Prepare to preside. If you're not experienced in leading a meeting, admit it and take action. Read a book about basic meeting management and familiarize yourself with the basics of Robert's Rules of Order. Ask the former president for advice, and check with long-term parent group members about how they would like meetings to be run. It's OK to be nervous, but don't be unprepared.
Promote the meeting. Get the word out in as many ways as possible: newsletter, take-home flyer, email broadcast, website announcement, school cable television, display case at school, school message sign, and others. Be sure to explain why a parent or family would want to participate. What will be their benefit? Why should they take time to attend? Market the event, fulfill your parents' expectations, and thank everyone for coming; they'll be more likely to come back.
Be on time and start on time. Arrive early enough to allow time for final preparations such as photocopying handouts, brewing coffee, and arranging chairs. Start on time. Period. If people continue to talk after you've called the meeting to order, they are being rude. You're not being rude by getting started. When practical, also announce an ending time for the meeting. If the meeting is running long, consider tabling remaining business until next time.
Cooperate with school staff. Work closely with the custodial and support staff. Provide advance written notice of the meeting schedule and your needs, such as table and chair arrangements. Leave the meeting room at least as clean and organized as when you arrived. Respect the custodial staff; you might be surprised how often they help with parent group activities.
Set up appropriate seating. If you have a small number of participants at your meeting, consider arranging the chairs in a circle or having everyone sit around the same table. Using a head table for the officers implies a separation between "us" and "them," which doesn't convey a spirit of cooperation. Sitting in a circle also helps break the tendency for cliques to sit together and encourages quieter members to participate.
Introduce yourself and others. Don't assume you know who's who! Ask. Better yet, provide name tags and introduce yourself to new faces. Start every meeting with a welcome message. Most PTO meetings are small enough that all attendees can introduce themselves at the start of every meeting. It might seem awkward to hear your good friends introduce themselves to each other, but the newcomers will appreciate it and feel less like outsiders.
Follow the agenda. Plan the meeting ahead of time and write down the sequence of events so you don't forget anything important. List specific topics under general categories such as "new business," "unfinished business," and "committee reports." Include open discussion at the end of the meeting, and note the date, time, and place for the next meeting. Distribute hard copies so the attendees can track the progress of the meeting and take notes if desired.
Be enthusiastic and upbeat. Even if you are worried about volunteer participation, fundraising, or the group's reputation, set a positive tone. As leader of the group, your excitement will rub off on other parents.
Nurture new members. New members who don't speak up are probably overwhelmed, bored, satisfied, or intimidated. It's your job to figure out which. Don't leave new members to drift on their own. Treat your newest members as the future parent group leaders that they are.
Know your bylaws. Familiarize yourself with your group's bylaws, standing rules, policies, and precedents so you can properly address unexpected issues. If you're caught off-guard by an assertive member with a controversial topic, consider tabling the issue for a month to allow time for the board to research the issue.
Keep control. It's your responsibility to keep the meeting on task. Call on individuals who want to speak to the issue at hand, trying hard to alternate between "pro" and "con" viewpoints. Do not tolerate cross-talk, side conversations, or detailed committee discussions. Unrestrained debate may be the most common reason that general parent group meetings drag—and why so many parents swear they'll never attend again.
Be impartial. According to Robert's Rules of Order, the president must remain publicly neutral, stay out of debate, and vote only when necessary to break a tie. Your personal feelings, expressed in the context of a formal parent group meeting, can improperly sway others. Your job is to preside, not influence.
Respect your guests. If you invite guest speakers, put them first on the agenda. Introduce them, thank the guest speakers for their time, and allow them to leave when they're finished.
Partner with your principal. Review the meeting agenda with the principal in advance. Work together to target topics for his report, and specify the amount of time allocated. During the meeting, don't be afraid to direct the principal politely to stay on point, just as you would a fellow parent.
Parliamentary Procedure is a set of rules for conduct at meetings that allows everyone to be heard and to make decisions without confusion.
It is a time-tested method of conducting business at meetings and public gatherings. It can be adapted to fit the needs of any organization. Today, Robert's Rules of Order newly revised is the basic handbook of operation for most clubs, organizations and other groups. So it's important that everyone know these basic rules!
Organizations using parliamentary procedure usually follow a fixed order of business. Below is a typical example:
- Call to
- Roll call of members
- Reading of minutes of last
- Special orders (important business previously designated for consideration at this meeting)
The method used by members to express themselves is in the form of moving motions. A motion is a proposal that the entire membership take action or a stand on an issue. Individual members can:
- Call to
- Vote on
There are four basic types of motions:
- Main Motions: The purpose of a main motion is to introduce items to the membership for their consideration. They cannot be made when any other motion is on the floor, and yield to privileged, subsidiary, and incidental motions.
