Question: Setting limits on officers’ terms?

How often do you recommend turning over the gavel and other board positions? When Is It Time?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

A group’s bylaws typically govern the terms of office for board positions. Elly thinks it’s a good practice for bylaws to stipulate that officers be elected each year and serve no more than two consecutive terms.

Elly knows that some of you leaders would never dream of telling your top-notch treasurer of 13 years (who just happens to be a CPA and loves to volunteer!) that it’s time to say goodbye because of a technicality in your bylaws. But think for a minute: What would happen if your current treasurer were unexpectedly relocated or, worse, taken ill? Elly shudders to think. Your group is far better off having that gem of a treasurer share her expertise and experience with one or two newbies to ensure that there will be continuity in your group when she vacates the position. (Think junior or assistant positions.) That way, leaders are groomed for the job and comfortable before they reach their more senior positions.

Another reason why Elly feels two years is sufficient is because of the fresh energy and ideas that new board members bring to a group. It’s important that your group be perceived by parents at the school as welcoming and open to new ideas and perspectives. In addition, parents are more likely to step forward and run for a board position when they’re not up against your devoted secretary who’s served the PTO for the past 20-odd years. Two-year limits level the playing field and make the opportunity of serving in an office position more accessible to every member of your group.

Let’s not forget another good reason why a changing of the guard is important every few years—it reduces a group’s exposure to long-term mishandling or embezzlement of funds. A group that discovers its treasurer has embezzled funds over a period of one to two years is certainly at an advantage over another group who discovers theirs has done so for 11 straight years. Suffice it to say, Elly thinks a two-year period is sufficient for any position.

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