Volunteering at Your Kids' School

Archived Responses: 

Questions


Why don't More Parents Volunteer?

Sept 2014

Ever since 9/11, I've made it a priority to volunteer some of my time. This is even more important to me now that I'm a mother. My mom volunteered regularly and I want my son to also see this as a normal way of life. This year I am chair of the parent association at my son's Montessori school. I love the things our group accomplishes -- provides scholarships, offers parent education workshops with free childcare, puts on fun fellowship events for the whole school, helps take care of the school grounds, creates ways for kids to collect needed items for the community to develop altruism, etc. We create a vibrant community around the school.

I truly get it that other parents are busy, but why don't more people step up to volunteer? Every event we do, we're struggling to get enough volunteers to make it run, but then everybody turns up in droves to take advantage of whatever we've created. Often we limp through, but the regular volunteers quickly become burned out. Or we get mostly last-minute volunteers that we're very grateful for yet we had to sweat it out and beg right up until the event. I know people are busy. I know many people already volunteer for church, their kids sports/activities, etc. But how can I motivate people to help and also to commit to helping in advance? What words would motivate you as a busy parent to share some of your time? --Getting Burned Out


Here's why I don't volunteer regularly: I work full time in a job that includes occasional late evening meetings, I have three kids under 6, my husband works full time and has a longer commute, and volunteering requires not bringing children with me. If there was a way to have children with me in order to volunteer, I would more readily participate. But let's face it, I'm exhausted and already feel guilty from the hours I spend apart from my children due to my job. I would assume I'm not alone in this scenario. If you also come from a dual-full-time working household, more power to you. Typical Working Parent


We had the Same issue at my son's school and decided to create Committees and require parents ti join one or pick an activity and do 20 hours Of volunteers which we keep loosely track of. One volunteer became the Volunteer organizer and it's been a huge improvement. That said You have to be respectful of the fact life has changed since our moms And not everyone can... Anon


I'm so glad you raised this topic because it's one I've thought a lot about and am glad to have a discussion on it. We are a 2-career family with 2 early elem kids. I volunteer occasionally, give money regularly, and do attend the community events that are put on by volunteers. So I am one of the people you are frustrated by. I constantly feel both guilty that I am not doing more (and especially that a small subset of parents seems to carry the weight for everyone), and also frustrated at what feels like the endless, endless requests for time from the PTA.

But here's my perspective. Time is very limited in our family - I'm barely treading water at work and also always feel like I should be spending more time with the family outside of the crazy dinner-bath-homework-bed nightly rush. So if I ever have any ''spare'' time on weekends, it is always allocated to either work or to family time. Exercise, hobbies and, yes, volunteering will have to wait until the kids are much older. If I were in charge of the school parents' group (which I am not obviously) I would plan many fewer volunteer-dependent events.

I feel like I send my kids to school to be educated by the school, and while community activities are nice (and I will attend them if they are happening), they are a bonus and not critical. I do get frustrated when a group of parents who have more time than I do plan volunteer-dependent activities without the input of the parents who don't have time to volunteer. For me, it's a skewed cost-benefit ratio.

Of course I would love to have a school picnic or spaghetti dinner so that we can spend time together as a school. But what is the cost? If it means me investing 5-6 hours of volunteer time or running extra errands during my precious weekend time, it is simply *not worth it*. I would much rather have a quiet dinner at home with my family than add to our stress with volunteer time in order to have a community event. In sum, community events and field trips and such for the kids are great - if they are cost-free. But parent time is just as costly as parent donations for many families.

You asked what would motivate me to volunteer. I'm not sure, but I think I'd be more motivated if I felt like the PTA was doing a good job in taking parent volunteer requirements into account when planning activities. If they were to say, ''We scheduled 3 events this year which works out to about xxx parent-hours over the year which averages only a 45 min contribution per family'' I would be more trusting that they had taken the cost of time into account and would be more willing to step up and do my part.

Our PTA does do an excellent job of keeping the economic burden down and not asking families to spend too much for school supplies, field trips, etc. I only wish they would apply the same thoughtfulness to what they are asking of families in terms of time. I look forward to seeing other thoughts from the BPN community on this issue! already-overwhelmed parent


I greatly appreciate the parents who heavily volunteer at my son's school. I volunteer also, but in a much more limited way than the handful of really dedicated volunteers. I do one-off events like field trips, the occasional school event, etc., but not the regular shifts or other year-long commitments. When I have, I fall too far behind on my work. I'm self-employed, and my family counts on my income, especially while my husband is a grad student. I'm just not going to work at my desk until 10 pm so that I can help with the book exchange every week.

