PTO Today Blog

Ideas, news, opinions and tips about what’s happening in the parent group world

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The holiday break is almost upon us. The last thing we want to suggest is more work for anyone, but there are a few very easy things you can do right now that will make January a little less hectic.

1. Send out a reminder for the January PTO meeting. Promise folks you’ll do something fun, like a trivia game with small prizes, to get people interested. 

2. Ask the principal if you can meet in early January to discuss the school’s 100th day celebration plans. Find out how your group can help. 

3. Schedule a leadership meeting for January. Bring together the board and committee chairs to discuss ways to increase involvement during the second half of the school year. 

4. Think about potential leader candidates for the 2015-16 school year (yes, now!). Jot down a few names and schedule a January board meeting to discuss transition plans. 

5. Take a quick look at the supply closet and schedule a time to order online or hit the stores early next month. 
Posted in Running Your Group

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We love dads here at PTO Today, especially involved school dads. And this week I have a few simple tips and links and programs to help you connect with more dads at your school.
First, please do note that dads’ involvement is different. The most successful schools in terms of involving fathers have custom programs just for them. It might not be fair that PTOs and PTAs are mostly associated with moms, but it's reality. Don't fight it -- get dads involved with whatever name works.
And I have a sneak preview of an article about dads from our upcoming January magazine. Called “A Place for Dads,” it’s a piece that highlights three programs that help fathers be part of their kids’ education. Each is worth a look.
We'd love to hear about dads at your school. Jump into our Facebook conversation about dads’ involvement.
Posted in Parent Involvement
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We recently asked our Facebook friends to share community service ideas that promote kindness and the spirit of giving. We had the opportunity to give away 10 copies of the best-selling book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and so we are sharing them with the community members who posted our favorite ideas. Here’s a summary of those ideas:

We hold a free Winter Wonderland craft night and we ask for donations of hats, gloves, and scarves. The children hang them on a tree as they walk in to the event and these are donated to local families. One of the craft stations is a cardmaking area and the cards are delivered to a local nursing home. —Patty McPhie  

Our school does a book exchange before our school breaks (winter, spring, and summer). The children bring in books they no longer read and they take another book in exchange. We make sure children who aren’t able to donate a book still get one to bring home. —Melissa Derhake Buttry

We ask parents to donate gently used clothes for our clothes closet. Our guidance counselor sends out letters with permission slips to get information on the type of clothing and sizes needed. She then tells the PTO know what’s needed and we fill bags with clothes for her to distribute. —Denise Bailey Pickett

We recently held a fundraiser to help one of our students with medical bills. Our PTO purchased a flat-screen TV for a raffle and our cafeteria ladies put together a spaghetti night. The PTO helped sell spaghetti plates. We raised close to $2000! —Rebekka Beattie 

Our school has a lot of low-income families—that being said, they are the most giving and caring! We participate in a sock, hat, and mitten drive, as well as the Coats for Kids and Toys for Tots programs. Our community garden provides students and neighbors through the warmer months with fresh produce. Also, we have some classes that draw names for a “Secret Friend” each week and the students will go above and beyond to be nice to that student each day. —Michelle Sutton 

We  asked school families to donate gently used coats, gloves, mittens, boots, and hats to school. We arrange for students in need to select items and then we donate the remainder to a homeless shelter. We had some of the students deliver the unwanted item to the shelter. It was a great experience. —Joni Waterburys-Salazar. 

