Though the last couple of months have been a little bit of a blur, there are some things that haven’t changed. One of them is that dishes still need to get done every day—heavy sigh. Another is that the end of the PTA year is approaching and it’s time to think about leadership transition plans for your PTA board and to put those transition plans into action.
PTA is designed to require transitions. There are term limits and yearly elections that ensure that a PTA will always have new leaders stepping up to run the association. If new leaders have to start from the very beginning figuring out their job or crafting new processes or policies, it takes away from time that could be spent supporting the children and families in their communities–That’s why intentional transitions are so important.
Regardless of where we find ourselves right now given the unexpected events of the last couple of months, there are many things we can do to help our PTA boards pass the baton in an effective way. There are responsibilities for both outgoing and incoming officers, institutional knowledge to be harvested and recorded, and conversations to be initiated.
Outgoing Board Member Responsibilities:
- Thank your volunteers for what they did this past school year.
- Inform your members of PTA accomplishments this year.
- Survey members to find out what they liked/disliked and what they would like your PTA to do next year. Share this information with incoming officers.
- Register incoming officers with WSPTA and with your council if you have one. All officers need to be entered in the WSPTA database each year even if they are returning to the same position. Officers should be entered before the end of June.
- Pay all reimbursements and invoices prior to June 30. Be kind to your treasurer, send out reminders to all committee chairs and board members to remit their receipts in plenty of time for your treasurer to process them.
- Appoint a financial review committee and make sure the treasurer’s records are up to date for the year-end financial review that should occur as soon as possible after the fiscal year ends, preferably by the end of July.
- Notebooks, both board and committee notebooks (whether paper, electronic, or both) should be up to date and ready to pass on before the school year ends. If you don’t already have officer job descriptions for your PTA board and committee chair positions, take time to write them. You can start with the descriptions of officer duties in the WSPTA Uniform Bylaws, and the handbooks, both of which are located on the WSPTA website. Revise them to match the operations of your PTA. Be careful not to downplay the work involved in a position. Always be realistic and truthful about what the job entails as well as the hours required for the job. Writing job descriptions is a task made more fun and more thorough with a friend. Social distancing? Plan a walk and talk outside or phone chat.
- Legal documents notebooks should be updated as needed at the end of each school year and passed on to the incoming officers. Information about what to include in the notebook can be found in the Secretary handbook on the WSPTA website.
- Budget information, include incoming officers in planning meetings if possible. Budgets for the upcoming school year need to be approved at a membership meeting before the end of the current school year if the new board needs to pay for PTA-related expenses before the fall membership meeting. The budget should be revisited by the new board during summer planning sessions and, if changes were made, approved again by the membership the following school year.
- Dues, consider any changes to your membership dues for the next school year. If a new amount will be charged, update your standing rules so that the revisions can be voted on at the last membership meeting of the current school year.
- Orientation/Transition. Take time to connect with incoming officers as soon as possible. This is the time to pass over notebooks and other important information. This year, obviously, orientation won’t be on campus but that shouldn’t stop you from having conversations about expectations. Suggestion: Before the meeting, take time for reflection. Think about all of the accomplishments and challenges of the year. Consider what might be improved and share those ideas during the transition process. Measure your accomplishments against plans and goals that were set at the beginning of the year. Were those goals met? Would you recommend different goals next time?
Incoming Board Member Responsibilities:
- Talk with the outgoing board member about his/her position. Suggestion: Take time before meeting to write down questions about the position, policies, practices. How did the year’s programs, goals, and objectives go? What suggestions does the outgoing officer have for future goals?
- Meet with the entire incoming board for planning purposes. Hold an initial meeting before the end of the school year with the outgoing board and start talking about goals—again, this might look different this year but be creative. Maybe the meeting can be a virtual online meeting or in a quiet parking lot using social distancing. It’s worth the effort to make it happen. The new board should then meet again in the summer to review goals and expectations for the year as well as meeting with the principal for planning purposes for the next year to make sure that PTA goals align with the building goals.
- Attend leadership workshops and training. There will be many more opportunities coming for remote learning through WSPTA over the summer and into next fall.
- Encourage all board members, not just those who are elected, to participate, share ideas, and attend helpful training. The job is much more fun when you know what you are doing!