We also took in a boy in need a few years ago and having a special-needs child in our home has been overwhelming. I have put in hundreds of hours just on advocating for him. I also feel like there are SO MANY things that the school asks us to volunteer for. The garden, the auction, the food drives, the fundraisers, the field trips the special events, the yard duty, the bike scans, and on and on and on. And on! I can't do all this.

I constantly feel guilty that I can't help more. And I sometimes wonder if we really need quite so many events and extras in our school. They seem to be set up by people who have way more time for this kind of thing than I do. It's a game I can't compete at, and from the sidelines it's very guilt-inducing. That's what my life looks like. It doesn't look like yours.

I have different, also important priorities. If volunteering is your way of expressing yourself and your love of community, that's great. It can't be everyone's. At my school anyway, my advice to people looking for volunteers is start asking for less. Decide how many events or other extras you REALLY need to offer. Not based on what you personally are up for, but based on what people can realistically help on. Then volunteer for that, let people know how fun these events/projects are to volunteer, and let it go beyond that. If there's something you really want to work on, do it for the love of working on it, regardless of whether you can draw others in. struggling to keep it together even before volunteering


I work full time and want to volunteer for my son's school. But last year there were so many hovering parents that I just didn't feel needed so I didn't do much. This year I'm doing more because no one else seems to be doing anything. I think that you should reach out to people individually and ask for help. Make that person feel needed. It's easy to assume that lots of other people will respond to a group request for help. You probably come across as being very competent and not really in need of help. An individual request might be just what is needed. I like to feel needed


Hi, I can only speak from my own experience about why I don't volunteer at my kids' school:

1. The main reason is that I really don't want to. My life is so very busy, just like everyone else. I don't get everything done as it is. Also, I have a very serious medical condition that takes up quite a lot of time. I'm just tapped out.

2. I find volunteering unpleasant. I don't like working in groups, and I don't enjoy going to group events. (I do give plenty of money to the school, though.)

3. Our school makes it very easy for me to avoid volunteering, because of ridiculous requirements. I would have to have a TB test, fingerprinting at the police station (both of which cost money and take time) and fill out reams of paperwork. If I wanted to drive even my own child to an event during school hours, I would further have to provide my entire driving record from the DMV.

4. It took me about two months to develop compassion fatigue for our school. The fundraisers and requests for help are constant. In kindergarten my son once brought home a weekly school newsletter with no fewer than six requests for money for different things. There are at least four major fundraising events each school year, plus at least four separate charities that request significant sums regularly. And those are just the big ones. The requests for time are identical, since each of these events are run by volunteers.

When I was a kid, we went to school, went to class, and came home. There were not constant events and fundraisers and parent volunteers in the class. This was in a rural midwestern area decades ago, and I got a solid education. Now it seems that there is an expectation in California that when your kids start school, you somehow do too. I'm just not on board with this philosophy. I realize that the schools are financially struggling, and would be the first person to sign up to pay more taxes for that purpose. As I said, I donate plenty of money to our school. But there is a reason I'm not a teacher or a professional fundraiser. Finished Grade School Long Ago


For context, i am a hard-core volunteer; my husband has asked me to dial it back to three activities, so that I do not become overly busy and get stressed out! Our kids attended both Oakland public and private/Montessori schools. Here are reasons why I saw other parents being reluctant to step up:

1. In the Montessori school, it was a flat-out guilt trip. The school ORDERED parents to show up at specific times, bring specific materials, pony up specific amounts of money. Parents resented being ordered to show up on their days off. It felt coercive.

2. In the public school, there was a widely perceived atmosphere of clique-ishness around the PTA leaders. Those new to the school, the moms who were shy by nature, and others who did not know how to interject themselves into the whirlwind of PTA activities just stayed on the sidelines.

3. Sometimes certain PTA leaders would take on the martyr role, setting up labor-intensive activities and - to use your word - ''begging'' for others to pitch in. Desperation is not sexy.

In order to recruit more volunteers, it will require more work. You and the other parent leaders will need to be very conscious and transparent about creating an atmosphere that is inclusive. You will need to be proactive about having one-to-one conversations with parents new to the school, or those who are not involved in organized efforts. Ask them about themselves in a friendly way before you hit them up to take on duties. This may take more than one conversation.