We hold an annual Holiday Bazaar. We ask our families to donate gently used items. Volunteers sort through donations and put them on display during a two-day event at school. The students “go shopping” by selecting free items for their family members or friends. Volunteers wrap gifts for the students. We usually have so many donations that each of our 500-plus students are permitted three gifts each. It is such a heartwarming experience to watch these young children shop! —Jennifer Griffin Boivin
 
Our school just finished one of our several “giving back” events. Children were asked to work at home to earn money. For each dollar earned and donated, they receive a paper hand with their name on it. We posted the hands to the wall, creating a giant loop of “giving hands”! We then purchased $50 gift cards from the donations and give those to local charities. —Tracy Rich Sisti 

Our middle school raises money and collects toys for needy families in our city during the holiday season. To raise money, kids sell hot chocolate, snacks, drinks, and candy canes at school. They even donate unneeded items and hold an auction among their classmates. Also, students  do a gift-wrapping night for the community. —Kim Nevers 

Our 2nd and 3rd graders have a readathon and get pledges from family members and close friends. The students use the money to buy food for our church’s food pantry. Students and teachers go to the local retailers to purchase the food and deliver it to the food pantry. —Wendy Hallquist-Horen
Posted in Community Service
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How do you plan to say thanks to your volunteers this holiday season? We have two very simple no-cost suggestions that will make your volunteers happy and pay dividends for your group.

First of all, a word about volunteer appreciation. A lot of groups, if they think of volunteer appreciation at all, think of it as an end-of-year event when you celebrate the contributions of everyone who helped out during the year. You hold this great energizing event, but then everyone heads their separate ways for the summer. Why not focus on volunteer appreciation during the year, when you can reap the benefits of your positive gesture? 

In fact, volunteer appreciation works best as an ongoing effort rather than a single big event. Think of it as a regular series of small gestures that continually let people know that their contributions really matter. In that vein, here are our two suggestions for the holiday season.

First, for people who have volunteered this semester, send them a personal email simply saying thanks for their help and how much you appreciate their time and effort. You can split this task up among board members or committee chairs. Every email doesn’t have to be different, but they all need to be personalized. (No mass “thanks to everybody who helped out”—that doesn’t work.)

Second, reach out to people who haven’t helped out at all this semester. Specifically, go through your records and email everyone who signed up as a potential volunteer at back-to-school time or during the fall. Let them know that you appreciate their support of your parent group and their willingness to volunteer. Say that you look forward to working with them in the coming weeks and months. Then, be sure to act on contacting them for specific volunteer opportunities, whether now or in the next month or so. 

The point of contacting your volunteers is to spread a little holiday goodwill and, especially, to keep them thinking warmly about your group.
 
The point of contacting people who didn’t volunteer—but once expressed their willingness—is to reopen the window of opportunity by letting them know you still value what they can provide.

So take some time to reach out and spread a little appreciation. After all, ’tis the season.
Here's a wish for the happiest of holidays to everyone! 

Posted in PTO Today News

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This week I'm going for the practical. If your group is planning an upcoming auction, we have some great resources that you have to share with your planning team:
 
1. Have you gotten connected with our Ultimate Donation List yet? This popped up organically on our message boards several years ago and has taken on a life of its own.  Your donations committee will thank you!


2. At my kids' school, our best sellers each year are special, one-of-a-kind items made by the kids. Check out this Pinterest board for exactly the kinds of things I'm talking about.

 
3. We also have our Auctions page with links to dozens of auction ideas and resources. 

 
4. Finally, I loved the sharing on this lively Facebook discussion about how many items to include in your live auction. Read and learn, or offer your own insight.

 
Good luck!
Posted in Auctions
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If you are a room parent, you likely are feeling a tad bit overloaded right about now. The holiday season can do that to you.

Between organizing the class holiday party, coming up with craft and activity ideas, collecting donations for the class teacher gift, and pitching in on any schoolwide holiday events as needed, you are feeling the squeeze, right? 

Well, head over to our sister site, HomeroomMom.com, a one-stop resource that covers everything from craft ideas and recipes to organizational tips. HomeroomMom.com launched just a few weeks ago and we think room parents will love it because it is built on a community of people who have logged in time as room moms themselves. So, the craft ideas are from the real world, not some multi-step creations that only master crafters can do. Same goes for the classroom party decorations and recipes. HomeroomMom.com knows how busy you are and the site’s contributors want to make things easier for you. 

