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Fair Oaks Changes Parent Group Affiliation
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Fair Oaks Elementary School has made a switch from the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to the Parent Teacher Club (PTC). The PTA group decided to disband and become a new type of parent-teacher organization because they felt a PTC would better meet the needs of the school.

Thus far, the change seems to be popular. As last year’s PTA president and this year’s PTC president, Jo Harris reported that in the first nine days of school, 157 parents and teachers had signed up for the PTC and more than 30 showed up for the first PTC meeting on Aug. 23. She said that as the PTA, the maximum number of members they had all last year was 73. At PTA meetings, there would be maybe 10 people total at the meetings, including the seven board members.

Harris explained that before coming to Oakdale, she had only been involved with PTC, so it was quite an adjustment.

Fair Oaks Principal Stacey Aprile noted that PTA is very structured and specific in how meetings are run, in how fundraising is done, how money is spent and tracked. According to PTO Today, a resource organization for both PTAs and PTCs, PTA has district (or county) branches, a state branch, and a national branch with a professionally-staffed lobbying office in Washington D.C. Many other PTCs or similar organizations choose not to become involved in political matters, although they have the option.

The Fair Oaks parent-teacher group wanted to make the change to PTC because they felt they needed more flexibility and options in how they fundraise and spend money for the school.

“In lean times when we rely on our parent organization to fund needs, the more flexibility we have the better,” Aprile said.

Harris reported that the process for all the paperwork and filings to make the change took about three months. For the PTC, she had to get a tax ID number, file 501(c)(3) status with the state, register as a non-profit, and file all the necessary PTA papers. While it was a lot of time and commitment to make the change, she said, “it’s worth it.”

In order to switch over to PTC, the Fair Oaks PTA was required by PTA to spend all the money in their account, prove that they did so, and prove that it was done legitimately and equitably across all grade levels. The group had to find a home for $27,000 that was left in the account at the end of last school year. If all the money wasn’t spent, then PTA would have seized the funds.

“I could not have changed from PTA to PTC without the treasurer (Eileen Van Dyke) – she checked the bank balance daily,” Harris said.

To spend that money, as the PTA, they bought new playground structures and equipment, stage skirts, projectors, $250 to each teacher for class supplies, character education lanyards and tags for the students, chairs and other classroom furniture, a wireless PA system, and launched the Art Corps program by paying for the necessary supplies and one-year membership fee. All that was in addition to what they had spent during the school year – the total was around $89,000.

Plus, on top of biannual PTA audits, the parent-teacher group is awaiting a final audit by the district PTA office to verify that they spent the money down according to PTA rules.

So now, as the PTC, the group is starting from scratch with a zero balance. The new Fair Oaks PTC has chosen, but isn’t required, to have a PTC auditor this first year. Harris said that they have added new budget lines such as those for specific programs or grade levels.

“Morale is great on campus with parents, with teachers,” she said. “I think it’s going to be great. I’m excited for the school year.”

Harris pointed out some of the differences between PTA and PTC. For example, PTA requires any parent or teacher who wants to be involved in the organization to pay dues, PTC does not.

“PTC is a way to build a parent volunteer community without them having to pay to be PTA members,” she said.
Comparatively, there is also a lot more paperwork required with PTA – three pieces of paper attached to every invoice, order, or check, Harris noted. With meetings, PTA required the equivalent of a “closed session” for the board then an “open session” for the membership.

PTA also requires that all funds must be spent equally at every grade level. This requirement alone presented an issue in various ways at Fair Oaks. The PTA could not donate to the anti-drug event called Drug Store Project, as it was a program only for fifth and sixth graders. If there was a desire to raise funds for a certain cause at school, such as Relay For Life, or a particular program, PTA couldn’t be involved or help count money raised. They could not help with these special projects or other fundraisers because PTA views it as a conflict of interest.

Aprile said that “PTC can look at the overall needs of the school” and contribute where it sees a need. She added that year to year, different grade levels may have different needs, but the PTA couldn’t spend money for one grade level because of the parity requirement.

Fundraising for sixth grade Outdoor Education is done across the Oakdale school district as part of the annual Jog-a-thon, which is put on by the parent-teacher groups. However, at Fair Oaks, the sixth grade had to hold its own Jog-a-thon, as a separate fundraiser from the school-wide Jog-a-thon because of the PTA rules.

“The bottom line of this change is to help our students,” Aprile added.

Among the new things that the PTC will be able offer this year at Fair Oaks includes a student store with spirit wear, class supplies, and novelty items – something they couldn’t have done under PTA because they would not have been able to document parity for all grades and it’s not tied to a school theme. The Jog-a-thon can also now be a single fundraising event, the PTC will help purchase planners for upper grade levels, they can contribute to safety patrol, and help fund the journalism club, the recycle club, and the sixth grade dance.

The PTC is expecting to bring in a little over $96,000 this year in fundraising, and expects their end of year balance to be a little more than $2,000. The PTC officers are Harris as president, Van Dyke as treasurer, Laura Cunningham as secretary, and teachers Becky Peregoy as teacher liaison and Lisa Graham as auditor.

Fair Oaks was the last PTA school in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, as all the rest are PTCs. Sierra View started as a PTC school, Cloverland’s group has been a PTC for over 20 years, Oakdale Junior High’s group became a PTC about five years ago.

The next Fair Oaks PTC meeting will be held after school on Sept. 27 on the school campus. Fair Oaks PTC’s first event will be the Jog-a-thon on Oct. 12, then the school’s Harvest Festival on Oct. 26.