An elementary school Parent Teacher Association dissolved Thursday and became a parent teacher organization with no state or national affiliation.
State and city PTA officials were on hand to try to persuade the Westridge Elementary School PTA to remain with the 102-year-old organization, but to no avail. The vote was 44 to 3 in favor of dissolving. Karen Salmon, co-president-elect of the now defunct Westridge PTA, said local parents had little interest in the PTA, and that was hampering voluntarism at the school.PTA membership was only 165 in a school comprised of children from more than 500 families.
Members were also rankled at not being allowed to speak out on issues to which they objected on the state and national level. Maried Horton, a former state PTA president speaking in favor of the group staying with the PTA, said Utah members were persuaded to keep silent and not speak against issues with which they disagreed. She said during an issue supporting the teaching of birth control several years ago the Utah group stepped aside and wouldn't support the issue but was "not allowed to speak against it."
The local group also objected to their volunteer hours being used to lobby in favor of issues they didn't support. PTAs keep track of volunteer hours and use that information in lobbying effort.
Still at issue is the disposition of the money in the Westridge PTA coffers. The group has $483.54 left in its account. State PTA President Barbara Willie said that money should be turned over to the state organization or donated to another nonprofit organization.
"We're not prepared to just turn it over," said Salmon. The money was earned by schoolchildren, she told the Deseret News. "We may keep it if we become a nonprofit organization."
Other options include giving it to another PTA in the district. PTAs are nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations.
Speaking in favor of dissolving and forming a new organization was Linda Strode of Vernal. Strode spoke after Westridge parents unanimously voted to hear her comments over the objections of state PTA leaders. Strode said she was a PTA supporter, officer and active member for several years until she went to a national PTA convention. There she found that the national group didn't represent her values, she said. The Eastern members outvoted the Western members on issues, she said. Those resolutions then went to Congress and were used to lobby national school issues.
"A PTO takes all the good things (in PTA) and all of the money stays at the school," she said. "We did everything we had always done and more."
However, state officials said PTOs deny themselves of the resources and information state and national PTAs can provide. They said the group can come back to the PTA at any time.