Also, the site has growing social communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can join the conversation where it works best for you. Please check out these channels and give a like or follow if you like what you see. If you know room parents at your school, please share the HomeroomMom.com links! 

So, check out HomeroomMom.com for quick turnaround ideas for the holidays. There’s a post that provides several simple and healthy snack ideas, like whole wheat pizza in the shape of a candy cane, and a holiday craft blog that offers simple suggestions like making snowflakes from macaroni. Also just posted is a teacher gifts blog that’ll be particularly helpful if you are working with a male teacher. 


Chances are, you’ll feel a little less overloaded if you try some of these easy ideas. And be on the lookout because HomeroomMom.com has big plans for new content in 2015! 
Posted in Parent Involvement
The Lowe's Toolbox for Education Grant program is open for the Spring 2015 cycle! On this video, PTOToday's Barb Blake shares some good advice for completing the application process. For more information on the grant program, go to the Lowe's Toolbox for Education website. Also, you can submit questions at this email: info@toolboxforeducation



Posted in Parent Group News

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This parent involvement stuff isn't always easy, but sometimes groups miss out on the simple, foundational steps that make a big difference long-term. Has your group taken care of these fundamentals?

1. Communication. Do you have an updated email list of parents and a way to communicate regularly with your parent community? There are many options for this basic, including PTO Today's free Parent Express Email tool.

2. Insurance. Protecting your leaders, your group, and your assets is also a basic. You have homeowner's and auto and health insurance, right? PTO Insurance is likewise a necessity.  Read more about our PTO and PTA insurance options.

3. Clear, organized books. Long-term success depends on the whole school trusting that your group is taking care of its funds -- the funds parents provide -- well. Who is counting cash? Who has a look at your books? Read "5 Smart Financial Controls" for some great information. 

4. A sense of humor and fun. Keep things as light as you can and don't take yourself too seriously. Yes, I realize I'm talking about fun right after insurance and finances. But you can do the basics well and still be a warm, lighthearted group. Fun makes life way more gratifying for existing volunteers and makes it way more likely that you'll attract new ones. And finding someone to take your job is what it's all about, right? 

Good luck!

Tagged in: treasurer
Posted in Running Your Group
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We recently asked our community to share ideas for anti-bullying programs and we were blown away by the response. One thing is for sure: Stomping out bullying is clearly a priority for parent groups. As a thanks for all the great ideas, we're giving away 10 copies of the new anti-bullying book from Random House, Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean, by actress Jane Lynch. It wasn’t easy to select just 10 favorites—there were so many wonderful ideas! But here is our list, and if you’d like to see dozens more ideas, check out the antibullying thread on our Facebook page. Thanks again to everyone who contributed!

Playground peacemakers: Ask older students at your elementary school to casually patrol the playground while younger students are at recess. Encourage them to reach out to students who may be playing alone or to let teachers know about a student who seems to be struggling. With guidance, older students can help younger students resolve simple disputes. -Christina Gaudenzi Cistaro  

Tree notes: If your school has a large tree near its entrance, adorn it with anti-bullying messages. If the notes are abundant, it will become a conversation piece and keep students talking about anti-bullying. -Yaritza A. Cortes 

Superheroes: Use a theme for an anti-bullying program. For example, the Pillager PTO ran a campaign called Superhero: Stop Bullying  that included a poster and essay contest. Each participant received a button with the Superhero: Stop Bullying slogan. Essays and posters were displayed at school to promote awareness and photos of prizewinning entries were published in the local newspaper. -Misty Cremers 

Build strength and confidence: Create a program focused on fitness and athletics, two areas where kids are often bullied. A fun-in-fitness program can bring together kids who are bullied to work with students who can mentor. Together, the kids work on basic skills and teamwork. Not only does it send a message about healthy habits, but it can also boost confidence and self-worth. -Jennifer Russo Crawford  

Message in a locker: Work with middle school students to write positive and inspirational notes to classmates. Students then slip notes into lockers without being seen. Classmates later find a surprise note that boosts their spirits. It’s the act of writing the note as much as receiving one that improves students’ attitude toward others. -Jenny Jaydena Duncan

