We Demand a Fair and Transparent PTA Officer Election in Jefferson County, KY!
Jefferson County’s district-wide PTA (15th District PTA), as well as Kentucky and National PTA, need to hear from you!
This section is updated regularly. To have your examples and concerns added, please forward them to email@example.com.
The current climate of Kentucky and JCPS schools has been changing, in ways that can be positive for the future of our students. More parents, guardians, and students are speaking up every day to be involved and included in the decisions that affect our families’ lives. We’re seeking to create an environment where every voice included, welcomed and encouraged. This climate is creating an amazing revival in family involvement. Now Dear JCPS is taking our focus to the 15th District PTA Elections.
For the first time ever in the 15th District, there were enough parents wanting to be serve on the Executive Board that there were challengers to several positions. In this first test of how a “delegate” plan for managing contested elections works during the 2019 15th District PTA Elections, there were several issues that we would like to have addressed and changed for future elections. Our purpose, that should be shared by all, is to create the most fair and balanced system possible to elect a board that reflects the needs and experiences of all students in JCPS.
The current system for becoming a candidate for office for 15th District PTA is: a nominating committee of 5 existing members of the current/outgoing 15th District PTA Board for that year take applications from all interested candidates for that year’s election. From those who turn in paperwork to run for office on the Board, only one person per position is presented as a “slate” candidate and is put forth as the preferred choice of the current Board. Candidate applicants that are denied the opportunity to run on the ballot, or who miss the original application deadline, have a second option to run at this point. They can request to run ‘from the floor.’
At the time of voting, “slate” candidates received favorable treatment above the candidates running from the floor and were printed in a bold font compared to the plain lettering of other candidates. In addition, “The candidates in bold indicate they are the 15th District PTA Slate chosen by the Nominating Committee.” was included in the official ballot directions.
The actual ballot can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/15thDistrictPTA/posts/2663533500357764
Considering the barriers that make adding new voices to the ongoing and important discussions about how to best educate our kids, the following changes are requested for consideration to existing bylaws laid out in Article XII of the 15th District PTA :
- Allow all qualified candidates who complete the application process for an elected office of the 15th District PTA to run for the office of their choice but limited to a reasonable number as to be determined by further discussion. If the scenario should occur that more than the predetermined number of eligible candidates wish to run for any particular position a committee comprised from schools under the elected office position in question may narrow down the candidate field for that position to the number limited on the ballot. This will ensure that every candidate receives equal and fair treatment in how they are presented for consideration by voting members and eliminates unfair advantages created by the current guidelines.
- In creating a more fair and balanced election process, a secondary advantage is in further streamlining the election process is through elimination for the necessity of “floor positions.” We would move that one single window of 14 days be created in which applications can be submitted, with submissions closed at the end of that 14 day period.
- To ensure that all members of the PTA are included in the decisions affecting their students, we move that at a period no later than 30 days prior to the application period opening all possible efforts are made to inform 15th District PTA families than elections are coming up, including and not limited to : call and text systems, social media, email, letters sent home with students. This will create optimal participation, which is the goal to guarantee all students are represented to the best of our abilities. This addresses a concern we have seen voiced by several parents that the majority of the families for the District are unaware of elections to begin with.
- Initiate and create a process to ensure all efforts for diversity in 15th District PTA board to better reflect representation for all students. 54% of the 98,361 current JCPS students identify as non-Caucasian. With the candidates who were presented as preferred by the Nominating Committee, this was in no way reflected. This is a reflection the failure in our current system as whole to both recruit a wider and diverse pool of candidates and allow minority candidates the right to be chosen by fair election process of their peers to office.
The process for voting until the 2019 15th District PTA elections has always been done by vocal vote, in accordance to written bylaws. The change to a written ballot in this year’s election was due to the sole fact that for the first time there are candidates challenging those chosen by the members of a current/outgoing Board on the Nominating Committee. With this, bylaws limiting the way and number of people allowed to vote in the election were enacted to cover this scenario. Only 5 delegates per the 169 schools in the 15th District PTA were allowed at maximum to vote, along with a vote to each of the current Board members.
We heard from many PTA members that they had not been informed of the voting process at all, and were only made aware from sources outside of the PTA. This was combined with the fact that the announcement that a deadline for a finalized list of delegates allowed to vote from each school was made only 10 days prior to the deadline. Out of over 850 potential voters per current bylaws, only 168 delegates were named in time to be allowed to vote and out of that only 114 people cast ballots. This means that out of a reported (per JCPS) 27,674 15th District PTA membership, only a limited and select number of people constituting less than half of 1% of all members were able to fairly represent their wishes by voting. There were other multiple issues and concerns reported during the process for voting not limited to:
- Members who wanted to be delegates and allowed to vote, to be told that their school delegate selections were already filled and that they would not be able to.
