From glow dances to reading pledge drives, it's time to get planning! Get tips and tools 👉

Doing these simple things will help make you a more effective PTO or PTA board member.

by Christy Forhan


5 Things You Should Know About Representing Your PTO in the Community

  1. Always introduce yourself.

  2. Don’t speak on behalf of the school. You might have a great rapport with the principal, but you aren’t an official representative. Refer school questions to the principal; they’re not PTO business.

  3. Don’t share your personal opinions on issues. When you’re in your official role, speak on behalf of the PTO as a whole.

  4. Be polite.

  5. Give credit where credit is due.


4 Essential Tips for Working With School Staff

  • Introduce yourself. It’ll be easier to ask the custodian, secretary, school aide, and audiovisual technician for help later if you introduce yourself today.

  • Learn their names—and call them by name.

  • Respect their school jobs. Remember that their primary responsibility is to the school. They aren’t there to do PTO grunt work. If you need substantial help from school staff, clear it with the principal first.

  • Include them in staff appreciation efforts.


7 Secrets for Transitioning Your Office

  1. Clean out and organize your old files.

  2. Then hand over the files.

  3. Train your successor side by side.

  4. Introduce them around the school.

  5. Share your best advice (and worst experiences) about the job.

  6. Be accessible in the new year.

  7. But don’t hover; it’s their job now.

Promote your parent group! 8 ways to educate your school community

Originally posted in 2007 and updated regularly.


# anne carmody 2008-03-10 13:22
Our PTO president of 4 years is ending her term this year. The PTO would like to pay for a dinner for her out of PTO funds. Is this an acceptable use of PTO money?
# Craig Bystrynski 2008-03-10 17:46
Hi Anne -- That's a nice idea and an acceptable use of funds, as long there's agreement on the expenditure. We also strongly recommend that you find a public way to express thanks to all of your volunteers, whether they contributed an hour or many, many hours. It's important to let people know that you value everyone's contribution. There are good ideas for volunteer appreciation in our Volunteer & Teacher Appreciation toolkit (, and there are always folks willing to share appreciation ideas on the message boards. Good luck! -- Craig
# JC 2008-03-18 22:29
Officer Training - Does your pto pay for officers to go to training/workshops?
# Lynn 2008-05-06 20:59
Our school has a volunteer breakfast toward the end of the school year. The PTO provides the paper goods and the teachers are asked to provide the breakfast items. Its a great event and all the teachers are more than willing to assist with honoring the volunteers.
# Michelle 2008-06-18 09:14
We did for the first time an end of the year volunteer dinner that was catered. Many appreciated it more then the trinket gifts. We needed an event in the evening due to the majority of our volunteers having full time jobs.
# Patty 2008-07-23 01:01
One of our parents no longer have kids that attend the school, but would like to continue on the board. Are there any bylaws against this?
Please help!
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-07-23 08:39
Hi Patty--Bylaws differ from group to group. Check yours to see whether they define a member as someone who has a child in the school or put limits on who can be an officer. If you don't find any restrictions, then there's no prohibition against letting that board member stand for reelection.--Craig
# Christine 2008-09-23 22:31
Help, I'm a new PTO president and I don't know the bylaws or how to do this job. Can someone please send me in the right direction. Thanks Christine.
# Joy 2008-09-25 08:21
Can a PTO exist legally without the installment of officers? What are the legal and tax problems which arise in a PTO where there are no officers and moneys are being raised and spent by a few individuals involved in the group?
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-09-25 15:08
Hi Joy — The "legal" answer depends on the structure of your PTO. If it's an independent organization with bylaws, the bylaws state which offices must be filled. If it's incorporated, the state likely requires at least a president and a treasurer. If it's simply a committee of the school, that all changes. An important related question might be can the PTO function better with a different structure? If you post your question on the message boards, I bet you will get some good suggestions on how to work toward change. Good luck! — Craig
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-09-25 20:39
Hi Christine -- Probably the best thing I can offer that covers a lot of ground in a short time are our tool kits.!/category/1002 You might find the Leader's Toolkit particularly helpful. Also, the message boards are a great place to get advice from experienced leaders. And finally, check out the story "You're Elected! Now What?" It will give you some basic pointers for getting started. -- Craig
# sheila 2008-09-30 05:31
our pto is in a total mess. we are trying to vote out the current members before election. does anyone know how to do this? we can't get volunteers, parents, teachers, everyone is fed up. the current board does not return phone calls and is very disorganized. they even selected the new board before the last meeting of the year last year!
please help or i dont' think we are going to have a pto!
i am interested in running for president.
# Lori 2008-10-28 23:28
Our President last year is having a hard time stepping down. She is involved but is making hard to run things our way. Any suggestions?
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-10-30 16:01
Lori -- That's a great question for the message boards. I bet you'll get a lot of feedback from folks who have been in the same situation. You might also find the article "How To Retire Gracefully" helpful. It doesn't directly answer your question, but it gives some insight into the mindset of people in that position. Here's the link: --Craig
# Martha 2008-10-30 17:12
I am trying the regain structure in our PTO. Our principal and school secretary have taken over many events and fundraisers. They do not want to let go and let our current (very organized,very active) PTO take over. This is making it very difficult to restructure, plan and prepare for next year. Any ideas how to get them to let go and let the parents run it?
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-11-07 16:51
Martha--Check out the article "Make the Principal Your Partner." On our page titled "The Prinicipal," you'll also find advice on negotiating with the principal plus a story on how some real disputes were negotiated and resolved. Just click on the link that says "The Principal" at the bottom of this or any article page. Good luck! -- Craig
# Kristina 2008-11-11 06:08
Hi, i am a new PTO president and we are just getting our organization up aand running. I find PTO today a big help, but i was wondering were there any tips for a new PTO and being a president for the first time
# Craig Bystrynski from PTO Today 2008-11-20 19:14
Hi Kristina -- Check out the link that says "President" in the shortcuts box at the bottom of this page. You'll find lots of info there. Specifically, I'd recommend the articles "You're Elected—Now What?" and "My Life as President" You'll also get plenty of advice on the message boards: Best wishes! -- Craig
# Rose 2009-06-12 17:11

My term of being President is over today. It was a bitter-sweet departure. The Vice-President and her husband gave the PTO a difficult time during our last fundraiser and left a bad taste in my mouth. I will not be returning next year due to my child leaving the program which he is currently enrolled. There are not many parents involved but plenty of teachers. The Vice-President and her husband will be the new board for the upcoming year, not by vote, but because there are no other parents willing to participate. Is there a conflict of interest having spouses on the board? Just curious.
# Sara 2010-03-09 20:48
I'm also wondering if there is a conflict of interest in having siblings serve together on the board! Thanks!
# gloria 2012-02-25 12:02
I was elected vice pres 2 months ago with absolutely no direction just hard labor. Now I am acting pres, current pres term is up in 2 months. New PTO Board is ready for next term, I then step back down to vice pres. Now, while I am acting pres., can I amend PTO bylaws, which are severely outdated to include additional officers? One being a Director of PTO that enforces the bylaws and provides some type of orientation for new officers that are transitioning in to PTO like I was for the first time.
# Craig Bystrynski 2012-02-25 15:03
Gloria -- That's great of you to step in in such difficult circumstances. Yes, you can absolutely amend the bylaws. If the bylaws don't spell out a procedure for how they are amended, you should include that in your revision as well. The typical procedure is that you read the proposed amendments at one meeting, then vote on them at the next. (Or else require, say, two weeks advance notice to members of the intention to amend the bylaws.) Bylaws amendments usually require a two-thirds vote. Good luck!

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