Local PTA leaders rally members to fight board ouster of popular president

Ousted Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood

The saga of the Georgia PTA deserves its own reality TV show.

Allegations against the group’s board of directors span conspiracy to coups and nepotism to nefarious spending. And the board is now down several members, who either resigned in protest of the ouster of popular president Lisa-Marie Haygood Saturday or were forced out with her.

In the last two days, I’ve heard about past criminal histories of sitting board members. I have learned about nepotism with two married couples on the board. (Apparently, that is allowed from what I can see.) I have heard allegations of racism, that black board members were forcing out white members — and that was told to me by outraged black PTA leaders from metro Atlanta. I have heard allegations of misspending on credit cards and lavish spending on national conventions.

I have  talked to several former members of the board of directors of the Georgia PTA, all of whom agree Haygood paid a price for attempting to rein in the perks and the petty power struggles. Against Haygood’s advice, the board approved using $20,000 of money provided by local PTAs to pay for 20 board members to attend the national convention in Las Vegas this summer.

As one former board member told me, “The local units in good faith are sending their membership dues thinking it is going to children’s programs and it is going to hotel rooms at the Hilton for board meetings, meals at the meetings and sending people to national conventions. The convention has become their summer vacation.”

And what is the board itself saying?

Nothing or next to nothing, which seems an odd stance while your organization is imploding. Here is what the new president Tyler Barr said in an email response to me:

As president-elect, I would like to introduce myself to you on behalf of the board of directors. In respect and fairness to the association, the removal of the president was a mutual decision. Furthermore,  this is a sensitive and confidential matter.  We regret that we are not able to comment further but I am happy to assist you as we continue today as a strong and leading advocate for every child in Georgia.

I hope to talk to Barr today as someone in leadership ought to address this growing crisis, which undermines the ability of the Georgia PTA to advocate for public education when that advocacy is most critical.

In talking to upset PTA leaders over the manuevers leading up to Haygood’s removal, there appears at the very least to be serious dysfunction on the board and misplaced priorities.

In the meantime, angry local leaders want their members to get involved to demand accountability for the board’s recent actions.  And considering their dues funds the board, that accountability ought to be a given.

Here is what is going out today statewide:

ALERT & CALL TO ACTION for all Local Units & Members:

As a PTA/PTSA Member you need to be informed that a faction of the GA PTA Board of Directors, removed GA PTA President, Lisa-Marie Haygood, along with the Directors of Districts 7 & 10 from office, Saturday, January 28, 2017. This was a unilateral decision, not a mutual decision. In response to this action, numerous board members, specialists, finance committee members, and the office manager, have since resigned in protest and as a show of no confidence in the remaining board members.

Under the leadership of Lisa-Marie, we were able to resoundingly defeat Amendment 1, the Opportunity School District legislation. Lisa-Marie is a recognized leader who has worked tirelessly to unify PTA throughout the state; She has mended fences and rebuilt bridges since she took office. This faction has

  • Brought forth a policy that creates a bylaw change to all local units without bringing it forth for a vote by the membership, as required not only by our bylaws but as a 501c3, non-profit association;
  • Removed 5 board members in the past 3 months. In addition to those mentioned above Marina Staples, 2nd Vice President and Nicole Ponziani, Fraud & Conflict Resolution Specialist. These removals all occurred without due process as outlined in PTA governing documents;
  • Denied Open Records Requests for information by members, which Georgia non-profit law requires them to provide;
  • Not been abiding by the governing documents they require of all of the Local Units – Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, Georgia Non-Profit Law, and Roberts Rules of Order; and
  • Voted to send a large number of board members to National Convention despite lack of sufficient funds to cover the cost. It is time that we, the membership, all 248,000+, make our voices heard!

Here is what you, as a GA PTA member can do TODAY:

Contact the Georgia Secretary of State 404-656-2881 urging a freeze of all funds to halt any further mismanagement and conduct a forensic audit. With the illegal removal of our President, who was a signer on our account, it is required that an audit is performed. This is especially important since a fraud investigator, brought in by our President to guarantee where our money is going, was also removed by this faction. ·

Contact GA PTA 404-659-0214 and ask:

  1. For a copy of their latest 990 that they filed with the IRS,
  2. Why you, the member, has not been informed of the removal of any elected Board member
  3. Why are they not following procedure according to our governing documents and
  4. Demand answers as to why they removed elected people and you would like a copy of the minutes from this past weekend’s BOD meeting.
  • Contact National PTA, 703-518-1200 or 800-307-4782 and tell them that as the higher authority of GA PTA they need to step in and oversee, and not just observe, that the GA PTA BOD complies with all laws, codes and requirements and email all board members asking such.

