As members flee, Georgia PTA risks status, stability

One of the promo pitches to get parents to join the Georgia PTA. That may be a harder sell in the wake of the group’s internal battling. (Georgia PTA)

On probation for a coup that ousted a revered president and under siege from a growing revolt in the ranks, the leadership of the Georgia PTA is burrowing deeper into its bunker.

When the embattled board emerges and takes stock, it’s likely to find a changed landscape. Dozens of PTAs have decided to initiate the complicated process of dissolving to become independent PTOs or Parent Teacher Organizations. Sixteen of 24 PTA units in Forsyth County plan to dissolve.

Defections have risen after the National PTA placed the Georgia PTA on probation in March over alleged misconduct related to the January removal of President Lisa-Marie Haygood. A Cherokee parent, Haygood led the PTA’s successful campaign last fall against the Opportunity School District.

“Clearly, the situation in Georgia is a departure from our important mission,” said National PTA President Laura Bay.

Adding to the skepticism about the stability of the Georgia PTA, its annual signature event, a statewide convention scheduled for June, was postponed without explanation. New state PTA President Tyler Barr sent me a note Friday night saying a new date will be announced next week.

Former Georgia PTA second vice president Marina Staples of Gwinnett County was among the leaders removed through a series of maneuvers by the reigning board. “Basically, there is a board sitting there holding spaces for a PTA that is literally falling apart,” said Staples. “I believe in the PTA brand. I totally do. What I don’t believe in are the people sitting in that boardroom right now.”

Staples and other PTA members contend the board is more concerned with its self-serving agenda than salvaging the organization. A concern of both white and African-American PTA leaders around the state: The ringleaders of the takeover are sowing racial dissent and running roughshod over policies and people in their way.

Barr maintains the evidence will vindicate the actions of the controlling faction that engineered the removal of Haygood. But the National PTA is still awaiting that evidence, contending Georgia PTA has yet to adequately address questions about transparency, financial oversight and bylaw violations.

A damning resolution by local PTA councils in Georgia cites a host of offenses, including: “punitive policies that were then made retroactive with the intent of denying qualified volunteers from being eligible to serve on the Board of Georgia PTA…continuing actions of the Georgia PTA leadership damaging the PTA brand…continuing concern that Georgia PTA funds are being used in an inappropriate manner and all requests for financial disclosure have been denied” and the postponement of “the annual convention where elections are held for new leadership.”

The resolution urges National PTA to immediately remove the current Georgia PTA leadership and conduct oversight of the nominations for and election of new officers for Georgia PTA at a convention “before July 1 so that new leadership for Georgia PTA can be elected and installed with adequate time to allow district, councils, and local units time to plan for and conduct membership drives to support the new leadership.”

“It remains our sincere hope that Georgia PTA swiftly finds an equitable resolution to its conflict that embraces the needs of the greatest number of members and leaders. It is essential that we get back to our mission and valuable work to make a difference for our children, families, schools and communities,” said Bay.

Barr insists Georgia PTA is not crumbling, saying, “Currently, the state office received one dissolution from a local PTA. I look forward to assisting other local PTAs with any issues to continue their support for our children. I understand we have experienced changes but Georgia PTA is not in a crisis and remain a strong association.”

Georgia has been a strong pillar for the PTA, sending thousands of dollars to the state and national offices from member dues. Now, there are fears any National PTA censure of the board will represent too little too late to reverse the exodus of parents. The national president hopes local PTAs in Georgia will not flee.

“PTA’s power is in our collective voice,” said Bay. “Though it may be tempting to withdraw from PTA when there is conflict, those that work through the conflict together end up having the greatest capacity to serve our children and families. Over PTA’s 120 year history there has been more than one struggle, but PTA has, and always will, not only survive but flourish once our attention returns to our mission.”

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
An American Patriot
An American Patriot

The biggest obstacle to a strong PTA at our schools IMO, is a lack of neighborhood togetherness.  As an example, in the City of Decatur School System, a student starting in Kindergarten attends three (yeah, that's right, 3) different schools before reaching high school.  That's four (4) DIFFERENT schools that a student attends in the same system before graduation.  The time in each school is just not enough time to build good relationships that lead to a good PTA Council.  By the time you leave one school to go to another, you have parents from all of the elementary schools with different outlooks and ideas and it takes valuable time to meld into a cohesive group.  Folks, neighborhood schools built the greatest country in the history of the world, The United States of America.  It's time to go back to those things that have worked out well for America.  

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

PTA's membership has dropped from 12 million in the 1960s to fewer than 5 million now. Part of the reason is that the PTA merely mimics the political positions of the national teachers' unions, parents be damned.

It is past time that this organisation cease to influence public education in Georgia.

L_D
L_D

PTA's greatest strength is in advocating at higher levels.  At a local level, PTA versus PTO isn't a huge deal, but one PTO will not carry much weight when trying to save school nurses or fighting school takeovers at a state level.  Also, PTOs do not have access to the training, resources, and support offered by PTA.  If a school's PTA has any issues or needs assistance, there is a hierarchy to provide it.  If your school has a PTO, then the PTO is on its own.  