Lunch friends: Try to mix things up at lunch. Select a group of students, such as the National Honor Society members, to sit with different groups of younger students on a regular basis. Students will get to know other students who they wouldn’t typically meet. -Tina Cooper

Random notes: Create a Random Acts of Kindness board. Start off with a bulletin board with a plain black background. Explain to students the idea behind random acts of kindness. Provide colorful sticky notes to teachers and ask them to write down a note about an act of kindness they observe. Soon, the plain, black bulletin board will be a rainbow of colors and each note will provide an idea for another act of kindness. -Francesca Corona 

Buddy club: Set up a buddy club made up of a handful of reliable students who can reach out to students who may be new to the school or may be having trouble making friends. -Mandy Sargeon

Daily reminder: Ask children to participate in the morning announcements at school so they can share a daily message about anti-bullying. One option is to repeat a motto each day, such as “Treat people the way you want to be treated and make it a great day!” -Shuyue Velasquez

Kind words all year long: Start by having each student pull a name of a classmate from a hat. Each student keeps an eye on their new “friend.’’ At the end of the week, students compose a note with compliments or nice thoughts and deliver it to their friend. The process is repeated throughout the school year and at year’s end, each student has a ring of index cards full of inspirational notes. -Amy Fioretti Harvey

Posted in Parent Involvement

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My favorite message every year. Thanksgiving. I get to thank the people who spend all year serving others and thanking others but who don't get thanked nearly enough themselves.

Yes -- you!

On behalf of all of us at PTO Today and on behalf of all of those in your school community who should be thanking you and maybe don't show it enough -- thank you. Thanks for your willingness to give your time and talent. Thanks for your passion for your school and the kids. Thanks for making a difference. And please take a moment today to hear a well-deserved message of thanks from our community manager, Rose Cafasso.

I'll be back with tips next week. But this week, enjoy your family. Enjoy the break. And get some rest (if you remember what that is).

Thanks again.
Posted in Tim's Tip
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If you run a school auction, you know they can be a lot of work. But they can also be extremely rewarding, both financially and in terms of building a community. 

One of the most difficult aspects of organizing an auction is lining up donations so you’ll have plenty of items, like attractive gift baskets, at your event. It can be time-consuming and even discouraging when you solicit a donation and don’t hear back from a company. 

So we think our Ultimate Donation List can be an essential resource for you. This Message Boards thread was created organically by people like you. Community members regularly share helpful tips with each other. For example, a person recently offered several good planning ideas, saying, “I've found some pretty great tips and ideas on here so I just wanted to share a few of my own.’’

One of her best suggestions was to add a self-addressed stamped envelope when sending a donation requests by traditional mail to make it as easy as possible for a vendor to respond.

Also, some community members go out of their way to boost others up. As one community member said recently on the thread, “Please don't get to discouraged about no's. My typical expectations for receiving donations from companies is 15% to 20% for local businesses, 10% for businesses in your state, and 5% for national corporations. There are just so many nonprofits that are asking for donations that they can't give to everyone.”
So, yes, auctions are not always easy. But our Ultimate Donation List can make a big difference. 

For additional auction resources: 
Posted in Auctions

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Last week we talked about avoiding a clique reputation, which got me thinking a bit about another cause of cliquishness -- PTOs and PTAs that protect their financials and decisions like the CIA would.

There really should be nothing off-limits to your school community when it comes to information about your group. What are you really trying to protect? Yes, minutes should be brief and factual and financial reports should be buttoned up. But if someone has questions or wants more info, provide it. How much did your fundraiser cost? How much did you collect in dues? If you’re a PTA, how many dollars did you send out to state and national PTA? Those are all perfectly fair questions, and if you're secretive or protective, then the assumption is that your PTO or PTA is a bunch of insiders running their own closed group.

And that's exactly what you don't want.

