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PTA—Please Take A-breath

Calmer heads need to prevail in the mess surrounding Wilton's Miller Driscoll PTA.

I never thought I’d quote a Mafia Godfather in talking about the Wilton PTA, but here goes:

“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”

Trust me, I appreciate the irony of quoting a movie mobster in relation to the now beleaguered Miller Driscoll PTA, especially given how some residents (and a few Patch readers) have characterized the group’s leaders. The PTA is just like the Mob:  insular, secretive—dangerous perhaps—they’ve even knocked off those that don’t hew to the rules of the ‘family.’

Please.

This is the PTA, folks. It’s not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It’s not the Federal government shutting down because Congressional Democrats and Republicans can’t agree. It doesn’t even approach the seriousness of how much a budget increase Wilton’s Board of Education is asking for this year.

What it boils down to is a procedure-related squabble that got terribly out of hand. Egos (some say of those hungry for power) got in the way of settling disputes. Insults were thrown, reputations got trashed, and bridges were burned. Suddenly the community now finds itself at the center of a never-ending, outsized tempest.

The line from the “Godfather:  Part III” really referrs to the dust storm that keeps a blowin’. I hadn’t planned on writing today’s “Driver’s Seat” about the PTA again. I was hoping the dust was actually settling down from a meeting that took place a little over a month ago, one that saw the ouster of two members of the Miller Driscoll PTA executive committee, and that set off the current dust-up.

My urged everyone to look forward, take steps to repair the damage that had been caused, and move forward with the sole goal of supporting the PTA’s mission:  enriching the educational and extracurricular activities of the Miller Driscoll students. I hoped that along the way we would keep in mind that those involved in the larger group were hard-working volunteers and their dedication to the students and the school community was what deserved recognition, and that the students were paramount.

Over the last month, readers have burned up about that PTA meeting. Most recently critical, inflammatory and accusatory comments appeared on a that was intended to be a thank-you note to the hundreds of Winter Carnival volunteers who made sure the fundraising event went off without a hitch.

All told, there have been more than 200 comments on Patch about the PTA strife. Critics—some of whom, it seems, don’t even have children at the school—call for everything from specific PTA volunteers to withdraw from the council, to town police attending the meeting to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand, to ceasing all PTA activities for the rest of the year.

People are upset—understandably—that monthly PTA meetings are only held during the mornings, preventing working parents from attending regularly.

Some others are mad that there’s a proposed slate of candidates put forth as nominees to replace the vacated positions for the remainder of the school year. Unfortunately, folks, that’s the way many groups and organizations are run; when they’re lucky to get a volunteer who’s willing to serve in an often thankless capacity like PTA president, a nominating committee is grateful. In any other year, no one would bat an eyelid.

I admit, I chuckled a bit at comments that complained about the nominees for PTA executive committee running unopposed. Just a few months ago, I ran a —with candidates for all boards and positions put forth as nominated by the RTC or the DTC, and without opposition.

Sadly, where attention should count the most—in looking at the government that runs our town—only 15 comments were registered:  two from me, one from the Wilton Patch editor, and three from the RTC chair, among just a few others.

But for the PTA contretemps, there were 200-plus comments and counting. And Oh the Outrage!

The one recent comment about the PTA I found most sad suggested the PTA be ‘banned’ outright, charging that the PTA-run programs are hardly substantive and are superfluous. The author wrote that teachers and school administrators would do a better job without the PTA.

The comment has since disappeared, but it revealed an ignorance about the kind of contribution the hundreds of parent PTA volunteers make to the schools—to the students and the teachers. Without the PTA, there’d actually be a significant drain on administrators and teachers, and the students’ educational experience would suffer greatly.

The PTA organizes programs like Women in History and Visiting Author; PTA volunteers tend year-round to the amazing courtyard garden that is the Outdoor Learning Center; PTA parents staff the library for clerical duties to free up librarians to teach young readers; the PTA ensures kindergarteners learn to ride the bus safely during the first week of school; the PTA compiles the parent handbook—a herculean task each year; the PTA sends off ‘graduating’ second graders with a memorable picnic; the book fair is a crucial part of school life, thanks to the PTA; and, perhaps most importantly, the PTA is responsible for raising significant funds, helping the schools purchase technology that falls outside of yearly budgeting, and assists the teachers with learning opportunities and purchasing much needed materials for their classrooms.

I’m sure I’m missing even more examples, but you get the point. The continued complaining, plus the specific mis-aimed barbs just called into question the dedicated volunteers who commit a great deal of time to helping out the elementary school community significantly during the year.

The three women who have been nominated to run the Miller Driscoll PTA for the remainder of the year are all hard-working, stand-up people. I know all three and they’re going to do a great job moving the PTA forward. They shouldn’t have a target on their backs, although I know it’s how they feel.

The squabbling, criticizing and name-calling should end. And we need to keep perspective about where the energy is being focused, rather than continuing to stymie the volunteers who keep helping, the kids who keep learning, and the women who stepped up to serve when they were asked.

Because when they were asked, it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Susan March 21, 2012 at 03:44 PM
WPK - Excuse me BUT many of us VERY concerned members stayed away in hopes that common sense would prevail and an evening meeting would be held !! The town was crying out for it all last week - and again a few - with illigitimate authority - ignored the call of the membership ! Unanimous vote ?? The Nominating Committee came up with 3 names for 3 spots ! As Rubber Stamp said last week - that is akin to an appointment by the "nominating committee". The "election" is/was a farce. And it disrespects what up until January was a wonderful town jewel. Now it is detritus with a rancid oder
Susan March 21, 2012 at 03:54 PM
And Nancy when a legitimate meeting is held and there is s motion (as in Feb) to remove this current slate of officers (with perhaps a few being renominatedi in the future administration) - may we nominate you from the floor to bring order to the chaos ?? And your 1st order of business can be to announce future meetings will be held in the evening so as not to interested with your work schedule !
Susan March 21, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Whoops typo/self correcting phone .... so as not to interfere with your work schedule.
WiltonPeaceKeeper March 21, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Susan, if you want an evening meeting, email, telephone the president and ask for one. Moaning on here is an ineffective method of communication. Have you addressed Dr Richards with your concerns? Staying away from the meeting is at best naive. How can you hope to affect change by staying away? You have a voice, let it be heard. This was the first meeting I attended all year. There were 40 people there, the best attendance of the year. What common sense did you expect to prevail? Common sense in my opinion did prevail and everyone decided to move forward. A nominating committee comes up with one nomination per spot. You are demonstrating a total lack of awareness about how the whole process works. Come get involved, put yourself forward for the bylaw amendment committee which was discussed during the meeting. Please do something useful other than complain on this website.
Craig Donofrio March 26, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Thank you all for your comments. Wilton Patch is continuing to look into recent developments related to this incident.

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