By Gay Adelmann
Dear Kentucky PTA Members and Concerned Citizens,
I am a very engaged public school parent in Jefferson County. I want to warn you about something happening in Lexington this weekend. Kentucky PTA is holding their state convention, and along with it, their officer elections.
Two of the officers running on the nominating committee’s “slate” hail from the 15th District PTA board, which represents Jefferson County. Our district PTA is currently mired in controversy.
For example, there have been unaddressed reports of excessive Redbook violations, election tampering, inappropriate use/handling of funds. Some active volunteers have been called “uncooperative,” “ineffective,” “disobedient” or “disloyal” when they refused to do the administration’s bidding, even if it went against Redbook or the best interest of their students.
There are a handful of PTA leaders from Jefferson County who have been squatting in some of these positions for a decade or more, cycling through from school to district to state and back, sometimes serving in schools where they don’t have children, pushing out authentic parents who are wanting to serve. They have been making last-minute rule changes in order to shut out parents and volunteers with whom they disagree by extending their own term limits, holding clandestine elections and limiting who can vote. The most recent District PTA elections are an example of this.
The current state PTA president, who also hails from Jefferson County as the past president of 15th District PTA, once along with her husband and father held positions on the board simultaneously. Therefore 3 of the votes and 3 of the points of view guiding decision-making came from one shared perspective. Her husband is one of the candidates being challenged on today’s slate.
Our district PTA’s immediate past president, who also served as the state PTA’s nominating committee chair that devised the above slate, is another one of those candidates, and is also being challenged.
Serving as a PTA volunteer leader is an exhausting, thankless job. We are grateful for the service of these leaders, and in fact, I would not be here today if it weren’t for them. However, we feel that our board is no longer reflective of the needs and demographics of our district, and its time to take a different tact.
National PTA is Pro Charter
Perhaps one of the reasons this is happening is that National PTA is pro-charter. And in this climate of charters, vouchers, state takeovers, and SBDM power stripping, we would be naive to dismiss the possibility of pro-charter leaders. I’m not saying that’s what they are, but if they are not, why don’t they have the courage to push back on National PTA for their controversial stance that harms Kentucky children? To educate and inform their members so they can stand up for our children?
I served on the 15th District PTA Board in Louisville from 2014 to 2017. I constantly warned fellow board members about the likelihood of charter school legislation ahead of the 2017 session and the destruction they have caused in other states. In late 2016, I made a motion to simply “educate and inform PTA members about pending charter school legislation.” It passed. However, months went by and no action on this motion was taken by PTA leadership at either the district, state or national level. We weren’t asking them to take a position, just educate! They finally published the National PTA’s position on charters. That’s it. Session ended in March and guess what! The ALEC-backed legislators got their charter school bill through in the final hour on the final day. Don’t you think that might have ended differently if PTA had found some way to advocate for Kentucky’s most vulnerable school children, who will be most harmed by this legislation? Would we still be fighting against vouchers and a funding mechanism this upcoming session? I don’t think so.
Members Have Another Choice
I and another JCPS mom have decided to run from the floor at this weekend’s election, in order to give members another option. We realize that most parents can’t afford the $75 late registration fee, $129 in hotel costs, ability to take two days off work, etc., so we’re attempting to represent those who cannot be there. We just want you to be aware, get involved, ask questions, and help us ensure PTA is serving all of Kentucky’s children, especially those who don’t have advocates at the table. It’s our moral imperative.
Gay Adelmann is co-founder of Dear JCPS and Save Our Schools Kentucky. Her son, Peyton, graduated from a so-called failing school in the West End of Louisville and is now a senior at the US Naval Academy.