A bank manager turned stay-at-home parent puts his skills to good use running the parent group.

by Evelyn Beck


Matt Lovett’s turning point happened after he left his job as a vice president for Bank of America. Accepting an attractive severance offer in the wake of a merger, Lovett planned to take a year off before jumping back into the work force. “But then Olivia, my wife, asked me to think about not going back to work,” says Lovett, 41. “I could take care of the kids, get more involved in school.”

That’s how Lovett has come to this stage in his life: stay-at-home dad (although, he protests, “I’m never at home!”) and PTA president at Pleasant Hill Elementary in California. A typical day finds him a bit tired, this time after staying up late the night before counting receipts following an event at school.

Lovett’s PTA involvement started two and a half years ago, when his older daughter, Lauren, now 8, was a 1st grader. (Younger daughter Caroline is 5.) Lovett, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, Davis, and a year of experience working for a state assemblyman, volunteered for a board position tailored for that background: He worked to raise awareness in the school community about education-related legislation and urged grassroots efforts to affect local and statewide education measures.

After two years of dogged effort on that front and a year after leaving his job, Lovett felt pressure from another female in his life—Pleasant Hill Elementary’s outgoing PTA president, who urged him to succeed her. “I felt woefully unprepared for taking it on,” Lovett says. “But her answer was that there’s no way to find out other than by doing. So I chewed on it for a while and then decided to give it a whirl.”

One of Lovett’s favorite programs is FAME (Fine Arts Mini Experience), in which parent volunteers give six lessons showing a connection between a composer and an artist. With the current budget crisis, says Lovett, “kids won’t get exposed to art and music and art history and music history unless the PTA provides it.”

With parent membership at 500 in a school of 605 students, the Pleasant Hill PTA is quite active. They sponsor an annual Halloween carnival, encourage children in grades 3 through 5 to avoid drugs through the Parent Educator Program (PEP), and welcome visiting authors of children’s books. Make a Difference Day—held twice this year—encourages working parents, especially dads, to devote a Saturday to gardening and painting at the school.

More than anything, Lovett sees his job as being a communicator. He works hard to include everyone, and one of the most successful approaches has involved school supplies. Long before the back-to-school ads appear, the PTA secures lists from teachers and buys supplies at a discount. Then, in late August and before school begins, the PTA hosts a one-stop shopping opportunity at school, where parents can do all their shopping and also meet PTA members and sign up to volunteer. This even becomes a service activity because extra supplies are bought, bagged, and given to teachers to distribute discreetly to children who can’t afford to buy them.

Sometimes the most effective communication is visual. To spur participation in the annual PTA gift-wrap fundraiser, Lovett covered himself from head to toe in wrapping paper and spent a morning in front of the school, holding a sign and waving to parents as they dropped off their children. “We had our best year ever,” he says.

Lovett manages all of these activities with the same approach he took to his former job. “Organization is my lifeblood,” he says. “I plan the day by making notes and call lists. I utilize email tremendously. I have a little white binder where everything is categorized.

“Being a PTA president is no different from being a manager at the bank. I’m trying to motivate people to help others. The only difference is one group is helping shareholders while the other is helping kids.”

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