Editor’s note: Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some parent groups have put their work on hold, and that's OK. Whether your group was paused or active, these are steps you can take to get your group prepared for next year.
Organize your PTO files and storage.
This is a great time to go through your files and purge unnecessary items. If you store food or soft drinks, check the expiration dates and toss as appropriate. Get rid of mangled decorations, boxes of old school directories, calculators with leaky batteries, posters that announce activities your group hasn’t sponsored in ages, and piles of reports from the fundraising company your PTO used eight years ago. After you clean out the cabinet, file drawers, or closet, write an inventory list of the major items in each place and tape it to the inside of the door or drawer.
Collect project/committee documents.
To avoid the loss of important PTO project binders in the black holes we call our basements and garages, collect the binders. It’s easier to track down the silent auction chairperson and her files now than it will be in the fall when your new chairperson is trying to get organized. If your group keeps information online in Dropbox or Google Drive, organize the files so a newcomer will be able to tell what each one is about. Place all documents related to the book fair in a folder named "book fair," for example.
Manage online logins and passwords.
Have each current officer make a list of the online accounts she use for parent group business, such as the group's Facebook account or accounts with vendors. Once you’ve held elections, transfer social media and your PTO’s website administrator privileges to new officers. For other accounts, have new officers set up their own logins whenever possible. If a vendor or service provider will not allow individual logins for your group account, you'll need to have each officer share their login information with their replacement. The new officers should change the passwords after the officer transition has been made. You don't want a password to be handed down for years, giving more and more people access to an account.
Encourage year-end assessment of each committee or project.
Ask your committee chairs to complete a year-end assessment for their projects. Have them capture important information such as tips for success, pitfalls to avoid, and email addresses and phone numbers for vendors. Even if a committee chairperson is returning to her position next fall, encourage her to document this year’s event. Better to have it on paper in case her memory fades, her binders are misplaced, she moves out of town, or she decides to give up the job. (Download a PTO committee chair year-end report.)
Verify summer building hours.
School facilities' schedules are up in the air this summer. Be sure you know when the building will be closed over the next few months. You might need special permission to access PTO files and photocopiers inside the school building.
With the school year having closed for months already in many areas, many parent groups have taken a break from their work. But you don’t want to start the new school year scrambling to fill necessary roles. Put out some feelers now to find volunteers for early possible PTO activities. That way, when you make those important recruitment phone calls in late summer, people won’t be completely surprised by your request.
Review financial files.
When doing PTO spring cleaning, be more careful with your financial files. You can’t just throw away old stuff; the IRS dictates record-retention rules to ensure that there is adequate access to the group’s financial history. Even if your PTO isn’t a registered 501(c)(3) organization, it’s still good practice to follow the IRS’s record-keeping rules. Financial records like bank statements and check registers should be kept for seven years. Your monthly treasurer reports should be kept for three. And some records, like your meeting minutes and agendas, year-end treasurer reports, and audit results should be kept permanently. (Get a detailed list of which PTO records to keep and for how long.)
Set up a fresh display in the lobby.
New families may be visiting the school to enroll for next year. If your school building is being readied for fall in-person classes, take some time to update your PTO’s bulletin boards and display cases, especially those in the school lobby. A nice “Welcome to ABC Elementary and our PTO” greeting sends a much more inviting message than a faded display with the minutes of last May’s PTO meeting.
Change signers on the PTO bank account.
If you have had a change in PTO leadership, be sure to change the authorized signers on your PTO’s bank account. If the group's account includes online banking, provide the new authorized signers with the online account login and password, and make sure they change the password to minimize the number of people with access to the account.
Many banks used to require both the new signers and the retiring ones to show up in person, but policies have changed in recent months. Find out what your bank requires, then take the appropriate steps to update the signature cards before school lets out. It’s might be easier to find the outgoing vice president today than later on in the summer.
Change the contact information on the PTO bank statement.
If your PTO’s bank statements are mailed to the school, consider changing the mailing address for the summer months. If your bank sends text or email messages about the account, make sure they'll go to someone with reliable phone and Internet access over the summer. You don’t want to miss important correspondence—like a notice of a bounced deposited check—because your treasurer can’t get inside the school building to collect the mail or is traveling and has limited phone service or Internet access. Consider having bank messages and mail be sent to a PTO officer who is not a signer on the checking account. It’s always good practice for someone else to open and review the monthly statement first, then pass it along to the treasurer for reconciliation.
If your PTO is incorporated, double-check to see when you must renew. Although the rules vary from state to state, it’s likely that your PTO, if it is a corporation, will need to renew its incorporation status each year. Check with your state’s corporations office to verify the deadline for your PTO’s annual renewal. The form might be due over the summer.
Acknowledge retiring staff members.
Celebrate the service of any staff member who will be retiring at the end of the school year. Don’t forget the support employees, too, such as custodians and cafeteria workers. Our article called Teacher Appreciation Ideas for When Schools Are Closed offers some simple ways to show your appreciation virtually.
Set up a room reservation form for fall.
Some schools require that the PTO file a reservation form to secure space for meetings or events held in the school building. This is an important task that can be easily overlooked in the chaos of the first few weeks of the new school year. Find out now whether your school requires such a form and get a blank copy for your files. Add a reminder to your personal calendar to alert you to complete the form once you set your fall calendar. If possible, go ahead and set next year’s PTO meeting and event schedule now, and file the form with that information.
Get summer vacation and travel plans from fellow officers.
As the summer winds down, you’ll want to get together with the rest of the executive board to start planning for fall. Find out who might be traveling or otherwise preoccupied so you can schedule PTO business accordingly. Some folks might relocate for the summer, some might stop checking email, and some might take on a summer job that affects their availability for PTO work.
Arrange for your PTO’s annual financial review.
It’s an excellent business practice for your PTO to have an independent review of its financial files every year. Some refer to this as an “audit” (though that term can have technical and legal implications beyond the scope of a PTO review). Because PTO financial activity essentially stops during the summer and it’s usually the end of the group’s fiscal year, most groups have their books reviewed then. However, you will want to secure a volunteer “auditor” now, before school lets out, while you still have easy access to your parent community at large. It’s likely that a well-crafted email or flyer will attract a qualified volunteer to conduct your review. Even if your PTO chooses to hire a professional to review the books, get that set up now. Summer has a way of shifting our priorities from school to home.
Set up a preliminary budget for next year.
Right now, while this year’s PTO activities are still fresh in your mind, is a great time to sketch out next year’s preliminary budget. Consider the planned and actual income and expenditures for this year and adjust accordingly. Later on, your treasurer and executive board will fine-tune the draft budget to match the PTO’s firm plan.
Our free End-of-School-Year Guide has even more ideas for wrapping up your year on a high note.
Originally posted in 2010 and updated regularly.