Question: Dissolving PTO legal?

Our elementary school PTO ran into personality conflicts this year. When it came time for elections, there was questionable conduct around leaving nominees off the ballot. Our principal stepped in, and at what was supposed to the final meeting, announced that he was going to institute a new model for a parent-teacher community group, one that had committees. He basically abolished all officers except the treasurer, and nominations are being sought now. He announced that he will lead the meetings, and that we will not be going by the charter anymore. Is this legal? We are in Massachusetts. I see it as a conflict of interest for the principal to essential run the parent group. He did put it to a vote, but said, as he did so, "Not that we need to." In other words, we had to do what he said.

Asked by morgainesmommy



Advice from PTO Today

Craig writes:
If your parent group is an independent organization, the principal doesn't have the authority to dissolve it or meddle with election results. However, he does have authority over your access to the school, so in the best case scenario you reach an understanding with the principal on how the PTO will function best to meet the needs of the school. The are a few problems with putting in a "new model" run by the principal. Number one, if he micromanages the PTO the result is going to be a significant loss of parent involvement. In particular, most talented people who would be leaders and drivers of the PTO are likely to be turned off by that treatment and will find other ways to use their time and energy. Number two, the principal has a lot of demands on his time. Despite what he may think, chances are he won't be able to run the group nearly as effectively as a good parent leader. I'd also say that his quote "not that we need to" comes across as high-handed and doesn't bode well at all. The first step toward resolving this conflict would be to meet with the principal, listen to his concerns, and seek alternative ways to address them. It's important to really get to the bottom of the issues -- is he concerned about lowered morale caused by the personality issues? Too much staff time? How money is being spent? etc. Then seek solutions that will work for him and the PTO. It's important to approach this meeting in a businesslike way, not in an emotional way. If things have gone too far and the principal is unwilling to talk, the next step would be to take your case to the district office. Be honest about what went wrong, and present solutions. Good luck!

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