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Help! How to deal with this situation!

15 years 4 months ago #147534 by amsulliv
Replied by amsulliv on topic RE: Help! How to deal with this situation!
Can I also suggest that you have some other way for parents who attend meetings to express concerns? For example, in some of the presentations I give, I post a large piece of paper titled "parking lot" and pass out sticky notes. I know this may seem elementary, but it works. Explain at your next meeting something like...

there are often concerns that we have that need to be addressed in consideration of time, might be best addressed in another setting. If you have somehting to share that is not on the agenda, pleae write it down and stick it to the board so we can be sure to address it at our next meeting.

Then, after you review the thoughts and ideas, you can address it as an overall concern from a parent instead of an individual case.

I hope this helps!
15 years 4 months ago #147410 by PresidentJim
Seems you have two separate, yet related issues.

The first, of course, is the language barrier. But it seems that you have the tools in place to deal with this. As long as you always have one of your translators available, you should be all set there.

The main issue is when the PTO meeting turns into something that it isn't. To me, as President of my group's PTO, I look at it as a business of sorts. I always send out an agenda before each meeting, and I follow that agenda during the meeting. Sure there are times when questions arise during the Principal's report, or even during the general meeting, and I will always provide some minimal time, as long as the issue is general, for the Principal to address it. But if I feel that it is starting to take up too much of the meeting I interupt and explain that we can't spend any more time of this, that this is more of a school issue than a PTO issue, and that this would be something that should be addressed offline with the Principal. Some parents incorrectly feel that the PTO meeting is the correct place to discuss school related problems, or even personal issues, but I disagree. It's the time to get PTO related business done...

Your situation is even more difficult as you mention that very often the questions being raised are specifically about their child. Though this makes it even less appropriate to discuss at the PTO (or Parent's Group) meeting, it all comes down to setting the precident.

One thing that I don't understand about your post is that you mention that you are the President, but then mention you were not in attendance at the first meeting of the school year because the school did not inform the parents. Maybe you can explain that a bit more, which might provide some light to your situation. If your school is private, and is overall in charge of your Parent Group, then it's possible that the decision on how to deal with this is not up to you. Is the school private? Are you a non-profit organization? Do you have Bylaws? Are you, as the President, in charge of running the meetings? For most schools that are public the parent group, whether PTO or otherwise, is run by the President and the Executive board. As such, IMO, it is the President's responsibility to write up an agenda, contact the members about the meeting, including the proposed agenda, asking if there is anything to add to the agenda, and then run the meeting.

In the end it all comes down to who is in charge. But if that person is you then I believe that you need to set the precident right away that these personal types of issues are not appropriate for the meeting. It will take some extra time at the beginning, especially with the language barrier, but in the end you'll be able to accomplish your business and your active members will be happier. For now I would recommend that you get a letter out to the parents explaining when the next meeting is, what business you will be discussing, talking about the benefits of getting involved, etc. Have a membership drive if you need to.

Hope this helps,
PresidentJim
15 years 4 months ago #147405 by re_ocampo
Hello everyone!

One of my many roles at my children's school is the President of a middle school Parents Club. The biggest issue that we have (besides the usual participation) is that the majority of the parents who attend are only spanish speakers who attend to ask questions that have nothing to do with parents club (mainly questions or comments having to do with their individual child). Because I am not a fluent spanish speaker I can not properly run the meeting (luckily my resident translators are my secretary or treasurer) and the meetings run extra long because of the language barrier. The language barrier is also an issue because the parents who I know would be such a wonderful asset to the group do not attend because of the direction the initial meeting of the year went in (I was not in attendance because the school did not inform the majority of the parents of the meeting until a few days later).

Has anyone else dealt with this type of issue? How have you handled it? Our area is mostly a low income area with new middle class housing developments and farm land thrown in, so there is definitely a diverse group of parents with kids at the school.

Any advice you could give would be eternally helpful!
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