There's a very interesting discussion going on at Half-Changed World about what the PTA funds and whether it creates inequities or not. As I said over there, I have no idea what our PTA pays for at either the elementary or middle school. In fact, I'm planning to attend the school board meeting and the PTA meeting in the coming weeks, so maybe I'll have more to say then.
Here's the thing. I am not involved very much in either of my children's schools. This is because I worked full-time, their schools were a 15-20 minute drive away, which meant if I wanted to volunteer for something, I was going to have to use a couple of hours of precious personal time. I'm trying to remedy that now that my hours are flexible. I've volunteered to help with an after school Shakespeare Club at the elementary school and I'll see what I can do at the middle school after the PTA meeting next week.
One commenter notes the phenomenon of the PTA mom clique, and I've certainly felt that from time to time. At my younger child's old elementary school, for example, there was a very well established PTA, with moms who'd been serving for years and who all knew each other quite well. Trying to participate was hard because I wasn't part of the in crowd. The new elementary school isn't like that as far as I can tell, mainly, I think, because more of the moms work and so there's more coming and going as those moms have time to participate.
One other improvement I've noticed is the increased use of technology for getting parents involved. I signed up to make a dish for a potluck next week because they used a cool potluck web site to solicit donations. It was easy for me to see what they needed people to make. I could pick something and voila, I was done. Also, there's more communication by email, etc. It would be nice to have more connecting via technology, like setting up a Facebook or Ning, so that parents can connect outside of participating in events.
Earlier this week, I listened in on the Parents as Partners webcast, which was really interesting. For a while I thought I was the only parent, but someone chimed in that they were helping get parents connected via various social networking tools. They were getting a little pushback from the school, but were working through that. The hardest thing is figuring out how to get connected to the school in a real way, where you feel like you know what their educational goals are and that you can have a voice in shaping those goals. I've been mostly focused on shaping my own kids' goals and am finding that at times, they're not in sync with the school and I don't know what to do about that. I'm not sure how much being involved in the PTA would help that. Certianly, the webcast indicated that this kind of connection was the goal in many schools and it wasn't all about the PTA.
It's a complicated thing, sending your kids off to school and feeling like you don't know what's going on there. It's taking a lot of work, but I hope to feel less in the dark by the end of the school year.