Available for committees and eye-rolling

By Mir
October 23, 2007

In our old town, at our old school, I confess that I never went to a single PTA meeting. Even though one of my very best friends was the PTA president. Hey, I was a single mom on a budget, and paying a sitter to go to a boring meeting just wasn’t very high on my list of priorities. I compromised; I did the newsletter for a while, so that I could say I was contributing. And really, there was an entire contingent of people who positively LIVED for the PTA, so it’s not like they needed me there.

(I do loves me some justification. Hooboy.)

Anyway, here in our new school, I’m more involved. Part of it is that I don’t need to get a sitter, and part of it is that I really want to know what’s happening here because this is a school with issues. Oh, and, um, I’m just a really spectacular mother! Whoops, there go my eyes again.

So I joined the PTA, and I go to the meetings, and while the turnout is fairly abysmal, the meetings are short and well-run and it feels like things are being accomplished, albeit perhaps at the glacial pace befitting a struggling elementary school. Fine.

There was an outdoor workday to take care of the school gardens, and I went and weeded.

They needed volunteers for an upcoming event, and Otto and I both signed up to work.

They called for parents to serve on an advisory board to the school district, and I guess I fell and hit my head, because I volunteered. “It’s only once a month!” they assured me. “We represent the school and we’re in on the decision-making process!” I was told. Sure thing, I said. I want to be part of the solution! Sign me up!

And then I had to go to an actual board meeting.

First of all, CALL ME CRAZY, but I have this philosophy that goes something like this: If you’re going to hold a group of people hostage for discussion for upwards of two hours, one or more of the following must be involved:
A) Class credit
B) Snacks
C) An actual decision of some sort, about SOMETHING.

As this particular meeting failed to meet any of my given criteria, it was more or less a bust in my mind regardless of the content, so I suppose it started out at a disadvantage.

Also, we’re supposed to be representing our schools, and together as a team representing the district. I’ll give you three guesses (and the first two don’t count) as to the general make-up of this group of parents. Go on, GUESS!

If you guessed that here in a district where our population of students of color comes in at around 70%, our committee is made up almost entirely of white people, YOU ARE CORRECT!

Furthermore, our board is predominantly middle-aged white women. Several of whom have New York accents, which I find amusing as all hell, because HELLO, this is the south, how did all of my distant aunts and cousins end up on this committee? (And really, seeing as how that’s the case, WHERE ARE THE SNACKS?)

And I understand why this happens—blah blah blah socio-economic factors blah blah blah—and I don’t have to LIKE it, but I suppose I GET it. Nature of the beast. Okay.

But after a protracted discussion about a district-wide dress code (which was fairly entertaining in and of itself, because all of that carrying on about POLO SHIRTS AND KHAKIS FOR THE TENDER YOUNG MASSES, oookay), some district people came in to give a presentation on our gifted program and how it’s being restructured.

And GUESS WHAT! I know this is going to come as a COMPLETE SHOCK, but apparently EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON OUR BOARD has at least one child in the gifted program! I mean, WOW.

This apparently meant that although we are there to represent our schools and report back to them, everyone felt the need to ask SPECIFIC questions or make POINTED statements relative to THEIR CHILD’S EXPERIENCE in the program, including a lot of bitching and moaning about how the changes are bad and no good, because Junior says so.

I could be wrong, but I don’t really think this was the point of the meeting.

So I sat there—with two children in this program being discussed, mostly thinking about how, you know, despite the laundry list of things I’m NOT thrilled about with this school, I have been REALLY IMPRESSED with the gifted program thus far—and listened to all of these people debate the structure of the program and how it used to be better and blah blah freaking blah.

Granted, I missed some of it, because I was fascinated by the guy sitting across from me. One of the few males in the room, he spent 75% of the meeting doing God-knows-what on his Crackberry. And shortly before we finished up he got a phone call that he went ahead and took. Assumedly because he is a Very Important Person who cannot be bothered with turning his full attention towards being privileged and outraged about it.

