Question: Any say over how principal spends our money?

Our PTCO’s main objective is to raise money to fund teachers’ aides. We give our principal in excess of $60,000 a year to employ one teacher’s aide per grade. However, we (the parents) are not involved with the hiring, firing, or job performance reviews of any of these aides. It is our money we are giving to our principal, so what say do we have in their hiring, firing, pay rate, hours, and performance review? How can we get more involved to be sure our money is being used most effectively?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

First of all, congrats to your PTCO for being in a position to shell out that kind of cash. But second, gee whiz! That’s a lot of cash to turn over! And, as you’re unfortunately experiencing, doing so often means relinquishing a lot of control, too. Your parent group really shouldn’t have any say in who is hired or fired for the aide positions. Elly imagines there are all sorts of union rules and contractual no-no’s that stand in your way from doing so, anyway. So let the administrators do their thing—and you do yours, which is to help get more families connected to the school.

There’s nothing wrong with funding those aide positions (although it’s worth noting that some states and towns impose funding limits on education), but Elly does have a few concerns: What happens during a lackluster fundraising year—do those positions vanish? What if there are other areas of need your PTO would rather fill, such as an after-school arts program or a new computer lab?

Elly is also curious about how many residents in town know that your group has been the source of such a huge budget Band-Aid over the years. Do community members know all about your PTO’s other great work, aside from its role as banker? Elly is aware of the growing economic trend of parent groups paying for more items that used to be funded by district administrators. (For a good read on the subject, check out “What Should PTOs Pay For?”). But if having no control over the $60,000 you hand over each year is bothersome to your group (it would be bothersome to Elly!), then maybe it’s time to rethink exactly what type of resource you want your PTO to be. You’ll certainly want to reassess that practice if keeping up with current budget demands is taking too high a toll on your volunteers.

In the near future, Elly says it would help to start visibly reaching out and engaging other community stakeholders, outside your school, in your education cause. Taking the time now to inform and educate these people can help them better understand and support your group down the road. That sort of partnership can be particularly helpful should budget cuts threaten the quality of education at your school. Let’s hope that never happens!

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