Clayton was the means to the end regarding this transfer debate. Parents in the St. Louis City School system sued the Clayton School District. In the law suit, the plaintiffs wanted the unaccredited school district (St. Louis City School District) to pay for students to attend schools outside the district. The outcome, accredited schools can see an influx of hundreds of students into their schools. School districts across our county watched with bated breath for the outcome of this case. The Missouri Supreme Court found that accredited schools failed to prove that they would be burdened by the transfers from unaccredited schools, therefore ruling that the state statute must be upheld. However, schools are fearful of overcrowding and the ability to accommodate large influxes of students.
So many questions are being asked by parents regarding these transfers. What about class sizes? What about test scores? How will the transfers affect the environment of the schools? Of the communities? The answers are not so simple.
From a parent standpoint my concerns would be the obvious, overcrowding and class sizes. What is the effectiveness in teaching with large class sizes? What about the new students and their academic abilities? Will teachers have to spend time catching them up? How will that affect other students? So many questions but few answers.
Parents are reacting with mixed emotions; in some instances emotions are running high. In one receiving district parents vented their concerns about test scores, overcrowding, etc. however, the meeting took a turn towards stereotyping and negativity against children they just do not know. Is this fair to characterize a group of students because of their economic status or that they are coming from a failing school district? I sincerely hope that the sentiments shown during two minute news bites were sentiments of the minority of parents and that more parents would be accepting of these transfer students.
What about those parents agreeing to send their children to accredited districts? These parents are sending their children upwards of 30 minutes away from home for an education. These parents are going to the unknown and from the news bites; they are being led to believe they are entering hostile environments.
What about the students left behind at the unaccredited schools? What would be their fate? What about the money leaving these failing districts? How will they recover, rebuild or survive? Superintendents of the unaccredited districts are vowing to educate students and regain accreditation. But at face value is this really possible?
But there is common ground. What needs to be realized is that parents from the accredited and unaccredited school districts care about their children and providing them with a solid education. This is what they have in common; however, I do not believe that have reached the point of realizing their commonalities.
More needs to be done at the state and federal level, however, more also needs to be done at home but supporting our schools through parent involvement. When situations are at a dire state, we see parents come out in droves. What about being proactive versus reactive? A great deal can be learned from this situation. Maybe before a school fails, educators, parents and especially legislators need to look at the why, identify the issues and figure out how to improve the situation.
As educators and parents enter the unknown, I wonder if legislators thought about the consequences of these statutes. As this story constantly evolves, Missouri legislators are being reactive, given the backlash by parents and weighing in with a bill that would give power to school districts to veto the transfers. The bill could appear at the January 2014 session and take effect for the 2014-2015 school year. Could a veto power send mixed messages regarding the acceptance or rejection of students from unaccredited schools? Would these mixed messages mimic the messages being sent to failing schools as they attempt to transfer to accredited schools?
Can unaccredited schools afford to pay tuition for hundreds of transfer students while attempted to regain accreditation? The goal is better education for our students, however, is crippling a failing school district the answer? Is subjecting an accredited to an influx of students the answer? Is there a winner in these situations?
Only time and patience will tell if this is the correct option in the education of our children.