- Most commonly that efforts made to let 15th District PTA members know that a vote was taking place in the first place was not effective, leaving the majority of members unaware there was an election. To ensure this does not occur again, we request that all efforts to inform all members of each Board election along with voting opportunities be made a period no later than 14 days prior to the election date, including and not limited to: call and text systems, social media, email, letters sent home with students.
- Many schools submitting zero delegates with the lack of communication for all members and time constraints, therefore having absolutely no say in the future of the 15th District PTA leadership and direction.
- Only allowing a maximum of 5 delegates per school selected at the sole discretion of one person in each individual (the PTA President of that school) does not allow a for a fair and accurate reflection of the wishes for all 27,674 members of the 15th District PTA.
- Reports from registered delegates who were able to cast ballots feeling uncomfortable that current Board members and candidates were present in the same space where written votes were cast due to the lack of privacy while voting. We move to request that for all future elections all ballots be cast to the level of seclusion given for example as in the way a government polling station provides during election.
- There were comments from delegates that voted who felt uncomfortable that members of the current Board had contact with ballots after a numbers were assigned and a list was generated to match ballots to the names of voters. We therefore request that once numbered ballots and corresponding lists of names are generated in future elections, that both are sealed until the time voting is open and only be handled by a neutral party not serving on that current board once sealed, unless a challenge resulting for the necessity for validate the votes are required or they are destroyed. This will protect the integrity of total anonymity in voting and concerns voiced that other PTA and Board members have the ability to see how an individual votes and therefore cause potential influence on how a vote is cast.
Beyond specific actions listed, we are calling for the voting process to be remade in a way that all members have a voice, not a select few. To make this a more fair and balanced process, we request that all meetings exploring ways this can resolved to the satisfaction of the majority of 15th District PTA membership be conducted as open and public, with all eligible members being granted the opportunity to attend and speak if they wish to.
In addition to the problems we have discovered that the current election guidelines create, there were several challenges specific to the candidates of this election that we would like to address. In the spirit of inclusion and fairness to all members, beyond our primary request and demand that the election process be updated in order to best reflect the true wishes of all 15th District PTA members we would like for it be taken into consideration that the election results from May 7th 2019 be set aside. We would request like any future changes we are asking for that all efforts be made to remove the biases created on the ballot itself by promoting some candidates over others to voters, along with addressing the specific candidate issues listed below and the serious failure to ensure adequate representation reflecting the diversity and totality of our District PTA membership was made in the representation of voters. Issues specific to this election and candidates included:
- In the confusion and chaos created by utilizing “floor nominations” for the first time, a candidate who requested to run from the floor for the VP 5 position was instead placed on the ballot against another candidate also running from the floor and the candidate chosen and promoted over the floor candidates in VP 4. Not only did this give gross disadvantage to both floor candidates over any other as votes were likely split between them when they would not have been in the first place resulting in a far less chance of success, it gave advantage to the chosen slate candidate as this pretty much created an issue of canceling out votes that both would have gone to both women. Even more grevious of an offense, this also nearly guaranteed the elimination of half the minority candidates running for the Board before a single ballot was ever even cast.
- After the final delegates were published, a set of new bylaws were passed to specifically prevent a floor candidate from being allowed to take office without completing a punitive and non-transparent appeals process, even if that candidate had won their race for President Elect. These requirements essentially guaranteed that this position would be won by one candidate, the one chosen by the current/outgoing Board members of the Nominating Committee to become the new President Elect.
- Rules were enforced inconsistently. For example, a requirement for a form ID along with a PTA membership card was stated for the first time to be allowed to vote in the May 7th 2019 election, deterring some people that may have wanted the ability to vote but not in possession of both and ID and membership card. At the actual voting site, these 2 items that a member was required to produce on site before being allowed to cast a ballot was only checked for some delegates and not all voters.
In conclusion, we as members of the 15th District PTA are petitioning to address and correct a very long list of problems and concerns that have proven to be issues the way the current election process is written, now and in the future. The best way to ensure that the needs of all students in JCPS are best reflected and executed is to create a system that is inclusive of all members in choosing their leadership and direction of the future of our District organization. The more widespread and diverse parental involvement we have in our schools, the better the outcomes for ALL students. We urge you to sign this petition and share to send a message to the 15th District PTA Board that you share these concerns and believe that all member voices should be counted and heard, not those of just a small, established percentage.