To the editor:
As a paid voting member of the PTA I would like to convey my sentiments regarding the recent debate and vote to decide if Fort Couch Middle School .
I personally feel that the voting process was manipulative and rigged to guarantee a positive outcome for the NPTA and that the nature of the voting process was designed in such a way to not allow for a fair and democratic debate and vote. I understand the final vote was:
20 votes for the NPTA
27 votes against the NPTA and for the PTSO
Even though the majority in attendance voted against the PTA, I was informed that a quorum was required to pass the initiative to dissolve Fort Couch Middle School’s relationship with the PTA. Therefore the resolution was denied.
To begin with, I am unable to determine what a quorum is as defined by Fort Couch PTA's bylaws. (The Fort Couch PTA Bylaws can be found in the media box above.)
The only place that defines a quorum with respect to a general meeting appears to be under ARTICLE XII: GENERAL MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS, Section 4, which defines a quorum as "a quorum of seven members is required for the transaction of business in any meeting of this local PTA/PTSA." So at least seven members were in attendance and more than seven members voted against the NPTA, so I would appreciate if the other "quorum" definition that applies to the vote above could be documented for me.
I also understand that the entire Fort Couch PTA membership is approximately 500, so only nine percent of the entire membership was in attendance (47/500), and the decision to stay with the PTA was determined by four percent (20/500) of total membership. This hardly seems even close to being representative of the parent association’s membership.
In particular, I was extremely disturbed by the following elements of the voting process:
1. The vote was held during a workday, during work hours.
This would appear to be a time when the majority of Ft Couch PTA members would be unable to attend. Scheduling a critical vote on the future of the association-organization during a time of day that is unavailable to the majority of the membership is elitist, exclusive, offensive and manipulative.
I personally had to take vacation time from my employment in order to attend the meeting in order to cast my vote. My limited schedule did not allow for me to fully participate in the entire meeting debate or hear the PTA representatives entire presentation.
2. Proxy votes were not allowed.
I understand there are rules (although not clear whose rules, Fort Couch PTA, National PTA?) that indicate proxy votes can not be cast. However, voting for a change in rules to allow for proxy votes would have overcome the elitist/exclusive/minority element of the voting process and provide for adequate representation across the entire membership.
3. Vote was scheduled to accommodate PTA representative—not to accommodate availability of voting members.
I also understand that the reason the meeting was held during a workday was to accommodate the national PTA representative's schedule, which again guarantees to skew the results towards a positive outcome for the PTA. If scheduling of the debate and vote curtails the ability for the majority of Fort Couch PTA's membership to participate, and the vote only reflects the limited amount of attendance available during workday working hours, then the final vote hardly comes close to reflecting the membership's population. Twenty out of 500 is statistically insignificant.
At the meeting I proposed a motion to postpone the vote to accommodate a time that would allow for a larger attendance, and was told the meeting had to be scheduled around the availability of the PTA representative. Why OUR vote should be driven by their ability to attend does not make sense to me.
It's not their organization, it’s not their children, it's not their pockets. The schedule for debate and vote should revolve around membership needs NOT the national organization's needs, PLUS this puts an unfair bias against the ability to obtain a quorum. The fact that the vote against the PTA was a majority, but we did not have a quorum (whatever that number is?) in my opinion supports the notion of bias towards NPTA positive outcome.
4. No use of technology to avert scheduling conflicts.
Why couldn't the PTA representatives use technological options to accommodate schedules? Couldn't they create a PowerPoint or video presentation to make their point, and use web conference or Telecom to have a real time debate at the convenience of Fort Couch membership?
If they can't even use the most basic of tools that are a regular part of doing everday business for most of us in the rest of the world I hardly consider them worthy of my membership dollars. Even our children can "FaceTime" on their cell phones, why couldn't the PTA reps coordinate technology to accommodate membership schedules?
5. Campaign of misinformation and misrepresentation of the facts.
Finally I was made aware of a campaign of misinformation that was promulgated by membership factions to possibly affect the outcome of the vote. I am unable to identify the root of these campaigns. However, I was informed by a variety of sources that they were led to believe if we left the PTA we would no longer have school dances, our PTA budget would be taken away and we would lose insurance.
I do not know what insurance in particular the campaign was referring to. I DO know that dances would NOT be taken away (dances have nothing to do with PTA membership) and I also know that since we spent our budget for the year, there is no money to be take away.
Obviously this campaign is beyond the control of the Fort Couch PTA board, school administration, or the PTA representatives, but it does reflect poorly on our community overall—that we are unable to have a reasonable debate without dirty political scare tactics. It does however feel eerily similar to the nonsense that went on over the debate about the zoning changes for the CONSOL Energy corporate headquarters property situated at the corner of Fort Couch Rd and Route 19. In that situation zoning board meetings were initially scheduled with minimal community notification and scheduled to avoid significant public attendance, minimizing negative community responses.
Overall I cannot say if I am for or against the PTA. However, I am against having any decision that impacts my wallet or my children's education crammed down my throat without adequate representation.
Upper St. Clair
Do you think Fort Couch Middle School's PTA should have switched to a PTO? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.
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