Growing up in Randolph County, one of my earliest memories of feeling part of an educational community was going with my parents and sister to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) chicken pie dinners at Trindale Elementary School in Archdale. Those gatherings with families, teachers, and administrators for an evening of conversation and some delicious chicken pie instilled in me a tangible sense of how strong the school-family-community bond can be.
When I told my mom that I was writing this article, she laughed and said how much fun she had working with the other parents to cook those chicken pies — and that she had never seen so many chickens in her life.
It’s no surprise that often our top-rated schools are schools with a strong PTA.
Fast forward to today. PTAs continue to play an important role in strengthening the connection between families and school. It’s no surprise that often our top-rated schools are schools with a strong PTA. Because PTAs in North Carolina are affiliated with both North Carolina PTA and National PTA, PTA members form a network of parent leaders throughout the state. This statewide PTA network provides a great platform to share the creative and impactful work of PTAs throughout North Carolina.
One major difference between a PTA and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is that PTOs are parent organizations within individual schools. Local school PTAs, on the other hand, are part of the North Carolina PTA (NCPTA) and National PTA community and network.
PTAs share a rich history in North Carolina. The North Carolina PTA was formed in 1919 and in 1920 the NCPTA began its advocacy work with a resolution to recommend kindergartens in public schools.
Some of the benefits of forming as a PTA are training opportunities for PTA leaders and members, grant and award opportunities, staff support at the NCPTA headquarters for local PTA questions, participation in the NCPTA and National PTA Reflections program to spotlight student artists, uniform bylaws that provide guidelines for officers and board members, and financial oversight requirements to help ensure good stewardship of PTA funds. Local PTA members also enjoy the many benefits of membership in National PTA including advocacy alerts and trainings.
The more leaders we have in this network the stronger our voice is with policymakers.
In addition to support and training, NCPTA offers a network of advocates for excellence in public education not always available to stand-alone parent organizations. PTAs are united in the common goal of helping to see every child’s potential become a reality. The more leaders we have in this network the stronger our voice is with policymakers as we advocate for items such as continued funding for teacher assistants, state funding for driver education, and resources, such as textbooks and digital learning opportunities, for students.
NCPTA also encourages districts with several local PTA units to form a district-level PTA council. Many superintendents find the presence of a district-level PTA council helpful because it gives them a core group of parent leaders to work with to pursue common goals.
NCPTA also provides a template for the Elected Officials Go to School program. This template includes a sample invitation and activity ideas for PTAs to engage their elected officials and invite them to visit schools in their district. We think one of the best ways to build positive relationships with policymakers is to invite them into schools to experience a day in the life of teachers, teacher assistants, and students.
So when parent leaders come together to determine whether to form as a PTA or PTO, we hope you will consider contacting the North Carolina PTA office to learn more about the benefits.
Please ask for Nellie Taylor or Traci Mollere. Nellie has been with NCPTA since 1989 and is an incredible resource. Over the years, she has been asked almost every PTA question in the book and can tell you more PTA stories than just about anyone you will ever meet.
NCPTA President Kelly Langston is also a fantastic resource for local school PTAs. Kelly is a working mom of four with a strong background in PTA leadership and a special focus on healthy and active children.