Speaking of being organized - it is a skill, and a blessing to be that way! Once there is an agreement about what specific activities will be conducted, carefully break all the necessary work into bite-sized fragments. Have one ''chair'' and an understudy, or two ''co-chairs'' who work well together to know every detail of the tasks that must be done, who is in charge of each detail, and whether they tend to follow thru.

Go to individual parents, and say ''Jessica, can I count on you to (e.g.) buy the construction paper and have it in Ms. Sigafoos' room at 3 o'clock?'' Yes, it is much easier to send out email blasts to the whole PTA, but if you want to involve more volunteers, they have to feel personally needed, respected, and appreciated.

There has to be an emotional reward associated with the parent doing the additional task(s) that add to their daily work burden, even if it is just a hearty thanks from the ''chair'' after the task is accomplished. As the school year progresses, it will become clear who are the dynamo people and who are the less reliable ones. After you, the chair, have seen who can be counted on, you can suggest that they take on more responsible roles. For the flakes, give them small, easily accomplished tasks and thank them effusively. Don't be surprised if they don't come thru, and have a backup plan. Too-Much Volunteer Mama


Interesting question. I hope you get a lot of answers and I'm interested to read them. My opinion is that you will likely have a hard time increasing your volunteer base if you approach people with the view that volunteering is important and they should be doing it and feel thankful for the opportunity to volunteer. You are right, it is important, but it will not convince people to volunteer for your organization especially since you are competing with a lot of other organizations desperate for volunteers.

As a working mother, I juggle a full time job, two young children, and a husband with very long hours. I still volunteer, but I restrict it to volunteering at my son's preschool (and I'm sure later it will be his school) and for my temple or other religious organizations of my faith and in my community. There is just no time for more. Time is a precious commodity and I know of several moms who restrict their volunteer and charitable donations to their kids' schools/childcare and one other cause/organization (in my case it is religious, some choose a local homeless shelter, some shelter for abused women with children, etc.).

In order to get more volunteers, I think you should approach those benefiting from your services/events or those otherwise affected by them and convince them that your organization is important and should make the short list of where they want to donate their time. I doubt it is that people don't volunteer (maybe I'm naive but everyone I know does some volunteering), I think they just don't volunteer for your organization - if you approach it from this mindset it might help you get more people involved.

Another thing to consider if you are well funded organization is to offer babysitting services for volunteers on site. I'm involved in a mothers' group and we often get volunteers for our events and we offer childcare for our volunteers - we always have more than enough volunteers since one of them main impediments to volunteering for mothers of young children is having to pay for childcare while they are out not making money. anon


Good luck! I've got a kid in high school and one in middle school. Both public. I've had this discussion over and over and over with parents and administration since day one of kindergarten and have come to the conclusion that there is NO magic word or phrase and just accept that 10% of the people will always do 90% of the work. People are just hard-wired a certain way, and although my parents did not set an example for me, I'm a bit of a control-freak and saw that if I wanted to see things done I'd be better off helping and not bitching about it! So the need comes from different desires and you have zero control over other's decisions. And some people really, truly do not have the resources (practical, emotionally, mentally, financially, whatever) to volunteer, no matter how much they truly might want to. Best you can do is keep meeting as many parents as you can and being open and friendly and welcoming and not desperate and whining. Breaking jobs down into realistic skills and time expectations can help too. Be positive, upbeat, focus on the benefit, the feel good factor, being part of a team. Mom of Two


You raise an important question. There are probably as many different answers as there are families. Here's mine: Life is pretty demanding here, and I'm feeling very maxed out. I have a 7-year-old in 2nd grade. I work/commute 12 hour days, 60 hours per week, which seems pretty typical for this area. In exchange, I am able to afford housing, health insurance, retirement, a 10-year old car and simple vacations, for which I am extremely grateful. However, my child spends way too much time in daycare. Since my kid requires an early bedtime (7:45), we are together as a family for maybe 90 minutes per day, during which dinnertime, homework, bathtime and bedtime must occur. I feel bad missing weeknight PTA meetings -- but going to them means trading away our precious family time. I would not see my child awake until the following evening, and academics would suffer from homework not getting done. We are happy to participate in (rare) weekend events, but the planning meetings for these are usually, again, on school nights. I am a very altruistic person, and have a pre-parenting history of LOTs of volunteerism, but right now, any weeknight commitment pretty much involves throwing my family under the bus and undermines my fundamental priorities as a parent.