Me, I’m trying to save my outrage for Monkey’s 504 meeting later this week, but I’ll try to remember to bring some to the next meeting.

Along with a snack.

And maybe some earplugs.


  1. tuney

    Board meetings are thinly-veiled cow-patty-throwing contests. I have never been to one that didn’t leave me wishing there was some law that would justify multiple homicides in the case of overwhelming stupidity. There’s something about being elected/appointed to a board of ANY kind, not just school, that sticks a hose in the ear of the member and flushes out all traces of brain cells.

    Honestly, the fact that the school board here is only interested in itself is the main reason I quit teaching. I sincerely hope you have better luck with the 504 meeting, Mir. I hated them as a teacher because mostly what I saw was a very lazy child and a single parent who felt entitled to special treatment. I suspect that’s how some of this comes across, especially based on Monkey’s teacher’s comment about “choosing” not to do things. They see a smart kid who’s capable, and just don’t want to face the fact that that’s not the end of the story. Make them understand. They will never empathize, but they MUST do the right thing and follow the plan.

  2. MyStarbucks

    I have 4 kids and while I was totally into volunteering when the oldest kids were little I am so done with volunteering now I can hardly stand it. The problem is…I have a darling daughter that will be starting kindergarten next year. How sad for her….

  3. Kimberly

    I think you just described the fourth circle of hell. And put your finger exactly on why your school is struggling.

  4. Rachel

    When faced with a situation like this I usu start to daydream. Funny, it is always the same one. I weigh the pros and cons of homicide vs suicide …

    My son is sensory and I am just starting this whole process. Thanks for posting your experience. I am learning a bunch.

  5. Sara

    Of all the things I miss about teaching, ridiculous meetings aren’t one of them. Although, at least then I received a salary as compensation. If I attend meetings now (and I’m very choosy as I have 4 kids and could, potentially spend my life at meetings)I try to make sure beforehand that there will be a concrete outcome. If I want to sit around and listen to people bitch and moan, my children are happy to provide me with plenty of opportunity–and the snacks are close at hand!!

  6. Megan

    Bring snacks, pass snacks to anecdote-reciting parents, hope they stuff their gobs and while they’re well muffled leap in and wrestle the conversation around to something meaningful. Worth a try. Besides, hey, snacks!

  7. jennielynn

    I might be wrong (I frequently am, you know), but it would seem the RSP/SDC program needs more attention than the gifted one. Since they can’t even honor the accomodations of a 504. Just sayin’.

  8. Tiffany

    Good Luck, I volunteered my little heart out in preschool and my oldest for k and 1st, i learned the hard way and now volunteer money to the events.
    I really like having a dresscode, my middle child its a godsend,no tears this yr,i wasnt sure i liked the idea.
    we have gifted testing coming up in 2 weeks….I guess SC testing wasnt good enough for TX standards and my oldest has to take the test on a saturday(so she doesnt miss important school learning time) to see if she qualifies here.

    Good Luck, your a great parent!

  9. Shalee

    You are a much better parent than I will ever hope to be. I tell PTA “no” to their multiple requests that I join and walk away quite happy. Of course, there are the moments that I have actually do things for the school, like when my son volunteered me for the bake sale… that I find out is TODAY. Or when I volunteer to chaperone the middle school party night – the one with the loud DJ and lots of dancing. Oh yes, good times here. (Would you mind sending me some of those ear plugs? I sure could use them for the next party night.)

  10. Laura

    I’m a member of the PTA at my daughter’s school, and those meetings are sheer torture. Our PTA is filled with alpha moms, and they are scaaaaaary. And the meetings are interminable and abso-freakin-lutely nothing gets decided.

  11. tuney

    Yeah, I meant PTA board. It just morphed into the school board. Sorry ’bout that.

