Question: Time to disband task force?

Our school had an “incident” recently, the result of which was that a group of concerned parents, teachers, and board members came together and formed a task force whose purpose was to address and correct some of the problems in the school system. Many PTO members also eagerly signed on.

Instead of solving problems of discipline and safety, however, the task force has somehow created a whole slew of new ones. There are now concerns over racial issues, open-enrollment policies, and criticism of teachers and the school curriculum. This task force already has alienated many teachers, upset minority parents, and been generally ignored by the school board. Now some school board members have asked the PTO to take over.

Even with all its faults, the task force has done a lot of good by opening the lines of communication within our community. I cannot see a way out without disbanding it. As a PTO president, how do I handle this?

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

This is a tough situation that will require some real leadership from you and your board. The answer to your question really depends on what your group wants to be. There are several possibilities for this, and it’s really up to your leadership and your membership to decide on a direction and mission.

It seems like the task force has taken an active role in the political processes of the school system. You can certainly assume some of those roles in your PTO. That might neutralize some of the polarizing effect of the task force for awhile. But as you’ve already discovered, politics is a messy business that almost inevitably creates conflict and disagreements and strong feelings. Those strongly held beliefs are a necessary part of making decisions, but is that where you want your PTO to be?

Many groups choose to keep that level of politics out of the PTO. They prefer to keep the PTO’s role to building parent involvement and creating community at school and supporting the teachers and kids. That’s a fair choice, too. It’s hard to take on that community-building and support role if the political stances and political role of your group often have you disagreeing with 49 percent of your parent population.

So the big question remains—what does your group want to be?

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