On the financial side, our Finance Manager software is a great tool for making sure your financials are well-tracked and easy to share. I highly recommend taking a look.

Don't be afraid of sunlight on your group. Being open sends just the right message when it comes to building engagement with all parties at your school.

Posted in Finance

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This week we asked our Facebook friends for teacher gift ideas for the holidays. Many of you, including a few teachers, said gift cards are the go-to holiday gift. It’s true, you really can’t go wrong with a gift card. But if it’s not your style, here are some additional gift ideas to consider:

·      Elf for a day. Parents donate time to help in the classroom. 

·      A day of gift wrapping. Teachers can bring various gifts to school, PTO wraps them for free.

·      A big box of K-cups for the teachers to share.

·      Games for the classroom.

·      Art supplies,  like paints and brushes, and Play-Doh for the classroom.

·      Ask teachers if there are nonprofits or causes they like to support and make a donation in their name.

·      A week of meals donated by class parents.

·      A staff lunch.

·      Traditional baked goods, like a container of homemade cookies 

·      A basket filled with smaller classroom supplies like pencils, erasers, and crayons.

·      A roll of wrapping paper and tape for the holidays.

·      Books for the classroom. 

·      Custom clipboards with teachers’ names.

·      A bottle of wine. 

·      A simple thank-you!

For more ideas, read ”For Teacher Appreciation During the Holidays, Don’t Rush It on the PTO Today blog. 

 

 

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The holidays are a natural time for parent groups to show teachers they care. But unlike Teacher Appreciation Week in May, when people’s personal calendars and schedules may be a bit clearer, the holidays are a time of busyness and stress for just about every facet of life.

The last thing you want to do is to make your teacher appreciation efforts that “one last thing” you trudge out to do the day before the winter break starts. Everyone’s been in that position with something holiday-related—it’s not fun. And it’s a situation you want to avoid when it comes to giving teachers the recognition they deserve.

One way to keep your efforts stress-free is to get an early jump. Right now, there’s still plenty of time to make your plans and execute them smoothly. Don’t wait until the third week of December when you have a mile-long to do list; that’s when you’re more likely to run into trouble. Think about what you want to do now, before time gets away from you.

It’s also more than acceptable to go with a simple expression of thanks during the holidays. Teachers completely understand how busy everyone is. What’s more, going overboard might make some teachers uncomfortable. During the season of giving, it truly is the thought that counts. So put your energy into those thoughts, versus feeling like you have to go over the top.

We have lots of great ideas for thoughtful expressions of appreciation that won’t cause a lot of stress (or cost a lot of money). Some include:

Buy some mason jars and fill them with holiday goodies (think chocolates, coffee pods, etc). Affix the jars with our newly added holiday appreciation “cheers” gift tags.


Purchase lotion or bath salts and put in a small gift bag along with our new “relax over the break” gift tags.

Have room parents collect notes of appreciation from each student and place the notes in a special box or jar. Use our “I Love...” jar tags to affix to the jars.

Buy a candle and put it in a small gift bag with our new merry/bright gift tag. (You could also throw in some chocolates—they make everyone feel merry.)

Plan a soup luncheon. Ask volunteers to bring in pots of homemade soups and chilies in slow cookers and serve the lunch in the faculty room. Round up a handful of volunteers to stay afterward to help clean up.

Purchase small bags of coffee to distribute to each teacher and enclose a tag that reads “thanks a latte for all you do!

Remember, a relaxed (and timely) approach to your teacher appreciation efforts during the holidays is a key to making sure you stay sane—and that your hardworking teachers get the thanks they deserve. In addition to those above, you’ll find lots of ideas on our Teacher Appreciation page and in our File Exchange.
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If your group is planning holiday activities for the school’s kindergartners, it’s worth remembering one thing: The simpler, the better.

All students, but especially the youngest ones, are excited during the holidays. In fact, many children are so ramped up from the many parties and festivities they attend outside of school in December that the last thing they need is an elaborate school party.

