One of the principles underlying parliamentary procedure in a meeting is that every member present should have an equal voice and vote. This is one of the reasons why I love parliamentary procedure. At its core, it is profoundly democratic.
However, there are a few barriers that come with this. Members have to be present in a meeting to have a voice and vote at a membership meeting. PTAs have always worked hard to overcome these and other barriers. You schedule your sessions to maximize member attendance. You ensure that the location is accessible. Many local PTAs also bring in interpreters when needed so that non-English speaking parents can participate.
For the last couple of years, a new barrier came our way. We could not meet in person because of the pandemic. Fortunately, the advent of computers, mobile phones, and the internet opened up the option of online, virtual meetings. Not only did it allow us to meet, but meetings also became more accessible. For most families, it has been easier to attend PTA events online than it was in person. Some are considering whether to stick with this format going forward to ensure that accessibility.
With school buildings opening up, a new possibility has arisen – the “hybrid” meeting. The idea here is that some families could attend in person while others could attend online. On the face of it, it seems like a great idea. Members would enjoy the best of both worlds, the camaraderie of in-person activities that we have all missed, plus the versatility of calling in to join the event. The problem is that it doesn’t work.
In addition to members having an equal voice and vote, it is essential that all members in a meeting fully communicate. They need to hear everything and need to be heard. This is pretty straightforward and easy in both in-person and virtual meetings. The mix, however, adds a significant barrier. It’s almost impossible to ensure that every attendee can be seen and heard when using two very different formats. Unless you are using a high-end conference room with a very large monitor, a fancy camera, and multiple skilled facilitators, it is a safe bet that members will be disenfranchised.
My advice – don’t do it. Hold your meeting using the one format that ensures maximum participation. You will be glad that you did.
Andrew L. Estep
WSPTA Executive Director