PTAs look at growth, survival
Starting Friday, more than 1,000 Florida PTA members will flock to Palm Harbor for its 73rd annual leadership conference. The conference, which ends Sunday, is at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club. Weathering the nation's financial storm and working on a shoestring budget will be main subjects in many of the lectures. The St. Petersburg Times spoke with Florida PTA president Karin Brown about the conference and the state of Florida education.
How has the role of the PTA changed in the past decade?
"I know that we are more inclusive. It used to be more of a mother's PTA, if you will. It involved mainly middle-class women, and it is now what I would call the family PTA. We have more dads involved, more community people involved who are not necessarily a part of PTA. And it's also being seen as what it was created for 113 years ago: as an advocacy group for children."
What is the most difficult challenge the PTA faces in the coming school year?
The 2010 legislative session in which the stimulus money will be gone. I think we're going to have to watch this carefully so that education is not, once again, cut and the children become the pawns of whatever political games that are being played.
I think it's also going to be difficult for PTAs to bring in funding because of the economy right now. We cannot continue to nickel and dime our PTAs and our membership to death. We need to look for big businesses to assist us in our vision and mission.
How are parents becoming involved now that the economy has put more stress on them?
Some are using pen and paper to let teachers know about their financial difficulties, whether it's a spouse that has lost a job or if a single mother lost a job.
The PTA is also offering programs on bringing in financial advice, like how to deal with credit problems, how to get health insurance, how to refinance your properties.
What is the PTA doing to try to bring in new members?
National PTA has an emerging minorities group, and they have trainers to help recruit minorities into PTA.
We send people from our state to become involved or get training (at the national level). We send others so they can bring up whatever the needs are or how to reach their minority group in a better way.
Everybody has a different culture and a different background. We need to recognize them and begin a process of incorporating them so that we can meet their needs and the needs of their children.
Who is coming to this weekend's leadership conference?
We will have school board members, business leaders, PTA leaders. We will also have those interested in becoming PTA leaders.
During my term we are reaching out to non-PTA leaders as well and inviting them to the table, so some of them will hopefully show up.
This is very important; otherwise we're just talking to the choir.
Andy Boyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8087.
If you go
The Florida PTA is having its 73rd annual leadership conference this weekend at the Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor.
Eric J. Smith, Florida commissioner of education, will speak at Friday's opening session.
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum will speak at a luncheon Saturday about efforts to teach children about safe Internet use.
To learn more
For more information about the Florida PTA, go to floridapta.org.