Use Your Meetings to Encourage PTA Participation

By the California State PTA Leadership Services Commission

As your local PTA starts to plan the year ahead, take some time to think about how to use meetings to both accomplish the business of the organization and engage members. 

The first question is how to get people to attend. PTA families come in all shapes and sizes. Two income families, single parent families, divorced/widowed parent families, adoptive families, foster families, grandparent-led families, LGBTQ+ families, families with special-needs children at home, small families, huge families, deployed families, the list goes on and on. They all have something in common, they are busy families!

Three Kinds of Meetings, Three Different Opportunities

General association meetings are the big and most inclusive meetings that ALL paid members should be encouraged to attend. This is where you present to members your budget, your financial review, and your end of the year financial report. You also elect the nominating committee and the next executive board at these meetings. 

Encouraging as many people as possible to attend general meetings helps to meet your required quorum and is part of being transparent as a board. Presenting a program at an association meeting is an effective way to encourage more members to participate. The program might involve a speaker, community forum, student panel or special activity. And it might focus on topics of interest to everyone on campus such as student learning, or health and wellness. 

When organizing programs for association meetings, remember to: 

  • Survey members for input on possible programs 
  • Plan and publicize programs in advance 
  • Keep the program schedule flexible to address an unexpected situation on campus 
  • Provide presentations on topics or activities that bring all types of families together

After the meeting, the board should assess the effectiveness of the program and decide if this will become a standard part of your PTA program from now on or if you need to re-evaluate what the needs of your community are. The California State PTA Leaders’ Website has more information about how to plan and run your association meetings.

Executive board meetings typically occur monthly. Members of the elected board, appointed officers such as the parliamentarian, your principal, a teacher rep, and committee chairs meet monthly to discuss what the committees have been working on, pay bills, assess the progress on your organizational goals, and make decisions for the good of the organization. The date of the meeting is usually the same day each month and is stated in the standing rules section of your bylaws. In some PTAs, these monthly board meetings are held prior to an informational program open to all families or prior to updates from the principal and PTA leaders. 

Committee meetings include members of the relevant committee who meet to discuss a specific program or fundraiser. They work out the details and bring their plans back to the executive board. These are usually very casual and easy to organize because there is a very small pool of people involved.  As this blog describes, committees are an effective strategy both for getting things done and involving members in small but important volunteer roles that can engage and excite them to continue with PTA.

Take a look at the Tips for Leaders section of the Leaders’ Website for more suggestions about both member engagement and effective meetings.

15 Tips For New Leaders

The first months as a new PTA leader may seem overwhelming, but California State PTA is  here to help! A lot needs to be done to get things up and running. This list will help you figure out when and how to schedule meetings, create calendars, and perform other tasks that will ensure that your PTA gets off to a good start!

  1. The president should set up a meeting with the school principal and call meetings of the board as soon as possible. 
  2. At the first board meeting, ratify appointed officers, fill any vacant positions, ratify committees and chairs, and make plans for the coming year. Strive for a balance of experienced and new leaders, keeping in mind that all areas of the community should be represented.
  3. Consider conducting a survey of needs that would go out to the entire school community. Have it returned prior to your PTA’s first budget meeting, where past unit activities are reviewed and suggestions for new activities are solicited.
  4. Use input from the survey for brainstorming session(s) with the board to establish your goals. Set realistic goals and prioritize programs.
  5. Set a calendar for the upcoming year and provide membership campaign materials to the school for any summer or start-of-school mailings they may be planning.
  6. Meet with outgoing officers to understand your job and to collect materials belonging to your PTA.
  7. Become familiar with the duties of each chair by reviewing the California State PTA Toolkit. Share job descriptions and materials as noted with the chairpersons and help them to secure historical materials from their predecessors. 
  8. Consider reviewing your PTA bylaws with the entire board (even if the bylaws are not due for renewal.). The bylaws contain many job responsibilities and timelines/due dates. Reviewing them together gets everyone on the same page with the same expectations.
  9. Encourage every board member to attend training. The Training Center on the CA State PTA Leaders Website is a great resource for this.
  10. Prepare a preliminary budget and present it for adoption at your next association meeting.
  11. Verify with the outgoing financial officers that the books have been closed and that the following documents were prepared:  Annual Financial Report, Year-end Financial Review, documents organized for preparing tax filings.  
  12. Update signature cards for bank accounts.
  13. Make sure that your board roster is uploaded into MyPTEZ. Provide names and contact information for board members. If you do not have access to the roster system, contact your council or district to assist you. 
  14. Make sure each of your board members knows how to contact their counterpart at district (or council) to get questions answered.
  15. Don’t forget to breathe! There is no such thing as a PTA emergency.

Nominating Committee: The most important committee of your PTA

By Brad Waller, CA State PTA Parliamentarian

January marks the time to think about the election of your PTA’s nominating committees! 

Your local bylaws determine when your nominating committee should be elected, typically in January or February. The nominating committee election occurs at an association meeting at least two months before the annual election meeting. This timing is important because it:

  • gives the committee one month to identify a slate of PTA officers, 
  • provides time for the 30-day member notice of the annual meeting, and 
  • provides time for the 28-day notice of the slate of nominees. 

The bylaws also indicate how many members are elected to serve on the committee and how many alternates are required.

Why is the nominating committee the most important committee of the PTA? 

They will identify your PTA’s future leaders. Consider the qualifications of the committee members carefully. They must understand and appreciate the school culture and its ethnicities, have knowledge of past PTA accomplishments, and understand who would best advance the work of PTA in your community. Those elected for service must observe strict confidentiality and must be individuals trusted by the community. They must have time to serve, be ready to work as a team, discuss delicate matters, and have an understanding of the roles of the officer positions. In the California State PTA Toolkit Nominations and Elections section, you’ll find additional guidance for the important task of electing the nominating committee:

Two requirements, in particular, ensure an unbiased nomination process. Individuals are ineligible to serve twice (back-to-back) and the president never serves on the committee. The principal, if not elected to serve on the committee, is always a consultant and would be a voting member if serving on the committee. Committee members serve until the annual election meeting.

How does the Nominating Committee do its work?

At its first meeting, the members elect the chair with the parliamentarian’s assistance. If an elected member is unable to attend the first meeting, then an alternate member steps in for the duration of the committee’s work. During discussion, committee members select the most qualified nominees for each position. Ask your PTA’s current officers to provide a short paragraph or outline of their duties or to share their procedure books. 

The committee members can interview candidates as a group or assign teams to conduct interviews. Refer to National PTA’s resources for sample questions and a candidate checklist. When there is ample time, committees may develop and distribute an application to inspire individuals’ interest in serving. Committees may also survey the PTA’s members to determine whom they believe are qualified leaders.

The nominee for president is identified first, then the positions of secretary, treasurer. The other officers follow once the three required positions have been slated. The committee is not obligated to nominate individuals for their preferred positions, nor advance an executive vice president or first vice president to the position of president. The best leaders are adaptable and essential skills apply to all roles. The committee looks for individuals committed to the PTA principles, keeping the names of candidates confidential from other potential candidates. Committee members do not bargain with candidates or waive job duties as described. Nominees for appointed officers and chairs are not included in the work of the committee. After the election, the president-elect makes appointments for these positions, which are ratified by the board-elect.

Once a slate has been agreed upon by the committee, the committee chair notifies the president of the slate, who releases the information no later than 28 days prior to the annual meeting. The committee continues its work if any positions do not have a nominee or should one withdraw. At the election meeting the chair presents the slate to the membership.

Plan now to elect your PTA’s most qualified members to this important committee. The future of your PTA depends on the essential work of the nominating committee today.