Question: PTO Conflict Resolution

I understand that PTO's are a local organization. Where can a parent turn when the PTO is "a mess" and dysfunctional? I know that a PTA can turn to its regional or national chapter for guidance.

Asked by nymom2two



Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
It really depends on what the "mess'' is. If you have concerns about anything legal or financial and are not sure where to turn, then you can contact the principal to ask for help. If the mess is more issues of personalities -- a board that's a clique, a president perceived as a tyrant -- then you need to figure out what your objectives are and what you want to accomplish. Meaning, do you feel the board isn't getting things done and you'd like to help get things done? If you have specific goals, we can walk through some strategies of how to accomplish them.

Let me know how we can help,

Rose C.

Community Advice

firefighter464 writes:
PTO Today IS a fine resource for any questions you may have. Look around. Ask questions.

You and all other should know that, yes, as you said, unlike PTA, there is absolutely no authority over any PTO except its own membership. Ethics and problems must be addressed internally.

I wouldn't put much faith into asking your principal for any real help. Unless you have a very magnanimous self-sacrificing principal and lax administration (i.e., more old-fashioned kindness/common-sense and moral-driven, less modern reality of hands tied by lawyers and liability and expense-driven) you will find the principal will do absolutely nothing because the school is indeed a separate entity with its own liability to be concerned about, not PTO's. Same goes with any entity that addresses school issues. Point being, PTO is NOT school. You need to understand that. It's like being a shoe store and asking for help from the local podiatrist to help manage your company. You are kinda related but not really...

Find a copy of Robert's Rules and become very familiar with it. Your only way to effect change is by participating in meetings to make motions, raise debate, come to decisions, and take actions. Get bodies on your side to help you, as every motion needs to be seconded and voted with majority. If there are no meetings being held, then you might try what we did which was write letter to local newspaper calling for a special meeting of all concerned parents to come join PTO and help change for the better. Drawback there is if no one form the actual existing PTO shows up you really can't call yourselves a PTO meeting. And if so, just make a new parent group and move forward. (All the resources for starting one are found here at PTO Today) When PTO finds itself sidelined for dysfunctional behavior, you might find they cooperate better with you.

If your 'dysfunction' falls into illegal activities, take your concerns to the police. But don't be surprised if they don't do anything. Reality is police and prosecutors only take cases they can win and not waste resources on. They won't address petty crimes due to cost or sometimes due to not wanting to step on toes that support their re-election or cause local bad press.

Community Advice

gjcoram writes:
I think firefighter464 downplays the principal's interest/involvement too much. Our principal is definitely interested in having parents involved and having the PTO help communicate and fundraise. Yours probably doesn't have direct authority over the PTO, so he can't "fix it" for you, but he can give you suggestions on how to approach the problem and connect you with others who may have similar concerns.

Community Advice

nymom2two writes:
Thank you for your responses. Three out of our four officers resigned (when they were basically asked about being held accountable for things that happened while they were the heads of the PTO.) The remaining officer, who had only been on the board a matter of months, stepped up to the plate! She appointed interim officers (which according to the Bylaws she could do) to help her finish out the school year until elections can be held. We formed a new committee to amend the Bylaws; formed a nominating committee and assigned new committee chairs as needed- all in one (long) meeting!

I think this next year will be one of building and growing for our PTO!

Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
Hi nymom2two,
Wow. Sounds like the situation has greatly improved! That's really good to hear. Let us know if we can help, point you to specific resources on the site that will help make next year a success!

All the best,
Rose C.

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