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Building a Leader Network: Help Is All Around You


When you need help and support, ask—you might be surprised at the network right in front of you.

by Shonne Fegan-Ehrhardt


Being a parent group leader can be a lot of work, but I’ve found that creating a network—both internal and external—has helped me tremendously as PTA president. I’ve not only benefited from fresh ideas, but also have made new friends in the process.

My first year in the position, I jumped in feet first and quickly realized I couldn’t do it alone. I looked at our board of committee chairs to find each individual’s strengths and I drew upon this local network of volunteers for assistance. When I was struggling with formatting the PTA board list, I mentioned it at a meeting and our treasurer offered to help. Turns out she was an Excel master and what would have taken me hours took her minutes! Next I looked one degree further to our local PTA council, which meets monthly. Connecting with other PTA presidents has been really helpful when I have questions about using funds (such as funding field trips) or school events (for example, what do they do for teacher appreciation week?). As well, many PTOs have town- or districtwide groups that provide this kind of network.

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I also share a lot of PTA accomplishments on my personal Facebook page which has led to new Facebook friends who are current or past PTA presidents or volunteers. I called one Facebook “referral” a few weeks ago and caught her in the grocery store line. She made the time to talk to me about how her board was arranged (two vice presidents for each position, allowing them to share the load), and this gave me a great idea to fill some of our open committee chair positions. 

Just recently, as we were sitting across the table from our extended family at a holiday dinner, volunteer work came up in conversation. I realized many of my cousins were also involved in their parent groups and we were able to share ideas about the events we host, such as our Holiday Helper program and what to buy for teacher thank-you gifts. I mentally added my cousins, who live across the country, to my extended parent group network and will keep them in mind when I have a question.

Coincidentally, I’ve found one of my biggest sources of help is only a phone call away. My sister and I live 2,000 miles and two time zones apart in San Diego and Chicago and are both PTA presidents of our respective schools. I find we talk about something related to our PTAs on almost every phone call. She gave me a great idea for membership recruitment, and I can’t wait to try a volunteer fair like hers, where they sign up parent volunteers on the first day of school.

So when it comes to building a network, I’d say keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to talk about your parent group’s work. Chances are you will find people willing to “join your network,” providing you with the support all parent group leaders and volunteers need!

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Originally posted in 2014 and updated regularly.

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