Why I’m Mad at the PTA

I’m mad at the PTA. So it’s probably a good thing I can’t make it to the school’s silent auction fundraiser tomorrow night.

To be fair, it’s not the entire PTA I’m mad at. Some of my best friends are members.

But I’m not.

Long before Annabelle started kindergarten, I swore I would never join the PTA. I know better. The main reason: I don’t do well in groups. I get in enough fights, just living day to day; I don’t need to invite more.

Plus, I work. I feel guilty constantly — if I’m at work, I’m feeling guilty for not being home. If I’m home, vice versa. So I’ll miss work to volunteer in my kids’ class, but no way am I going to miss dinner with my kids to sit in the smelly cafeteria and listen to moms yell at each other over whether we need to have a school directory. (That fight went on for most of the last school year, no kidding.)

Hey, I’ll donate to the cause — just about any cause. I’ll make 65 teacher appreciation gifts, I’ll battle the copy machine to make double-sided, stapled copies for second grade math, I’ll help dozens of kindergarteners glue bats and pumpkins to Halloween banners — just don’t make me join the PTA.

(There’s a thoroughly entertaining back story to our particular school’s PTA that will be written about someday — but you won’t believe it.)

Anyhow, for all my brash talk, I’m sensitive about my lack of participation. That guilt thing again. So when I got an email from a PTA member last fall, asking for ideas about where the PTA’s money could go, I almost didn’t respond. Who am I to make such a request? I thought.

But it was too important not to speak up. I wrote a very nice (I thought) email about the fact that at lunchtime recess, there is one adult overseeing 90 kindergarteners.

No, you didn’t read that wrong. One to 90. At the other recesses, the teachers are present. But the union insists they get a half hour for lunch (well deserved!), so they’re not on the playground then. Some random person — the school counselor or speech therapist or library aide — is called on to serve as the one and only duty.

I’ve written about this before. When I confronted the principal, she insisted that there’s never been a problem, that the one duty is trained to use a walkie talkie. Whoops! That particular day there happened to be a duty at the table with the principal and me who had never been given a walkie talkie. Yeah, it got ugly.

Walkie talkie or not, 1 to 90? Really?

The PTA mom emailed right back, sounding horrified. She didn’t know! I don’t blame her for that. I didn’t realize it when Annabelle was in kindergarten. It was only when Sophie, with her extra need for supervision, started kindergarten that it became an issue. (And a whole other story.)

That PTA mom is one of the organizers of the auction. So when the auction packet came home (yes, an entire packet — these women set up a myspace page for the auction, an email account for the auction, and a FAQ page about the auction) with a list of places the money might go, I expected to see “lunchtime recess duty” on there.

(And trust me, it would be possible to do it. I know parents from several other schools where the PTA funds lunchtime recess aides. Turns out there’s no state law — not here, anyway — and no federal law, mandating playground ratios at schools. Crazy!)

No. Instead, the list of a dozen or so ideas for where the money raised at the auction might go include: interactive zoo encounter/demonstration; “myth buster” science guy program; outdoor adventures; guest artists and performances; and Family Astronomy Night.

You know, I’d love to have a family astronomy night. It sounds lovely. But call me crazy — I think keeping the freaking kindergarteners alive at lunch time is a little more important.

We are in the middle of an absolute economic meltdown in this country, one that’s definitely putting a fire under our little school, and the PTA is raising money for an interactive zoo encounter?

Idiots! I still gathered some donations for the auction, but I have to admit that seeing that list kept me from trying too hard. And it’s just as well that we have a conflict tomorrow night, because I might not have behaved myself.

See why it would be a bad idea for me to join the PTA?



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14 responses to “Why I’m Mad at the PTA

  1. Rosalie Hirano

    This should be required reading for every new elementary school mom.

  2. karen

    Yes, I can understand why you don’t join the PTA. My understanding on that list was that whatever came back with the most requests made the final list. I truly believe not everyone knows about the lack of supervision at lunch break or sadly, cares about it. I would like to think that a “grass roots” movement might work in that favor to educate and ask for volunteers? The new school next year has a separate, gated play area for the kindergartens. I know, a little late for Sophie.