We asked both our PTO Today and Homeroommom.com Facebook communities to share holiday ideas for kindergarten classrooms, and here’s what we found:

Party Ideas

·      Set up a party with activity stations. Teachers and volunteers can help direct the children from place to place and avoid overcrowding at one particular spot.
 
·      Try uncomplicated activities like holiday bingo or a pin-the-red-nose-on-Rudolph game. One variation: Pin a carrot to a snowman’s nose.
 
·      If children seem restless, help them blow off steam with an easy game like Simon Says.
 
·      Hold a pajama party, inviting child to wear pajamas in school. They’ll have extra fun working on craft projects in their pj’s! 

·      Set up a party around a holiday or seasonal book. Serve cocoa and popcorn.
 
·      Have a brave adult volunteer as the class snowman. Have children wrap the adult in toilet paper, and, voila! You have an indoor snowman! Take photos with the children and the snowman.
 
·      Try a party-in-a-box. Ask parents to pack a simple box of treats for their child. Include a salty item, a sweet item, a beverage, and a little holiday treat. Parents can wrap the box itself as a gift to their child. Children enjoy their own treats at the holiday celebration.
 
·      Remember that school parties usually don’t run longer than 45 minutes to an hour. So budget in time for activities, snack, and cleanup.
 

Craft Ideas

·      Make paper chains with construction paper strips in multiple colors.
 
·      Paint simple ornaments. For materials, it can be as basic as construction paper or cardboard.
 
·      Create snowflake ornaments from puzzle pieces. Hold together with glue.
 
·      Use cut-out circles (from paper or cardboard) to assemble snowmen and decorate with crayons, felt pieces, and other items that can be attached with glue sticks.
 
·      Have parents make small gingerbread houses that children can decorate in class. One option is to use individual-size milk cartons as the base and attach graham crackers to the carton using frosting to “build” the house.
 
·      Create holiday “people” using toilet paper tubes as the body and decorate with construction paper pieces to make nutcrackers, snowmen, and reindeer.
 

Food

There’s a chance your school won’t allow treats. With new USDA snack rules, PTOs and room parents are learning to do parties without snacks and sweets as the focal point. What we are hearing is if there are fun, age-appropriate activities, most kids won’t even notice that there are no munchies.

If food is allowed, try these ideas:

·      Provide plain sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, or cupcakes and have children decorate with frosting and sprinkles.

·      Bring in chunks of fruit and have children make fruit kebabs.
Posted in Parent Involvement

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This post was written by Gwen Pescatore, a PTO president, mom of three, and comoderator of  #PTchat

A few years ago our board realized the same handful of people came to our parent group meetings at Knapp Elementary. But it wasn’t the head count that concerned us. We wanted to make sure our meetings were truly helpful, so we decided to evaluate our meeting content and make changes if necessary.

Our team looked at the information being shared and realized we were essentially reviewing what had happened in the month since the last meeting, giving parents information they had already heard about in conversations, in our newsletter, and on our social media sites. At the end of our meetings, families left knowing little more than when they arrived.

We decided we needed to give parents better reasons to show up. So we created a new meeting format. Each meeting runs about one hour and has four segments: tech training, educator’s voice, student’s voice, and PTO business. We also try to stay flexible. If we have a great student visitor on the schedule, we might not do tech training or an educator visit that evening. Here is the basic format:

  • Tech training: This is a short overview or demonstration of something like Twitter to help parents get a basic understanding of online tools. It’s intended to give parents enough information that they’d be interested in exploring the technology on their own. These sessions can be led by a student, teacher, or parent.
  • Educator’s voice: This is the “expert” piece and is designed to give useful information on a variety of education topics. We’ve hosted our teachers, educators from our community, and virtual visitors on Skype. Often the information shared is topical and may be a way to clarify a misconception. This segment has been generating lots of interest, and we feel we are becoming a true resource to our families. 
  • Student voice: Parents love seeing students in action. Each month, we invite a few students to discuss or demonstrate what they're doing in classes and clubs. We’ve had everything from a demonstration on how to reduce energy usage to a song performed in American Sign Language from our Sign Language Club. These presentations help keep meetings more positive. 
  • PTO business: This one’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s usually our shortest segment and includes a quick review of old business as needed and announcements for upcoming events. Even though we keep it short, we try to get feedback on upcoming decisions and share how earlier feedback impacted current decisions and events.

