More meeting restrictions and school closure extensions

So what does this mean for PTAs in Missouri?

Missouri PTA realizes that many of our units and councils are concerned that our ability to conduct regular business, officer elections and transitions is being impaired by the current health concerns. Governor Parson’s recent announcement of the stay at home order through April 24 brings more uncertainty about when meetings will be able to take place. There have been many questions and discussions regarding if, how or when meetings can take place. These are unprecedented times and it is impossible to know all of the answers or foresee what things will be like in 30 days or three months from now. It is important to follow our bylaws, our governing document as we look for guidance.

Read your bylaws and ask Missouri PTA questions if you are unsure.

Many PTA/PTSA units have provisions in their bylaws that allow for electronic voting by the Executive Committee or Executive Board. Often the articles that cover the Executive Committee or Executive Board do not include the activities of the general members, (the election of officers, bylaws, and budgets). These important decisions are not normally delegated in bylaws to a board or other governing body. Please review your bylaws carefully regarding electronic voting and what authority your Executive Committee or Executive Board has. If you
need a copy of your bylaws or have questions please contact [email protected].

Please do not jump to the conclusion that voting electronically or digitally is “ok” and no one is going to care.

There are many things to consider when trying to meet this way and what to include on the agenda. Does every member have the capability to hear and speak simultaneously? If your unit has 250 members, how are you going to accomplish this? We know that not all of our families have the same digital capability because of the challenges schools are facing with remote learning. It does not matter if only 10 people usually show up for your “normal” monthly general meeting and those same 10 members were on the Zoom meeting or conference call. What does matter is that 10 other members could not dial in. Our bylaws are in place to protect the rights of the individual member. It is when that member’s rights are not considered that problems occur and voting results are contested. Let’s make sure in our rush to move forward or help we are not bypassing our processes. We still need all voices at the table to have open honest discussions and sharing of ideas.

Our parliamentarian, Dr. Leonard Young has provided guidelines regarding electronic meetings. The detailed explanation is available through this link, but in summary:

“The key is they (electronic meetings) must be authorized in the bylaws and must, at a minimum, provide for simultaneous aural communication.  So just doing voting electronically without the provisions for the give and take associated with a real meeting (making nominations, debating, making motions, etc.) is not permissible.”

Hold Informative Meetings
If you are not authorized to meet electronically then you cannot conduct business (vote) electronically. Those decisions will have to be put on hold. Informative meetings are allowed and should be held. Financials can be distributed and committee reports shared. Invite your district to share updates. Discuss ideas on how the unit will be moving forward. Get member input and do some initial planning (similar to committee work) so that you will be ready to conduct business as soon as you can meet in person. We need to be engaged and connected. Be the resource our families are needing.

Here are some guidelines and suggestions to consider when trying to develop a plan to move your PTA forward.

1. First stay calm and realize you are not alone. Units, councils and states across the country are in that same boat.
2. Read your bylaws to see if meeting electronically is allowed. If permitted follow RONR guidelines for electronic meetings and your bylaws for meeting notifications and quorums.
3. Your bylaws include provisions for just this type of incident. Article VI Section 7 states officers serve until their successors are elected. So technically until new officers are elected, the existing officers are still in place and that is when their term will end. This allows for the unit to continue on with business until schools are open and officer elections can be held during a general meeting with a quorum present.
4. PTA does not stop in May. It is ok to hold meetings during the summer if that is what works best for your unit.
5. Changes on bank accounts usually require minutes from meetings that the elections took place and signatures from individuals. These will be obtainable once your unit is able to meet again. For some, it may be this fall.
6. Current budgets are not “frozen”. Expenses included in the current approved budget are still allowed. Amendments are not allowed. For example, senior scholarships. Budgets can be prepared for the next school year but will need to be approved or amended at a general meeting.
7. There are many ways to help in this time of need but remember we are restricted as a nonprofit organization when it comes to monetary donations.

Richard Bach stated, “Every problem has a gift for you in its hands”. We need to reflect on why we became involved in PTA and focus on navigating the interim. Let’s be positive and proactive for the upcoming school year and make it the best ever! Check out the suggested ways to utilize this time to Get Ready for Next Year.

The uncertainty about when schools are going to be back in session combined with our desire to “help” our students, families and school staff may be adding to your stress in this very overwhelming situation. I understand because I am having the same feelings. We have those feelings because we are PTA volunteers dedicated to our school community. In the 150+ years PTA has been in existence it has navigated many big bumps in the road including the Depression, several wars and influenza. We will survive this too and be even stronger.

We are currently working on some key points to look for in your bylaws that will help guide you moving forward. An informative conference call is being planned to allow unit/council leaders to ask questions and collaborate on solutions. Look for information on these resources next week. Remember Missouri PTA is here to answer questions and help however we can. We are all a part of the same team.

It is times like this that we need to work together and rely on each other.

Susan Rupert
Missouri PTA President