The saga of the Georgia PTA deserves its own reality TV show.
Allegations against the group's board of directors span conspiracy to coups and nepotism to nefarious spending. And the board is now down several members, who either resigned in protest of the ouster of popular president Lisa-Marie Haygood Saturday or were forced out with her.
In the last two days, I've heard about past criminal histories of sitting board members. I have learned about nepotism with two married couples on the board. (Apparently, that is allowed from what I can see.) I have heard allegations of racism, that black board members were forcing out white members -- and that was told to me by outraged black PTA leaders from metro Atlanta. I have heard allegations of misspending on credit cards and lavish spending on national conventions.
I have talked to several former members of the board of directors of the Georgia PTA, all of whom agree Haygood paid a price for attempting to rein in the perks and the petty power struggles. Against Haygood's advice, the board approved using $20,000 of money provided by local PTAs to pay for 20 board members to attend the national convention in Las Vegas this summer.
As one former board member told me, "The local units in good faith are sending their membership dues thinking it is going to children's programs and it is going to hotel rooms at the Hilton for board meetings, meals at the meetings and sending people to national conventions. The convention has become their summer vacation."
And what is the board itself saying?
Nothing or next to nothing, which seems an odd stance while your organization is imploding. Here is what the new president Tyler Barr said in an email response to me:
As president-elect, I would like to introduce myself to you on behalf of the board of directors. In respect and fairness to the association, the removal of the president was a mutual decision. Furthermore, this is a sensitive and confidential matter. We regret that we are not able to comment further but I am happy to assist you as we continue today as a strong and leading advocate for every child in Georgia.
I hope to talk to Barr today as someone in leadership ought to address this growing crisis, which undermines the ability of the Georgia PTA to advocate for public education when that advocacy is most critical.
In talking to upset PTA leaders over the manuevers leading up to Haygood's removal, there appears at the very least to be serious dysfunction on the board and misplaced priorities.
In the meantime, angry local leaders want their members to get involved to demand accountability for the board's recent actions. And considering their dues funds the board, that accountability ought to be a given.
Here is what is going out today statewide:
ALERT & CALL TO ACTION for all Local Units & Members:
As a PTA/PTSA Member you need to be informed that a faction of the GA PTA Board of Directors, removed GA PTA President, Lisa-Marie Haygood, along with the Directors of Districts 7 & 10 from office, Saturday, January 28, 2017. This was a unilateral decision, not a mutual decision. In response to this action, numerous board members, specialists, finance committee members, and the office manager, have since resigned in protest and as a show of no confidence in the remaining board members.
Under the leadership of Lisa-Marie, we were able to resoundingly defeat Amendment 1, the Opportunity School District legislation. Lisa-Marie is a recognized leader who has worked tirelessly to unify PTA throughout the state; She has mended fences and rebuilt bridges since she took office. This faction has
- Brought forth a policy that creates a bylaw change to all local units without bringing it forth for a vote by the membership, as required not only by our bylaws but as a 501c3, non-profit association;
- Removed 5 board members in the past 3 months. In addition to those mentioned above Marina Staples, 2nd Vice President and Nicole Ponziani, Fraud & Conflict Resolution Specialist. These removals all occurred without due process as outlined in PTA governing documents;
- Denied Open Records Requests for information by members, which Georgia non-profit law requires them to provide;
- Not been abiding by the governing documents they require of all of the Local Units - Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, Georgia Non-Profit Law, and Roberts Rules of Order; and
- Voted to send a large number of board members to National Convention despite lack of sufficient funds to cover the cost. It is time that we, the membership, all 248,000+, make our voices heard!
Here is what you, as a GA PTA member can do TODAY:
Contact the Georgia Secretary of State 404-656-2881 urging a freeze of all funds to halt any further mismanagement and conduct a forensic audit. With the illegal removal of our President, who was a signer on our account, it is required that an audit is performed. This is especially important since a fraud investigator, brought in by our President to guarantee where our money is going, was also removed by this faction. ·
Contact GA PTA 404-659-0214 and ask:
- For a copy of their latest 990 that they filed with the IRS,
- Why you, the member, has not been informed of the removal of any elected Board member
- Why are they not following procedure according to our governing documents and
- Demand answers as to why they removed elected people and you would like a copy of the minutes from this past weekend’s BOD meeting.
- Contact National PTA, 703-518-1200 or 800-307-4782 and tell them that as the higher authority of GA PTA they need to step in and oversee, and not just observe, that the GA PTA BOD complies with all laws, codes and requirements and email all board members asking such.
Signed, Former Executive Committee and GA PTA Board/Committee Members under multiple administrations