For those interested in this type of format, we’d recommend that you keep it flexible and get a feel for what fits best with your community. Now that we are in our second year with this new approach, we can say that we do have new faces at our meetings. But more important, we believe our parents are connecting, learning new things, and getting great resources.

Posted in Parent Involvement

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Last week I focused on the tendency of PTOs and PTAs to use "should" too much in their communications and how that message can have the opposite of its intended effect.

 

This week, I'm going to focus on actions instead of words -- specifically, two little habits that creep up even in the best groups and lead directly to the clique impression.

 

1. Pre-meeting mingles. Who do you hang with before your meetings or events officially start? I bet it's your fellow officers (who have likely become good friends or close acquaintances). It's understandable, but it sends an unsubtle message of outsider-ness to parents who aren't in the in crowd. (See Is Your PTO a Clique? ) Make it a point that officers must mingle with and welcome parent attendees before every event officially starts.

 

2. Do you really want help? It's great that you have a volunteer interest form and that you ask which parents would like to help. But do you use that information? Asking and then not following up is worse than not asking at all. Sure, when you need help fast it's easiest to call on a regular. But you send a message when you don't proactively make sure that every parent who expressed interest receives a follow-up call. Assign a volunteer whose only job is connecting with and helping new volunteers.

 

Good luck!

P.S. We're upgrading our website platform here at PTO Today. We're excited about the changes, but as we're upgrading you might notice some small glitches. Our staff is working hard to smooth out these changes, and we appreciate your patience as we work through them.

Posted in Parent Involvement

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As we head into the winter holidays, the calendar will be getting busier—with school events and parent group activities, as well as family commitments. Before things get too out of control, take a few minutes to strategize and give yourself some tools to keep from getting burned out.

First off, keep those perfectionist tendencies in check. We’ve all gotten caught up in working on something until it’s absolutely perfect, and then the next thing you know, an hour (or more!) has gone by. It’s OK to make things “good enough” if it gives you more time to catch up with your kids, your household chores, or even your sleep.

Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. No one (except maybe yourself!) expects you to do everything on your own. You’ll have the most success if your requests are specific and take a defined amount of time. For example, you can ask someone to spend an hour putting together the holiday gifts for teachers or filling in at the holiday shop checkout line. Other sources of help include high schoolers who have community service hours to fulfill and community fraternal organizations whose members are often willing to assist.

Along the same lines, be realistic about what you have time to commit to. You’ll probably be getting multiple requests for help from others. Think in advance about what you might have time for—creating a consolidated calendar that shows all of your family commitments as well as your PTO responsibilities is a helpful first step. Set limits for yourself, and be willing to say no (especially if you are already overextended). If you’re not sure, or if you need to buy yourself a little time, a good response is “Let me think about it and I’ll let you know.”

And finally, once the new year is here, do your own review. How did the various projects go? What about volunteer participation? Did your family time suffer or were you able to balance your commitments? Thinking about these issues while they are still fresh in your mind and jotting down some notes will come in handy when it’s time to make plans for next year.

Posted in Parent Involvement

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If your PTO is a 501c(3), your deadline to file your 990-N or 990-EZ form is fast approaching! For groups with a fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2014, your deadline is Nov. 17.

The deadline is typically Nov. 15, but because that date falls on a Saturday this year, the IRS has extended the deadline to Monday, Nov. 17.

For groups whose fiscal year ends on July 31, your filing date is December 15.

To get step-by-step filing instructions, go to this IRS page.

Also we have a helpful article with tips on filing tax returns that you will find here.

 

 

Tagged in: finance treasurer
Posted in Finance