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First Gwinnett and now Cobb: No dues to Georgia PTA until 'questionable practices' addressed

Following the example of the Gwinnett County Public Schools, Cobb is advising its local school-based PTAs to withhold dues to the state organization over allegations of misconduct and concerns over a pivotal election Friday morning to choose new leaders.

The National PTA intends to observe the election process, expressing concerns in a letter last week that the nomination process was "not complete nor transparent."

The election culminates a tumultuous year that began with the ouster of a popular state PTA president and her supporters by a controlling faction that, in response to mounting criticism, has adopted a bunker mentality and contends it's done nothing wrong. (Yes, this is the PTA but it's turned into a street fight.)

Despite National representatives being on hand in Atlanta, National PTA spokesman Heidi May Wilson said, "They will not be interceding or forcing nominations from the floor. National PTA does not have the authority to do this. National PTA is limited by our Bylaws and the Standards of Affiliation that we have with each state. Only the delegates of Georgia PTA have the ability to make change. "

I am told the state PTA board intends to hold fast to its ruling that floor candidates -- who consider themselves a reform slate -- did not qualify and thus cannot be considered. So, the scene at the PTA convention Friday will likely be contentious.

Here is the letter from Cobb's school chief to Georgia PTA President Tyler Barr:

Dear President Barr:

The Cobb County School District has been a strong supporter of PTA for many years. We have enjoyed tremendous success over the years working with thousands of volunteer parents who have given so much of their time, energy, creativity, and resources to support our school communities.

Unfortunately, the troubling state of Georgia PTA leadership and operations during recent months has led to parents, teachers, and officials of the Cobb County School District raising concerns about our school district’s association with Georgia PTA.

I am particularly troubled by the National PTA’s July 27th letter to you in which President Accomando expressed deep concerns about Georgia PTA’s nomination and election process and reported that members of Georgia PTA have reached out to the National PTA to call into question “Georgia PTA’s processes, intent, transparency and credibility.” President Accomando’s letter continued,

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. The National PTA Board of Directors cannot allow the brand to be further tarnished and will take appropriate action.

Just as the National PTA cannot allow its reputation and brand to be tarnished by the operations of Georgia PTA, neither can the Cobb County School District allow its reputation and brand to be tarnished by an unconditional association with Georgia PTA. Moreover, we take seriously our obligation to protect our schools and families from questionable practices.

As a result of the ongoing and substantial concerns surrounding this matter of significant public interest, I believe our school district’s local PTAs should consider temporarily withholding payment of membership dues to the Georgia PTA until such time as these concerns have been appropriately addressed. Because we believe in the value of PTAs, our schools will continue to encourage parents and teachers to participate in PTA activities until further notice. Nevertheless, if our concerns and the concerns of the National PTA are not appropriately addressed, the Cobb County School District may reconsider its association with Georgia PTA.

I am encouraged by the efforts of the National PTA to support immediate improvement of Georgia PTA’s operations and leadership. I encourage you and the rest of the current leadership at Georgia PTA to follow the guidance provided by the National PTA to ensure the August 4th election process is free from conflicts of interest and open to qualified individuals who have expressed an intent to run. I will be closely following the election process and your compliance with the National PTA’s guidance. It is my hope that Georgia PTA operations will turn around immediately so that we can all once again be proud of our association with Georgia PTA.

Regards, Chris Ragsdale Superintendent

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Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.