National PTA sends stern warning to Georgia unit

The National PTA turned up the heat on the Georgia PTA, warning leaders of the parent-based organization to clean up their act after complaints they were manipulating an upcoming election for new officers.

In a letter sent Thursday, National PTA President James L. Accomando wrote, “The National PTA Board of Directors is closely watching Georgia PTA’s actions and the harm being done to the PTA brand … The National PTA Board of Directors cannot allow the brand to be further tarnished and will take appropriate action.”

The forceful letter serves as further evidence of the growing alarm over the conduct of a controlling faction of the state PTA board that essentially pulled off a hostile takeover in January, culminating in the ouster of popular president and Cherokee County parent Lisa-Marie Haygood. PTA members gather next week at their annual Convention Leadership Training to elect a new slate of state leaders.

Initially, National PTA remained on the sidelines, telling the AJC in a statement, “We are not a ‘parent company’ that can intervene and correct perceived or real inequities except in restricted situations as directed by our membership and Board of Directors through our Bylaws and Standards of Affiliation. NationalPTA has been in communication with the past and current state leadership to assess whether this situation would meet those intervention standards.”

The national office has had to rethink that posture as more complaints poured in from across Georgia and local PTAs threatened to become unaffiliated PTOs, Parent Teacher Organizations.

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Georgia PTA president Tyler Barr has not responded to an AJC request for a response to Accomando’s letter, which also portends serious consequences if Georgia spurns the National PTA recommendations.

“If Georgia PTA disregards our strong recommendation, National PTA expects disarray and parliamentary challenges at your Convention Leadership Training, legal ramifications, and the involvement of the Georgia Attorney General,” wrote Accomando. “The National PTA Board of Directors is closely watching Georgia PTA’s actions and the harm being done to the PTA brand. Lack of action by the Georgia PTA board to open the election process and alleviate members’ concerns will be considered an affront to National PTA’s members who reside in Georgia, a demonstrable lack of care by the Georgia PTA for the PTA brand and a willful disregard for the reputation of PTA at all levels.”

PTA members are complaining the Georgia board arbitrarily modified the rules without notification on qualifying for election, raising the possibility of legal challenges to the process and pledges by some candidates to run from the floor of the convention. With the expectation of such challenges, National PTA advised the Georgia PTA to “retain in a sealed envelope all ballots, tally sheets, tellers’ reports, credential reports, nomination forms and other election and nomination materials.”

Gwinnett PTA activist Marina Staples has been a vocal proponent for reform and says the willingness now of National PTA to get involved will be a game changer. National PTA intends to send representatives to the Georgia election next week to ensure candidates can run from the floor, something that was in doubt and that would have kept the current leadership in place, she said.

“That National PTA is going to step up will make a difference in this election and is a confidence booster for our members,” she said. “Without National going in there, I don’t think Georgia PTA could have stayed alive.”

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