A look at some unusual PTO news—very unusual.

by Sharron Kahn Luttrell


Another year is behind us and a brand-new one stretches ahead. I’m not sure what 2008 will hold, but I do know that we managed to get through 2007 without seeing any of the following news stories:

CBS Launches New Reality Series, PTO Nation. Forty parents from around the country will come together in one cramped school classroom for 40 days. Their mission: to build a working PTO. Contestants will vie for leadership positions and sort themselves into subcommittees. They’ll face a number of challenges, including an uncooperative principal, a hopelessly mixed-up fundraising order, and a costumed Abraham Lincoln who gets lost on his way to perform for 150 restless grade schoolers. Will these 40 strangers succeed at putting aside their differences for the good of their school? Or will chaos ensue? Tune in to find out.

PTO Launches IPO. The Emerson Street Elementary PTO, widely known for its highly profitable fundraising efforts, has gone public with an initial public offering of up to $127 million in stock. Wall Street analysts say the IPO may signal the group’s intention to move into new markets by acquiring its chief rival, the Walden Street Elementary PTO. Emerson PTO Chairwoman Margaret Doyle scoffed at the notion, saying the influx of capital will allow the group to “achieve key goals, such as expanding our monthly newsletter from two to four pages.” She added, “We also hope to bring in enough money to have that fabulous math magician in for two performances next year instead of just one.” Analysts were skeptical when told of Doyle’s comments. “If you haven’t noticed, it’s a PTO-eat-PTO climate out there,” they said. “They’re all wild-eyed because there aren’t enough parents to buy their candles and cookie dough. If Emerson PTO doesn’t snap up its competition, pretty soon their stockholders will insist they do.”

School Lockdown Turns Up Snack Items. Students at Kennedy Elementary were caught off-guard yesterday when police and K-9 units swept into the school and searched lockers and backpacks for evidence of high-sodium and fat-laden foods. School officials banned sugary and fried foods last year in a move that drew cries of protest from students, especially when the PTO dropped its annual candy bar fundraiser and ordered kids to sell dried lentils instead. Police said they were forced to bring in the sugar-sniffing dogs after an anonymous tipster alerted them that students were using hollowed-out apples to smuggle bite-size candies into the school. During yesterday’s lockdown, police dogs sniffed out several ounces of banned snack items, which were traced to four 3rd graders and a 1st grader. The students were rounded up and taken to the principal’s office, where they were given breathalyzer tests. School officials wouldn’t comment on the results of the tests, but one person familiar with the case who requested anonymity said three of the students scored .20 for sugar, which is far above the legal limit of .06. “It’s astonishing that those kids weren’t plastered to the ceiling, they were so hopped up on sugar,” the source said. The principal would not comment, saying only that the school has a zero-tolerance policy toward sugar and fat and that the students would be dealt with accordingly.

Designer Unveils PTO-Inspired Fashions. Paris is abuzz over Chanel’s fall 2007 ready-to-wear line, which the design house launched during Fashion Week. Lithe and leggy models strutted the catwalk in sturdy shoes made to order for hauling cartons of gift wrap from minivans and trotting children up and down school hallways for restroom trips. Bold floral prints are a dominant motif this season—not surprising, considering the pattern is widely used in PTO circles to cleverly mask juice stains. Large, roomy pockets add both whimsy and practicality to the collection’s slacks and skirts. “They hold everything—markers, scissors, raffle tickets, even extra poster board and staplers,” a spectator enthused. The eveningwear collection stood out for its embossed detailing, which was reminiscent of the stray patches of adhesive tape that somehow always manage to stick themselves to the clothing of PTO moms, especially when they’re going out for a special night on the town.

Here’s hoping parent-teacher groups everywhere make headlines for all the right reasons in 2008.

Sharron Kahn Luttrell volunteers for parent groups at two schools in Mendon, Mass.

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