- Calendar planning should begin in the spring for large events next year*. If possible, work with the outgoing board. They may have good insights into the best dates for events—as well as dates to avoid. Use their hard-won experience to make your life easier. *There might be a great many unknowns for next year. Don’t let that frustrate you. What virtual activities can your PTA plan to support your community? Ideas come from many avenues: survey your families to find out what you can do to support them, collaborate with your principal and staff, and share ideas with other PTAs around you.
- Accept and review financial records, minutes, legal documents, etc. AFTER the financial review is complete. The new treasurer should not accept the books until the financial review has been done. If there are questions after the review, the former officers and new officers should meet to clear up any concerns.
- Signature cards need to be changed at the bank after July 1. Take a copy of the minutes where your officers were elected and proof of who the account signers are. Call the bank before you go as every bank has different requirements and bank procedures might be different right now especially.
- Record retention should be considered. It is important to know what records need to be maintained; new board members should be familiar with what is kept forever and how long to keep other documents. Record retention information can be found under Treasurer Resources on the WSPTA website.
- Standing Rules are reviewed and voted on each year. All board members need to be familiar with the rules and work together to make any suggested changes to the rules. The membership needs to approve the standing rules each year (even if no changes are made.) Consider volunteering to be on the Standing Rules revision committee. It’s a great way to get to know the rules and to help outgoing board members. Check out the Standing Rules handbook on the WSPTA website.
- Notebooks and job descriptions should be received from outgoing board members before the end of the school year. Make sure they are current and that any questions you have are answered.
- Officers need to be entered on the WSPTA membership website before July 1. Outgoing officers should do this, but incoming officers need to make sure it has actually been completed.
- Questions? You can never ask too many questions of your outgoing board, your council, and your region team. If you don’t know, ask!
As our PTA leadership changes, it is vitally important to make sure that some of your basic PTA knowledge and practices are preserved. The following are some policies and procedures that impact the fundamental work of your PTA and it is strongly suggested that your board consider writing them down to ease transitions and future work of your PTA.
- Money handling – Have policies and procedures in place so that any board member or officer is familiar with how to handle money; how to request reimbursements; what to do with PTA cash; how checks will be written and handed out. It makes sure everyone is consistent from committee to committee. These procedures should be passed on to the incoming officers. They may be fine-tuned depending on input after the financial review.
- Communication protocols – How does your PTA communicate to members? How do your PTA board members communicate with each other? The incoming officers shouldn’t have to recreate brand new protocols if your PTA already has practices in place that work. For example, if you produce a weekly electronic newsletter, the new folks should be trained on who writes it and how and when it is sent out.
- Conflict of interest – We recommend your board adopt and each member agree to (sign) a conflict of interest policy, to show their commitment to protecting your tax-exempt association’s interests. A sample/template policy is in the PTA & the Law handouts; another sample policy is in the appendices of the WSPTA Policy Manual.
- Record retention – Which records should be kept? Where? Which can be shredded? There is an excellent list located on the WSPTA website both in the PTA & the Law handbook and on a separate document under PTA Leaders/Treasurer Resources. It is a useful list to know what you can shred and what you need to hold on to, and for how long.
- Location of resources and supplies – It is important that your incoming officers know if there are PTA supplies and equipment and where they are stored. Be sure to share any keys, combinations, or passwords that may be needed to access PTA-owned materials.
- Working with school office staff – Identify who to talk to, for instance, if you need copies made or who can help if you have pictures you want to use publicly but aren’t sure if it is okay. If possible, introduce your incoming officers to the school office staff and make sure those officers understand that the office folks are busy people and that, as PTA members, we should respect their time and treat them with the utmost respect. Ask staff when the best time would be to ask questions. For example, in the office, usually, the start of the school day and the end of the school day are very busy times and not the best time to talk. Introductions may not be able to be in person at this time, but an email introduction can certainly be initiated.
- Other considerations – Standards of conduct, social media policy, and others. Your organization may choose to develop/adopt other policies to establish expectations and define your processes. Examples of these are found in the appendices of the WSPTA Policy Manual.
Congratulations on another successful year of PTA! As you begin your final transition activities with the next board, don’t forget to emphasize that the best time for next year’s board to start transitioning is on the first day of the new PTA year on July 1. It is never too early to start. Record your work as you go and very importantly, in any board position, start right away to find and nurture your replacement in order for you to be able to move on and to sustain the legacy that is your PTA.
Don’t forget to visit the WSPTA website for transitioning resources or reach out to your local PTA’s council (if you have one) and region service delivery teams with questions. There is support for you every step of the way. Best of luck and happy transitioning!