by PTO Mom

I realize that it was very late at night when I handed you the PTO flyer Mr. Walker, but you missed a lot of what I said, due to the fact that it was hard for me to get a word in edgewise with you.  You were very obviously upset that the PTO chose to weigh in on this issue, and your statement that you would no longer support the PTO is unfortunate. 

Since I am the other half of your conversation, I would like the opportunity to correct some of the statements you have attributed to me.

By law we cannot spend more than $1,000 on printing and materials for advocating our position on this referendum.  Last school year (07-08) we spent over $29,000 on field trips and special events for both schools, and like any business we are required to have insurance coverage, and have operating expenses as well.  So it is not possible for an organization like ours to truly “spend every single penny solely on the kids.”  What we are able to do with our funding (I think) is a very important supplement to the school’s budget.  When you compare the under $1,000 we have spent on some signs and photocopies, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what we have funded throughout the school year. 

You DID ask me specifically, how it was decided that the PTO should take a stand on this issue?  But you did not hear my answer correctly, and I most certainly did NOT say “we can take a political stand on any issue we see fit.”  I don’t know who said that to you, but it was NOT me.  I told you that the PTO “had announced a special meeting of all its paid members, we discussed what if anything we should do about this petition, and the majority voted to take a stand on it.”

As background – Signs had just been placed around town saying “Vote yes for EDUCATION” and we do not see any benefits to the education of the students in Woodstock, should this referendum pass.  There is nothing wrong with the system as it is set up now.  So the majority of PTO members at that meeting voted that we should take a stand on this topic and try to educate parents on what the potential outcomes of this vote could really mean – like the entire BOE all terminating on November 2, 2009 and a brand new board being elected with 2 fewer members to do the same amount of work. 

You are a very fast talker, even at 1am.  I know that we are advocating a position on this question, we are asking for a NO vote.  I was trying to explain to you that I also see our role as a PTO to be educating parents on important issues that will directly affect their children’s education.  I resent the following statement you attribute to me, because this is NOT at all how I answered you:  “The PTO is not advocating a position.  The board votes on how to spend the money.  It’s in the by-laws.”

You are most definitely trying to characterize the PTO in a negative light and I take personal offense to that.  What you have written is an attack on the PTO – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  We are a group of parents who VOLUNTEER our time and energy to try to raise money to help fund field trips and extras that the kids would otherwise go without, like purchasing musical instruments for the band, renting the Hyde School for their concerts, or paying for cool assembly performers to come to school.

Our members DO vote on how to spend the PTO’s money, no one person has the authority to decide how funds will be spent.  We have a budget, and a democratic process by which we spend our funds.

I tried to clarify to you that my understanding is that WEF has written into their By Laws that they cannot take a side on an issue (at least that is what I have been told), but that “we do not have anything written in our By Laws that prevents us from being able to take a stand on an issue” that we feel can directly affect the quality of the school system in our town. 

In trying to address your questions, I was trying to say that we have money left over in our budget every year, so absorbing $1,000 in unexpected costs is not a hard thing for us to do.  We do not fundraise specifically for “politics,” and we do not budget specifically for “political issues.”  By state statute, a PTO cannot fundraise or advocate for either a political party or a candidate.  We can however, advocate for a position on a referendum question which we feel could affect the schools.

I wanted to explain to you that the last time the PTO got involved in taking a side on an issue was 4 years ago, but I don’t believe I got the chance to say that.  Unless we, as an organization, feel strongly that something is going to hurt/benefit the schools, we stay out of it.  This referendum question COULD hurt the school – even you must be able to see the potential for that if a whole new board of 7 unexperienced people were elected?!

This small group of petitioners has set out to confuse parents and trick them into voting for their petition by attaching it to a big trigger word – “EDUCATION.”  They have tried to undermine the confidence of the community in our Superintendent by fabricating a story of a “vote of no confidence” that NEVER took place, they have said that MOST BOEs in CT have 7 members or fewer – which is also UNTRUE.  Parents are confused, and were looking to us to help them figure out what the best position would be.  After much thought and discussion, we believe that a NO vote is the best solution for our schools, our town, but most importantly, our kids.

No one has a crystal ball, and can say with certainty that some of the same smart and talented BOE members that are currently serving us would be re-elected, supported by their current parties, or even choose to run again.  They were already duly elected and should be allowed to serve their terms.  Period.

I know we have taken a stance on this topic by asking for a NO vote, but our first and foremost mission has been to help clarify the confusion that the “yes for Education” signs have caused.  I think you have misrepresented my statements that I was trying to make to you to bolster your own argument.  You kept going on and on about the PTO having money to pay for a pipe bursting in the school, and field trips, the gym floor, etc.  I said a pipe bursting would be a fixed asset the town should pay for not the PTO – and you jumped on that and said “Well what about the gym floor?”, and I also said I thought the town should pay for that too, and you jumped on that point too and said “Yeah but the PTO paid for it!”  YES!  The PTO helped to pay for the gym floor because the voters in this town refused to support it being bonded.  Elementary aged students were unable to RUN during GYM class because the floor was so slippery and dangerous.  We decided that since we had already raised the remaining funds necessary to replace it, we would not wait for the town to come up with a way to pay for it.

Of course I did not get to answer you completely, because you very quickly would jump onto something else.  I’m surprised you heard anything I said at all quite frankly, and as I tried to answer what you would throw at me, you would go on to something else.  I could see that you were not going to really hear what I had to say, and ultimately I chose to walk away from your car.  I only wish I had walked away sooner.

There is no need for us to send home our By Laws to parents at the start of the school year because they are posted right on our website.  Our website is: www.woodstockpto.com.