It would be wonderful if the current GA PTA "board" would grow-up and resign in the best interest of the association.  Unfortunately, it appears they are immature, self-serving, and only interested in what benefits them!

Elizabeth Reinhardt Stansbury
Elizabeth Reinhardt Stansbury

Seriously? You almost feel sorry for Mr. Barr for inheriting a systemic board culture. However, Tyler has yet to communicate directly with his local units and show that GAPTA is doing anything to help rebuild PTA in GA. I hope all local units can just hold on for a few more months and give National PTA the chance to make things right to the school and families in Georgia.

Sandra Cason
Sandra Cason

Tried for years to get them to do something. Really disgusting as I find out more and more about the inner workings of Georgia PTA. When did we stray so far away from our founding mothers? What would they say about the state of Georgia PTA today? I dedicated 8 years of my life to this organization because I believed in theIr mission. I wish everyone believed in it too. To those that do, we remain in PTA because of the children, not in support of this mess in Atlanta. Oh what a tangled web we weave....

Marlyn Tillman
Marlyn Tillman

Knew this was coming. Tried to warn the National years ago. This is not about the children.

Michelle Shoup Quartel
Michelle Shoup Quartel

How big does one's ego have to be to place a higher value on vindication than on doing what is right for the children?

Tommy Skrak
Tommy Skrak

In 30 years I've never seen more than maybe 15 or so at a pta.

Richard Cionci
Richard Cionci

Georgia PTA is a microcosm of education in Georgia in general, starting with Governor Dumbass.

Alt AJC
Alt AJC

Over the years the National PTA has become a tool of the teachers' unions, seconding their agenda even on issues not pertaining to education.

Parents genuinely inspired to help local schools should join or form PTOs.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Show me one position of the national PTA that differs from those of the teachers' unions.

taylor48
taylor48

@Alt AJC Let me guess - any group that disagrees with you is a "tool of the teacher's unions".  Because it's completely impossible for both parents and teachers to agree that something like the OSD was bad for Georgia.  I guess 60% of the voters in Georgia were bamboozled by those all powerful teacher's unions.

Katrina Bishop
Katrina Bishop

How is it legal for GA PTA to cancel their annual conference and elections? I don't understand?!

Patty McSweeney Yohn
Patty McSweeney Yohn

And by cancelling their contract rather than doing the work they spent another $46,000 in membership fees for nothing. Add that to their $20,000 vacation to National PTA Convention in Las Vegas.

Marina Staples
Marina Staples

It's just inconceivable to me how this group has managed over the last few months to destroy something that has been built through the hard work and dedication of volunteers over the last 120 years! Unfortunately, in some ways, I believe that was exactly the intention of the leader. Some people can't deal with good unless it's making them look goodwill. It's not a part of their mindset.

Patty McSweeney Yohn
Patty McSweeney Yohn

It's damning but truthful. The current board is hopeless. Until they remove the influence of PP Rita Erves there is no hope for a positive future. All along she has been the one sowing the division and orchestrating the craziness. Years ago only a few of us knew this through her actions in D9, but now you could ask members all across the state and they know. Hundreds upon hundreds of members know. Enough already. And to all that know but continue to support this nonsense you are complicit!

Amy Clark Carter
Amy Clark Carter

We also know that people who are arrested leave a trail on social media. Google her name.

Reasonable24
Reasonable24

A vital part of a successful education system is parent and community involvement. Local units must do what is right to support their schools. The current state board is pushing valuable volunteers out and making it hard to recruit parent involvement. The current board is not helping to develop leadership for the local units and there are questionable financial practices in place. Until the current board is fully replaced all local units should dissolve and become PTOs to do what is right for their schools.

Lori Winters Sweet
Lori Winters Sweet

Thank you Maureen for your continued work on this vital piece. It is a tragedy where things are and that current state leadership is so inept. President Barr spoke at the 9th District conference this past Tuesday morning and it was one of the most embarrassing speeches I have heard. The only one that beats his was made by former President Erves where she told the room full of principals and superintendents that "she did not need educated people to help her, she only needed people with heart". That's a quote that still resonates within those who attended that particular meeting.

Marina Staples
Marina Staples

I am confused. When District 12 Director Dee Dee Jackson read the motion to remove Lisa Marie Haygood as president that made her the past president. Why would the past past president Rita Erves need anyone? Probably because this is not Tyler Barr's administration. It is hers - again. We, the members, have no idea who they have picked for the next administration. You can be sure that the people that are touring Georgia on the Rita Erves Roadshow are the ones! The games continue as District 12 Director Dee Dee Jackson again plans a District conference at a time that will not allow the local units to attend!. It is on a Tuesday at 11:00 a.m!  And because no schools will allow her to have meetings in their facility it is being held at a public library. All I can say is the beat goes on....

MarinaStaples
MarinaStaples

If CLT is held in August who is going to vote?? The local units who had 100's of members for 2016-17 no longer have voting rights. The new boards would not have had time to get new members. So who is going to vote???

And being held the week that school starts in many counties - who is even going to be able to attend??