  12. Mama Bear

    Here is a great idea for you pretty, pretty Mir. Sign up to be the PTA president, or run for election, whichever happens at your school. This is what another mother and I did, we both despised the way or PTO (PTA, but different, how I don’t know) meeting were held. When we were co-presidents we rewrote the meeting by-laws, as well as the PTO by-laws, so each meeting was handled by one of the presidents as a moderator. Since we were leading the meetings we helped set the agenda, and we sped through everything at record pace! We combined meetings with a family fun night. When snacks (!) were served at the family fun night, the meetings were held for parents who didn’t get their snack until the meeting was done. Thus, FAST MEETINGS! Even though I am now a past president, the meetings worked so well this way that even now the PTO meetings rarely last more than 20 minutes.

  13. lotus07

    Having spent my time in the trenches (I work for the state, meetings are a way of life here), I have come to the terrible conclusion that after endless hours of yapping and talking, and consensus building and hearing everyone’s point of view, this is no longer the country that put a man on the moon or won World War II. Sometime after the 1950s we went terribly astray, and we have fallen into mediocre meeting hell.

  14. JayMonster

    After sitting in on two board meetings, I transfered my daughter to a private school. It was that bad.

  15. kidzmama

    We have four kiddos and two of them are in elementary school. I volunteered in their classrooms alot when they were younger and that was worth my time, but those PTA meetings were just alot of hot air. I keep trying again and again to participate but get frustrated with the pointless committees!

    Maybe you should concentrate on the 504 crowd. Smaller group, bigger results?

  16. Randi

    I’m on the Parents Club for our school – the Treasurer (apparently I snorted Crack right before the meeting where I volunteered for THAT position). We NEVER get anything done – it’s always “table it for next meeting”. And then some woman gets a hair across her butt and decides to vote “no” to everything just to make life complicated.

    God Bless you mir!

  17. All Adither

    Oh, that all sounds so dismal.

  18. Shiz

    Would a meeting like the PTA group in WEEDS be better? Of course, I doubt their school has any real problems, they’re all so stinking rich.


    Why I remember when at MY elementary school, we had to photocopy TEXTBOOKS for kids because there weren’t enough to go around, an NO ONE, but NO ONE could buy more. It’s amazing we weren’t limited to a single square in the potty, or have to bring toilet tissue from home.

    Good for you in trying to make a difference, even tho the process is frustrating. Take heart! You’ll do those kids good!

  19. angie

    There were no snacks because it was white women there, really. When my daughter was in school, she was in a majority black school where I was the only black person on the PTO (it was o there, not a), and the one thing I remember the most is that none of those women ate. Ever. And they were skinny, and I was not, and I wondered why? Hmmmm.

    Anyway, I think most black folks stay away from those meetings because of the same reasons you did before. Boring, pointless, get a sitter for that? Food might bring folks out, who knows? But they need to know the point. I doubt if the people in your group even made an impact on the gifted program. I just don’t know what kind of real impact, outside of raising money for the school the PTA can make.

  20. Amy-Go

    Bake before next meeting. Bring enough for all. Do not forget plates and forks. Ask questions while mouths are full. Leave amused instead of frustrated.

  21. carolyn

    Wow, even though I know for a fact that we live in different states (although in the South)you could be talking about my fair school district, where I am employed and where my children attend school. Uncanny, how people go off on tangents, and nothing is ever decided. Maybe its just the south??

  22. julie

    When Lil daughter was in elementary school, one of the mom’s was on the school board. And guess what! One of the bus stops was….HER HOUSE. Her actual address was on the official bus route list of stops right there amongst all the “corner of’s”! She’s running for city council now. This past weekend she came by to ask for my vote. Hmm… Decisions.

  23. Linda

    Just reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from tv (I know so educational huh!). Anyway, on Desigining Women, Julia stated that she wished that one day the people with power would get some common sense, and that the people with common sense would get power. Sounds like you need a little of that down there.

  24. Jean

    Alright, you can call me a counter-cultural, escapist, controlling hermit, but all your posts about your children’s school make me SO glad that I homeschool. Have you thought about it? I get to put my energy directly into my kids’ education. My oldest ones went to school, and honestly, homeschooling is a lot less work than dealing with all of the above.

  25. Therese

    Meetings: A place where minutes are kept and hours are lost.

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