    • amysilverman

      With all due respect, Karen, this isn’t about Sophie. I can’t talk about it on the blog, but Sophie’s taken care of. (I hope no one thinks I’d simply leave her in that situation!) I’m worried about all the other kindergarteners — current and future. Even if they put them in the Taj Mahal next year, they still need more than one adult watching the entire grade at a time.

      And hey, thanks for confirming that most everything else made the list of suggestions. I’m sure mine was just tossed because it came from the mom with the f-ed up kid — what kind of good perspective would I have??? Bring on family astronomy night!

      (Yes, I’m pissed.)

  3. The squeaky wheel is the one that lets people know.

    I didn’t know! Both of my boys only had half-day kindergarten. I have three kids, which is almost too much of a ratio for one person.

    90…wouldn’t work.

  4. I’ve got a few PTA stories for you. 😉

  5. Robert Polk

    When that time arrives, my exceptionally close relative, a 1st grade teacher of some 30 years, exclaims, “I have to to go to P.T. frickin’ A.” Or something that sounds similar. 🙂

  6. elewinnek

    So much is wrong there. Not only does your PTA have ridiculous priorities, but it shouldn’t be up to individual volunteers to neglect their own family dinners in order to insure kindergartener’s safety anyway. You know that old bumper-sticker: “The world will only make sense when schools get all the money they need and the airforce has to hold a bakesale to buy a fighter-bomber.” Or something like that.
    At the least, this means you can let go of guilt at not joining the PTA.

  7. Just found your blog because we both tagged posts “pta.” Well done!

  8. latishaspring

    so…back to that private school conversation maybe?

    strange they have laws about ratios for daycare but not for kindergarten.

  9. deborah

    “there’s never been a problem?” pardon my french, but i call bull merde on that one. i will not elaborate, but i am still pissed.

  10. Kimp

    We were in half-day K at that same school and the playground ratio was my reason for moving on to another school. Also, the morning-drop off had a rule about “no parents allowed off the cement near the playground”. And yet there was only one woman out there with all those dozens and dozens of kids.

    Why can’t a parent accompany their own kindergartener on to the playground in the morning before school starts? I asked. “Liability. We are not insured for that.”

    The meaning being clear, “we are not insured, and we believe the risk of a child being–what? –hurt? maligned? abused? by a classmates’ PARENT is greater than a child being hurt by recklessness, bullying, or too many kids on the top of the slide.”

  11. fozmeadows

    I suspect, when I have kids, that the only reason I might join the PTA is curiosity about the foibles of crazy people, as per the teacher/mother in Donnie Darko. Gotta get character fodder somewhere.

  12. Mom&Teacher

    I work at a school where the PTO is a wee bit different…in fact they planned a shopping trip on a school day thus making it a “Parent Organization” not a Parent-Teacher-Organization!! Anyhoo…that is a different story in and of itself!!

    My principal has 3 of us on duty at ALL times no matter how small the crowd ~ of course if I take my crew out then I’m okay with 20!! AND if there are more than 90 kids, we add an extra person or two…so while we don’t have a requirement, common sense makes us realize that we do need a fair amount of people watching out for someone elses’ “babies”!

    I would continue to pester the school to add adults to the recess rotation. The comment made to you about the union insisting on a 30 minute duty-free lunch is accurate in most districts but there are PLENTY of teachers in the building that can be rotated into recess duty. What about the teacher aides? They can help out too!! It is all about scheduling…

    Safety first people…is that so wrong??

  13. Sunni

    Don’t know how I ended up at this blog. BUT! Let’s face it teachers are paid too little. And we ask too much. The PTA is an organization made to support the public schools and give parents a voice on behalf of their children. If you don’t like what the PTA does or how it spends it’s money you pay to be a member and you go VOTE. If you want more supervision at recess you get a committee together and raise funds for that cause. Find other people who support your idea and they can be paid, voting members of your PTA as well!

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