Whether your school’s parent organization is linked to the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or is an independent local school organization, you have something in common. Eventually, officers will transition, and all the knowledge needs to pass from the outgoing officer to the incoming officer.
Parent organizations are comprised of people eager to be involved in their child’s school, and also people who are elected board president and say, “Never in my life did I see this happening.” Parent engagement comes in many forms. However, if you find yourself here, welcome to the esteemed club!
The National PTA has a wealth of information for local leaders addressing mission, leadership, finance, membership, fundraising, and communications.
We talked to parents, school staff, and PTO leaders to find pain points and solutions when the parent organization has a leadership transition.
How to keep PTA and PTO institutional knowledge intact
For two years, Victoria Haller was the vice president of her local parent alliance in Aptos, CA. She is now in her second year as president.
“We are a group of parents who will welcome you overwhelmingly with open arms and then never let you go,” she told us.
After four years of involvement, Haller knows that someone will need to have an eye on transition next year because her child will age out of elementary school.
Yearly officer transitions bring their own kind of stress. Everyone has just settled into a working routine of understanding their positions, and suddenly, it’s time to change it up.
Often, PTOs and PTAs end up losing years of institutional knowledge as students move or age out of their buildings. Valuable information is likely to live inside the head of the outgoing officer, or on the desktop of a past volunteer.
However, there are ways you can better manage a leadership transition and maintain all that great information and knowledge your volunteers spent years cultivating.
Personal email address are out, generic PTA email addresses are in
According to Heller, using personal or work email addresses for volunteer positions at school is one of the most significant volunteer pain points.
Outgoing leaders are subject to hundreds of unwanted emails, and incoming leaders have no ready access to existing donor email lists or contact information.
In other words, it’s a nightmare, and new officers often need to start from scratch. Cue the headache!
The California State PTA suggests generic emails for officers for easier transitions. If your organization hasn’t done this, let this change begin with you, friend.
Keep it all in one place
Being a PTA/PTO board member is a lot easier when you know which PTA members, school leaders, or school administrators have helped out with fundraisers or other volunteer opportunities in the past.
Searching for contacts, current fundraisers, outside fundraisers, and who manages school merchandise delays being able to get to the business of supporting your child’s school and boosting parent engagement.
If you are the outgoing officer, gather information to pass on to your successor. In whatever form you have it—spreadsheets, paper lists, databases—gather it up, so the next person doesn’t have to start from scratch.
If this isn’t already digitized, taking care of that would be a great gift to the next person doing your job. Specialized apps can help manage your lists of people, activities, fundraisers, and school merchandise.
If you are an incoming volunteer, find out what information and tools you will have available. If the information isn’t consolidated into one place, now would be a great time to do that.
If you can keep track of contacts, fundraisers, school spirit gear, finances, and emails under one roof, it will save you hours in time and effort.
There are a lot of great options out there, but we are a fan of Give. However, always be sure to check out the fee structures of other fundraising tools as you search for ways to keep all your organization’s information under one roof.
And remember what we advised above—create anything new with a generic email address attached to your officer position. Doing so will save you from the pain of a crowded inbox and make a seamless transition for your successor.
Haller started a shared drive with information about each position and “encouraged each board member to add a list of their responsibilities so that we can have continuity.”
Engaging families in multiligual districts
If you live in a culturally rich district, odds are English won’t be the first language of many of your students and their families. There are some great ways to ensure everyone is included.
The National PTA has Spanish resources geared toward student potential and PTA membership in the school community.
You still need help communicating reminders for parent-teacher conferences, teacher appreciation week, and other activities to raise family and community involvement.
One solution is a school-communication app with automated two-way translation in many languages. All notifications, posts, and direct messages are automatically translated into whatever language the person has set as their default language with the right app. Having two-way translation with no extra steps is a time saver for all.
See an example of English to Spanish translation in a school-home communication.
Thank you so much for devoting your time and talents to your local school and community. We see the work you put in, and we know your students, families, districts, and communities see and appreciate it, too.