Signed, Former Executive Committee and GA PTA Board/Committee Members under multiple administrations

Reader Comments 1

27 comments
Reasonable24
Reasonable24

I believe in the mission of PTA however I can't continue to support an organization that is run by petty power hungry people. I would rather see the PTA dues stay at the local level and do good for the children. The state PTA seems to be mostly focused on membership instead of worthwhile programs for students. From the past actions that I have read about it seems the majority of the budget pays for food and travel for executives. I can't say for certain since the budget is not posted anywhere on the Georgia PTA website. If there is nothing to hide why do they not post the budget and meeting minutes online.

Charles Lawhon
Charles Lawhon

"If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward."

Martin Luther King Jr.

Motivation |

Im quite sure THIS IS THE PATH President Barr and the existing administration will choose to go down moving forward. So grab your posters and boycott and picket and at the end of the day when someone asks you what you are picketing and holding up signs simply tell them the truth if you have it in you and say IM MAD BECAUSE MY FRIENDS NO LONGER CONTROL THE BOARD and we can't wear iur little BOARD OF DIRECTORS NAME TAGS. GEEZ!!

Charles Lawhon
Charles Lawhon

I have sat here the past few days and just laughed at the very people that are fueling the flames within this situation because the very things they are accusing this administration of THEY were ALL involved in the same activities throughout the years they served on the board. I could really care less for the he said she said DRAMA that IS PTA and that is the main reason I stepped away from the board. As far as fraudulent activities or misappropriation of funds EVERY BOARD AND ADMINISTRATION could be guilty of that because MISAPPROPRIATION is a broad brush to sling around. Any fraudulent activities will ALWAYS come to light in your audits that are performed. You need to go back and check past administrations numbers and how much DEBT that put GEORGIA PTA in while spending between $25-50,000 on CLT. Or paying a band or DJ's THOUSANDS of dollars to play at private parties within PTA. As far as someone "Rigging" elections REALLY? If you would take the time while running your mouths and actually read the number of delegates and compare that number to the number of ballots cast ANY GENIUS could see do the numbers match up. Now on Leslie Cushman any of you that are bashing her at this time knowing what her family is going through at this time should be ASHAMED of yourselves. She is in a LIFE or DEATH situation in her life isn't now and you choose to drag her name thru the mud? THAT IN ITSELF SHOWS YOUR CHARACTER OR LACK OF. So glad I'm no longer apart of this association simply because of DRAMA like this. If the PERSONS in LEADERSHIP positions are found to be incompetent to perform his or HER duties then that person takes the risk of being removed bottom line REGARDLESS HIS OR HER SKIN COLOR!!

Each of us were taught at a young age to NEVER give an opinion on something until the FACTS or revealed but yet because we have tea or go the brunch club or country club together that doesn't apply to us. As Far as Rita Erves goes, I to have had issues with her in the past but you know what we worked thru them and did what's was best for the CHILDREN of this state. Do or did I agree with everything she did or said? NO BUT AGAIN we did what was best for the Children of this state. She has ALWAYS treated me with respect and asked my opinion on matters if she chose to. She would NEVER DO OR SAY ANYTHING to bring harm or disgrace to the association because like most of us we are here for the CHILDREN! Now do people get side tracked and off point sometimes? SURE they do but that's why you have accountability steps in place. So get off your HOLY THAN THOU HIGH HORSE and actually do something productive like make an impact in someone's life that may not be in your circle of influence or friends. Because at the end of the day NONE OF US ARE BETTER THAN THE OTHER WE ARE ALL GOING TO BE BURIED AND PUT IN THE GROUND AT SOME POINT. GEEZ!!

Stephanie Pittman Pannell
Stephanie Pittman Pannell

There is a meeting next Tuesday about this! Really sad! I liked her! She is personable and funny!

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

Georgia PTA has a new statement on its Facebook page pledging transparency, yet is deleting all critical comments and questions and now even blocking PTA members from commenting. It is only leaving up positive comments, many from the very board officials under fire. 

I have no idea if anyone is advising the Georgia PTA board on its communications with the public but this is not the way to convince Georgians it is an open organization and willing to respond to concerns.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Maureen, they are in Wagon Train mode: get the wagons in a circle and keep the attacking Indians outside.

They don't care what anyone else thinks.

Have you contacted the national PTA? They just blew $5 million in the last referendum and now the state crowd is building bad will.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@BurroughstonBroch Yes and all national said was: 


National PTA has been made aware through both phone calls and email correspondence that PTA members in Georgia are concerned about the recent actions taken by the Georgia State PTA Board of Directors. We are always concerned when state-or local-level conflicts distract from the important mission of representing our children to the best of our ability.

