Ruffled feathers

I’m still processing what happened tonight. In my Facebook post I wrote, “I think the voice of reason carried the day.” The “think” reflects the fact that it really wasn’t a clear cut victory.

On the one hand, it was clear that there are people in our school community who are not happy with the way the PTO has been operating. I was so very grateful to all of the people who came out and spoke up about their disaffection with the PTO’s lack of strategic vision, and not only in regard to my proposal. A motion was made to form a committee to enumerate principles that govern the legitimate spending of  PTO funds. The committee will evaluate whether or not it makes sense to carry over ever increasing balances from year to year and what constitutes a legitimate spending proposal.

On the other hand, the president steadfastly maintained that my proposal could not be put to a vote. And for very different, but equally flawed reasons:

1) Fiduciary responsbility to the donors under section 501(c)(3).

I admit I had to do a little research into this one. The PTO bylaws state that: “This PTO is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, including, for such purposes, the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3)…” Doesn’t this actually support my request?

2) It would be unfair (the word ‘unethical’ was used) to people who’ve donated money to not know exactly how that money would be spent.

When I write checks to charitable organizations and (in the past) to this PTO, it would never occur to me that I needed to know exactly how my money would be spent. If I make a donation, I’m assuming that the organization will use it as it best sees fit. And the use of the word “unethical” in the context of helping Haitian orphans is really pretty ridiculous. 

3) The executive board has the right to determine what can be brought to a vote, because “What if some crazy person brought up a crazy proposal…? As these words came out of the president’s mouth, she glanced at me sideways and said, “Of course, I don’t mean to imply that this is a crazy proposal!” I couldn’t resist, “Uh, yeah…it wasn’t like I was proposing that we install stripper poles in the hallway.”

But even if some crazy person did bring up some crazy proposal: this is exactly what votes are for, no?

3) It’s not appropriate to use money given to the school that will only benefit people outside the school.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is selfish, shortsighted, and untrue. We are teaching valuable lessons to our own children when we empower them to help others.

4) It would be a mistake to bring this issue up for a vote, because it would be too divisive.

The issue really became divisive because opinions were summarily squelched! 

At the end of the meeting the genuinely sweet president hastened to disabuse me of the notion that my proposal couldn’t be discussed, just that it couldn’t be put to a vote! ?!?!?!?!

The majority of the people in the room argued that funding Make a Difference Day does in fact support and enrich the education of “our” children. But instead of dipping into that ever-growing pot of gold, it was decided that all proceeds from the first of several Kids’ Night Out events, (if you’ll remember, this was our service group’s fundraiser that was appropriated by the PTO), would go to fund the Make a Difference Day project. Members of the executive board argued that this was the only way parents would be able to know exactly where their money would be spent. I have mixed feelings about this. Yes, I’m glad that PTO funds will be used in one way or another for this project, but it doesn’t address the basic fact that a reasonable request for funds was not even allowed to be put forth for a vote. It doesn’t address the fact that we have ample funds here and now that could be used for this purpose.

As for the child whose house burned down? For now, the school, the county, and individuals in our community are donating money and gift cards. The principal says that for now the family is saying that this is enough. The issue of taking care of our own children in need will hopefully be addressed by the committee being headed up by none other than my own husband.

So is this a victory? Sort of.

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