- Subsidiary Motions: Their purpose is to change or affect how a main motion is handled, and is voted on before a main motion.
- Privileged Motions: Their purpose is to bring up items that are urgent about special or important matters unrelated to pending business.
- Incidental Motions: Their purpose is to provide a means of questioning procedure concerning other motions and must be considered before the other
Motions are presented in the following order:
- Obtaining the floor
- Wait until the last speaker has
- Rise and address the Chairman by saying, "Mr. Chairman, or President."
- Wait until the Chairman recognizes you.
- Make Your Motion
- Speak in a clear and concise
- Always state a motion affirmatively. Say, "I move that we ..." rather than, "I move that we do not ...".
- Avoid personalities and stay on your
- Wait for Someone to Second Your Motion
- Another member will second your motion or the Chairman will call for a
- If there is no second to your motion it is lost.
- The Chairman States Your Motion
- The Chairman will say, "it has been moved and seconded that we ..." Thus placing your motion before the membership for consideration and
- The membership then either debates your motion, or may move directly to a vote.
- Once your motion is presented to the membership by the chairman it becomes "assembly property", and cannot be changed by you without the consent of the members.
- Expanding on Your Motion
- The time for you to speak in favor of your motion is at this point in time, rather than at the time you present it.
- The mover is always allowed to speak
- All comments and debate must be directed to the
- Keep to the time limit for speaking that has been
- The mover may speak again only after other speakers are finished, unless called upon by the Chairman.
- Putting the Question to the Membership
- The Chairman asks, "Are you ready to vote on the question?"
- If there is no more discussion, a vote is
- On a motion to move the previous question may be
The method of vote on any motion depends on the situation and the by-laws of policy of your organization. There are five methods used to vote by most organizations, they are:
- By Voice: The Chairman asks those in favor to say, "aye", those opposed to say "no". Any member may move for a exact count.
- By Roll Call: Each member answers "yes" or "no" as his name is called. This method is used when a record of each person's vote is
- By General Consent: When a motion is not likely to be opposed, the Chairman says, "if there is no objection ..." The membership shows agreement by their silence, however if one member says, "I object," the item must be put to a vote.
- By Division: This is a slight verification of a voice It does not require a count unless the chairman so desires. Members raise their hands or stand.
By Ballot: Members write their vote on a slip of paper, this method is used when secrecy is desired.
There are two other motions that are commonly used that relate to voting.
- Motion to Table: This motion is often used in the attempt to "kill" a motion. The option is always present, however, to "take from the table", for reconsideration by the membership.
- Motion to Postpone Indefinitely: This is often used as a means of parliamentary strategy and allows opponents of motion to test their strength without an actual vote being taken. Also, debate is once again open on the main motion.
Parliamentary Procedure is the best way to get things done at your meetings. But, it will only work if you use it properly.
- Allow motions that are in
- Have members obtain the floor
- Speak clearly and
- Obey the rules of
- Most importantly, BE COURTEOUS.
A simplified interpretation of Robert's Rules that will work just fine for a PTO.
- Bylaws: A written document that defines the purpose of your group, its organizational structure, and the rules that govern the Bylaws should be customized for your group, published, and reviewed annually for revisions.
- Amendments: Formal changes to your
- Agenda: A written list of items that will be covered during a
- Minutes: The written record of the business transacted at a Minutes should be kept for both Executive Board meetings and general PTO meetings.
- Motion: A formal proposal that the group take some specific action. Motions are voted upon by the group. An idea at a meeting will often result in the presentation of a motion. A motion is the way to resolve a dispute, debate, disagreement, or open Any member in good standing can present a motion to the group. A motion can be tabled if the group needs more time before voting upon the motion. Tabling a motion suspends consideration until the group's next formal meeting.
- Seconding: When a member presents a motion, her idea must be supported by another member. The supporting member "seconds" the motion to indicate her support. After a motion is seconded, it should be discussed by the A motion cannot be voted upon unless it is seconded.
- Adjournment: A formal way to end a At the appropriate time, a member moves to adjourn, another member seconds, and the rest of the members voice their agreement. The secretary records the adjournment time in the minutes.
- Quorum: The minimum number of members required to conduct business at a PTO meeting. Quorum is specified in the PTO's bylaws.
- Officers and Elections: The bylaws should specify the elected officers of the PTO, their main duties, their term of office, and the procedures by which they are nominated and
- Robert's Rules of Order: Originally written by Major Henry M. Robert in 1876, it is the most common form of parliamentary procedure in the United States. It was designed to keep business moving, protect the rights of members, and ensure polite behavior in A PTO's bylaws should specify that Robert's Rules of Order is the group's parliamentary authority. The complete version of RRO is hundreds of pages and covers every conceivable situation for the most complex organization. Many simplified versions the Rules have been