Tuesday, April 29, 2008

When Is Enough Too Much?

I ask this because I’m being pressured to help out with something that’s a great cause that I’m already involved in that will dissolve if I don’t do more. It’s one of those things where I’d love to help, but is doing the right thing in the big picture also the right thing for me and my family?

To wit, no one has volunteered to be the PTO president for my son’s school for next year. Without a president, even with all other positions filled, the PTO will dissolve. Without the PTO, there is no fundraising, which means that low income students can’t go on field trips, teachers don’t get their wish list items fulfilled, etc. All of those are a big deal given the population of special needs and at-risk kids that we’re dealing with here.

I’ve been involved in the PTO both this year and last year, and I’ve taken on more responsibility this year. I’m essentially chairing the fundraiser we’re doing this coming Monday (note: I’m out of town Thursday afternoon until Sunday night) which should be our largest of the year. I’m also the PTO shopper, which means I track, budget and buy the items that the teachers ask for from trampolines (placed that order for 8 today after negotiating with a vendor for 2 weeks) to listening centers to yarn to Model Magic dough and everything in between. I’m also chairing and coordinating the teacher appreciation week, which is also next week – arranging donations, writing up the letter to parents, etc. Plus, I created and organized a good chunk of our Fall Festival this year in place of a field trip to the pumpkin patch.

I’m a good project manager, I pay attention to detail, and I follow through. That makes me an ideal candidate for PTO president, apparently. Plus, the PTO is fairly small, and you don’t want to have someone new to the PTO be the president. With most children in this school for two or fewer years, a big chunk of the PTO is moving on to kindergarten next year (side note: Mister Man will do a third year of preschool we’ve decided). The few who are staying on are pretty much all stay at home moms but don’t have the organization skills to do it – plus, they’ve also said no.

I said no the first go-around because:
1) I work three days a week
2) I have two small children
3) I also volunteer at Little Miss’ preschool
4) I do yoga/go running/do things for myself that take up time
5) My husband is a schoolteacher, Scholastic Bowl coach, baseball and basketball PA announcer and isn’t home much, leaving me less time to do things
6) The PTO presidents’ council meets on Wednesdays, which is a day I’m in the office and can’t make the meetings
7) I had already volunteered to do the PTO shopping and teacher appreciation again, along with writing the newsletter.

I look at how busy I am now, and adding the PTO presidency to my load seems stupid. The current president keeps reassuring me that she’ll be there for backup and she’ll attend all the Presidents’ Council meetings for me. This PTO is larger and more “stacked” than it has been in the three years she was involved in it. There are volunteers for all the board and other positions, meaning that less would fall to me. And the argument goes on for how it won’t be that hard. All I have to do is run the monthly meeting and keep in touch with the principal.

I know it won’t be that easy. That’s why I said no the first time. But then I go back, and if I don’t do it, the PTO simply won’t exist, and I would really hate to be the cause of that. The PTO is critical to the success of the kids at school even from the standpoint of providing funds to do a RIF (Reading is Fundamental) program or two during the course of the year. And without the PTO, there are so many valuable tools that the teachers can’t afford to buy themselves, nor can the parents all purchase on their own.

You can tell that I’m wavering towards doing it, right? But what will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? Am I going to make the right decision if I agree to be president next year?


Karen April 29, 2008 at 9:27 PM  

That's a tough one. I suffer from this kind of guilt all the time. I've learned to hold off until the last second (like when school starts this fall) and hope that someone else steps up before I feel that I have to.

Jeff and Charli Lee April 30, 2008 at 2:57 PM  

I can understand why this is a tough decision for you. If you take the position they'll only continue to rely on you, but if you don't, you put the kids' programs at risk. Maybe you could ask the school to find a qualified co-president of the committee and split the responsibilities. That's different than just having a "backup" person.

Sometimes it's tough to be needed eh?

Good luck!

Michelle May 4, 2008 at 10:58 PM  

Karen, glad to know I'm not the only one suffering from the guilt. Unfortunately, our PTO terms start in May of the previous school year so that everything's set to go at the beginning of the next year. I literally have until tomorrow night to make a decision (PTO meeting Tues am).

Jeff -- I may take your advice on that one. The former president has offered to help out where needed, and fortunately all the other positions are filled right now. Maybe I can talk one of my neighbors whose son goes to the school into helping me out in the background with some of the other parts of it though. She works full time and has the business brain that is sometimes lacking (not for ability but just in frequency of use) in the PTO we have now.

Can you tell that I'm probably going to agree to do it?

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