Misguided Adventures of a Reluctant PTO President


I never set out to be a PTO president. Im sure theres a high percentage of PTO presidents that say that, but I really mean it. 

Volunteer at School

I had volunteered numerous times at my childrens elementary school over the years and my all-time favorite event to lend a hand was the the yearly book fair. I loved when students would bring a ziplock bag of coins and we would practice their counting skills.

Inevitably, there would always be a kid who just couldnt decide on whether to get a book or pen. Im not too humble to credit my great negotiating skills, as I could always convince them to choose a book!

Eventually I worked up my courage and joined other volunteers for Popcorn Friday. Twice a month students purchased popcorn, with funds going to the PTO. The funds raised by PTO help to purchase a wide array of items such as blinds for classrooms, plants for landscaping, playground equipment and my favoritea carpet shampooer.  As with most volunteer events, Popcorn Friday usually requires a small army of poppers, baggers and delivery folks for nearly 600 bags of popcorn.

I say it took some courage on my part to join the Popcorn Friday army because coming into an established group consisting predominately of women can be a bit daunting.

But heres the thing, when you volunteer at your childs school you automatically have something in common with those other volunteers – a love and passion for your child, the school they attend and the education and support they receive.

Get on Board

Since I was a pretty regular volunteer, I was asked to put my name on the ballot for the PTO board as there were a number of outgoing officers. My first year on the board, as second vice president, was a learning experience. I was in charge of volunteer sign-ups, which I quickly learned is a tough, and sometimes disappointing job. In addition to begging people to volunteer for events, I also wrote the PTO monthly newsletter which consisted mostly of begging for volunteers.

As the year came to a close, we were preparing to hold PTO board elections. I figured I would take on my role again as second vice-president but on my way to our monthly board meeting (I was late because the drive-thru line at Starbucks was extra long), I got a text from the PTO president. Im resigning. Do you want to do it? Unfortunately, I was trapped with my fellow caffeine addicts, otherwise I would have hightailed it to the nearest liquor store. 

Due to a variety of circumstances, I was the only candidate with at least a year of experience and admittedly, a tiny ounce of interest. I knew I had to take it to my family to get their feedback and especially my in-laws (AKA babysitters). The enthusiasm my family exhibited when they heard the presidential news was infectious and I wholeheartedly agreed to stick my name on that ballot. 

We are (PTO) Family

The evening I was elected, five other ladies were elected as well. Two I knew well, three I had never met before that night. I quickly learned that it was certainly divine intervention that they joined the board because I would not have made it the first two weeks of school without the friendship and creativity of each and every one of those women. 

Where I have a Pinterest account thats gathering dust and cobwebs, there were creative board members to inspire us with a winter wonderland of hot cocoa and cookies, flowers and mason jars. While I can barely balance my own checkbook, the treasurer could recite fundraising numbers off the top of her head. When I first heard, do any of you have a cricket, I assumed they were asking for fishing bait and I had no idea you could make custom made t-shirts from your own home. While my lack of creativity is laughable, my mishaps seemed to permeate beyond my lack of Pinterest knowledge.

Keep it Together

The best example of keeping it together was the false alarm kidnapping of one of my children at the annual PTO spring fundraiser. While prepping for our biggest event of the year, I got a phone call that my youngest was missing from their grandparents house which is less than a mile from the school. The tone of my mother-in-laws voice indicated danger and I immediately ran out of the school to scan the perimeter. There was also mention of a black SUV that was seen leaving the street where my child was riding her bike. 

I immediately grabbed my keys because not only was I going to drive around to search for my child but I was planning to hunt down this black SUV and attempt my best Captain Marvel superhero skills. I wasnt two minutes down the road when we got the all clear that the police found our child on her bike around the corner. Also about that time I saw a helicopter flying close by and Im still not sure if they were part of the search party, but Im going with yes. 

Of course, there was still work to be done and what better way to calm your nerves than to get back to the PTO spring fundraiser. Needless to say, I didnt let my child out of my sight for the rest of the evening. 

Fare Thee Well

The decision not to serve another term as PTO president was a difficult one to make. As a parent of three, one of which is special needs, I knew I needed to be more present for my family. This school year proved to be especially challenging due to many struggles our autistic son faced. The attempted balance of parent and PTO president had my head spinning some days and on the worst days, hiding in my pantry with a bag of chips and glass of wine.

Through the tears though, I had the women on my board to give me hugs and words of encouragement and I wouldnt have traded this experience for anything.

Even with my own personal mishaps, heartbreaks and stress, the women I worked with on the PTO board had their own as well. Many of us didnt know each other until PTO brought us together. Throughout our year on the PTO board, we would often share in our sadness and frustrations but we were always quick to cheer and lift one another up – many times with a Meme (not created by me)!

Take Away

In the end, would I encourage others to pursue a position on their childs PTO? Absolutely! Never underestimate your skills, talent and passion to support your childs school. I will always value the friendships I made this past year and the goodness I felt in my heart knowing my actions not only helped my children and their teachers, but also the 600 kids at their school.

Tips I Learned as PTO President:

  1. Work with your strengths and others strength.
  2. Delegate.
  3. Learn to say no.
  4. Apologize when needed.
  5. Wear comfortable shoes at fundraising events (I still have a weird bruise on my big toe from shoes that were too small)
  6. Ask for help.
  7. If youve got a problem with someone – talk to them not about them.
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Growing up in North Mississippi, Heather often read of the Spanish moss that swayed in with the warm gulf breeze from enchanting live oaks, as well as the delectable seafood that described the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Having never visited the area, it was fate that she met a handsome co-ed from Biloxi while in college. Soon she not only fell in love with him but all things Gulf Coast. Graduating from the University of Mississippi with a degree in journalism, Heather and her husband briefly moved to Washington, D.C, before returning to Mississippi with stops in Oxford and Jackson. Eventually they settled in Ocean Springs where they raise their three children and two dogs. Heather began her journalism career designing and writing for the Daily Mississippian at the University of Mississippi. She worked professionally in media and public relations until her first son was born. While raising her three children, Heather has worked as a freelance writer and photographer for various publications and most recently began a food blog called The Southern Diner. As a southerner, there's nothing Heather loves more than feeding family and friends, all while telling a good story. Sometimes a certain dish will evoke a memory of her childhood, or a meal will reveal a humorous story from a friend. Bottom line, food is entertaining, and Heather likes to share her adventures in cooking and eating with loved ones. In addition to being a mom, Heather is also president of Pecan Park Elementary PTO, board secretary for the Walter Anderson Museum of Art, life member of Junior Auxiliary of Biloxi-Ocean Springs and member of Les Masquees.