National PTA is separately incorporated from our state PTAs and each has its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. As such, we are not a ''parent company” that can intervene and correct perceived or real inequities except in restricted situations as directed by our membership and Board of Directors through our Bylaws and Standards of Affiliation. National PTA has been in communication with the past and current state leadership to assess whether this situation would meet those intervention standards.

It remains our sincere hope that Georgia PTA can swiftly find an equitable resolution to its current conflict that will embrace the needs of the greatest numbers of members and leaders. We will continue to support all of our state PTAs and the valuable work that our members do to make a difference for children, families, schools and communities.

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

This was orchestrated by Nathan Deal and is retribution for not supporting his Opportunity School District. No doubt about it.

Katrina Bishop
Katrina Bishop

Carol Sheridan Dial how do you know that about Patty McSweeney Yohn?

Carol Sheridan Dial
Carol Sheridan Dial

Oh, yes. It is. But I don't expect you to believe it. You are clearly in his pocket.

Patty McSweeney Yohn
Patty McSweeney Yohn

Carol Sheridan Dial No, not even a Republican, but having served on this board for many years and having experience with this group of people I feel certain.

Media Experts
Media Experts

Worldwide, we All Recognize, The State of Virginia, will never be able to sing a song again to Enter The United States of America. That is the result that a Virginia mother will not buy the band instrument for the spirit or letter, to her praise only.

day off
day off

Teachers at my school are forced to join the local and National PTA. If 100% of us don't, our school loses out on a cash grant. We're reminded of this almost daily at the start of each new school year.

Which is a problem for teachers who don't agree with the opposition of the National PTA to parental choice, charter schools and tuition vouchers.

The National PTA claims to speak for all teachers and parents. That's galling and very inaccurate.

ChrisRMurphy
ChrisRMurphy

Wow.  I am a past PTSA officer at Maynard Jackson HS (all APS schools are required to have a chapter).  We had none > little participation the first couple years, but then with the school's turnaround the chapter has become a good force.  Thing that always bugged me, though, was that our dues were only $5 (95% low SES students), but $3.75 of that went to the state & national org.'s. 
Because of my participation in other non-profits & associations, I've been educated in bylaws and other governing documents and practices.  Whenever an org. violates those, you can be sure it's covering up far worse: going by proper procedures is not a burden, it's a way of transparently doing business, which is so necessary to not only get and keep support, but to avoid fraud and abuse.  Sad story, this situation is going to hurt on many, many levels.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Follow the money. Like any union-related organisation, the higher ups want their money first and with no stings attached.

Cbriscoe_brown
Cbriscoe_brown

@ChrisRMurphy While APS encourages parent participation at all levels, there is no policy requiring each school have a PTA. Since GAPTA is a separate organization, APS has no authority to force them to charter or maintain a chapter at any school. As a former PTA Board member at every school my children attended, however, I know how much strong PTAs contribute to the culture and growth of a school community. Thank you, Chris, for all you do!

Debbie Sauls Rabjohn
Debbie Sauls Rabjohn

Where is the logic in this ? How do you have a mutual removal that was necessary? Mutual means that they agreed upon the removal .. I can safely say that it was not mutual ! People need to ask some questions !! Again I say take care of the children at our schools , but hold this group accountable ! It's going to hit their membership hard .. when schools pay only for 25 members next year .. I will personally make donations to the school in need .. i will no longer support frivolous spending at this level .

Lori Winters Sweet
Lori Winters Sweet

Lisa Marie is one of the most ethical people I know. There is no way this was a mutual decision, and I have no doubt plans were orchestrated to take this action.

Pamela Jenkins-Sanford
Pamela Jenkins-Sanford

When someone that brings in an auditor and promotes accountability is dismissed this way, it certainly makes you wonder... I'd love to hear more about this.

Chuck-U Schumer
Chuck-U Schumer

The National PTA is widely viewed as a puppet of the teachers' unions, seconding their talking points against accountability and school choice. 

The fact that this pro-union newspaper column is going to bat for an ousted PTA operative who worked to defeat the Governor's reform plan only strengthens that view.

Tom Green
Tom Green

If parents and teachers realized the inconsequential percentage of dues that stays in their local schools compared the the overwhelming percentage that is sent off for administration fees, I suspect they'd much rather just donate the money to their local school as opposed to providing jobs at the state and national levels along with free trips to conventions.

Cydne Burris Tweddle
Cydne Burris Tweddle

I have not given to the PTA in years, because I don't trust where the money ultimately goes. I do however support the direct needs of my children's schools and teachers.