What would get me to participate more: 1) Meetings or work days on the weekend, particularly early a.m. so we can enjoy the rest of the weekend as family time. 2) On sign-up sheets, offer a variety of ways to help, such as clean-up crew, donate x gallons of Lemonade, contribute financially such as a donation ''in lieu of'' and as many tasks as possible that can be done on weekends. Potlucks are stressful. I end up bringing something lame like a cut-up watermelon or $40 order of take-out chicken wings as I am racing home from work trying to make it on time. If I could participate by contributing $20-40 toward tacos or whatever, I'd take that option in a heartbeat.

Please consider that some fundraisers are disproportionately labor-intensive. For example, a bake sale (I spend 2 hours labor +$15 on ingredients, or $20-25 at a bakery to produce 2 dozen cup cakes that are sold for $1 each) or a rummage sale that nets maybe $10 per work-hour. I sometimes wonder if our school has too many non-academic school functions, but I do see considerable value in parent-labor contributions toward upkeep of school facilities. I also do not think that my 5-7 year old gained from any of the 3 field trips per year which were provided by the fund raisers (it was simply exhausting for such young children).

Looking at the objectives of these events could also be very useful. Do most people want them or value them? Sometimes, less is better. If enough families contribute to meet the financial goals, then could some of the other fundraisers be cancelled?


I also wanted to add: Make signing up easy. if people have to jot down a phone number or email and then remember to reach out, they won't. Get THEIR contact info and reach out. Send out friendly requests for help and set up Sign Up Genius or a Google Doc or something (some are better than others and will turn people off). The fewer clicks the better. Be at every school function with a table and flyers and sign up sheets and ways of gathering data. Lure people to the table with bright decorations (seriously, bright colors lure people subconsciously) and candy or cookies. Engage, engage, engage. Don't nag, bitch, hector, whine, guilt trip. Make people feel good and useful and important and wanted. Mom of Two


You didn't say whether or not you work outside the home as well, but I'll just voice my perspective. I'm a mom who works 30 hours a week and am also taking 6 credits of graduate level coursework towards my master's degree. I have 3 children in 3 different schools and due to my husband's work schedule, I do all the drop offs and pick ups in the morning and afternoons. Having this much on my plate for a season has really taught me to only say YES to commitments that I feel passionate about. If people don't volunteer for events, then maybe they aren't invested in the event. Previously I was very involved at my kids' elementary school, but I never volunteered for the events that I wasn't interested in, because honestly, I didn't care whether the event happened or not-- if someone wanted to plan it, fine, but if it didn't happen b/c no one wanted to plan it, also fine by me. I also got burned out by HOW MANY events there were! Every month there was something! My advice would be to decrease the amount of events you plan or do at the school, and also take a poll of the parents to see which events they value and which they don't. Just because others don't volunteer doesn't mean that you and the committed few HAVE to plan the event- you can say no if you don't want to plan it. Just saying no for now


Dear "Burned Out", While I have no words of motivation, I am writing to let you know your feelings are well justified. It is tough to carry, chair, co-chair and coordinate volunteer efforts in this day and age. I am speaking from personal experience as I carry two volunteer hats myself. Big Hats! You are correct; people are just too busy or assume that others will pick-up the slack. I believe you may be like me, very emotionally attached to your organization/s. Concerned about making a difference and perhaps you are a perfectionist? Am I right? Coordinating volunteer efforts is a thankless job. THANKLESS! It is both emotionally and physically draining. A lot of blood, sweat and tears.

I believe that this parenting generation is oblivious to what it takes to make a school, club or community organization run smoothly. And I will include myself in this statement. There is a mindset of someone else will do it. Others would rather throw money at the situation which might not be the solution. Living in the Bay Area has a cost, and I believe it is at the expense of free time and community involvement. Just paying your tuition, club fees, extracurricular expenses, etc. does not give one a pass. It's an assumption that you are exempt from helping out. Which we know is just not the case. Here is what I can say to you. Thank you! Thank you for being a shining example to your school and organization. Even though no one may say it, the school could not function without people such as you. Take comfort in knowing that maybe not today, but one day your son will remember how his mother was always present at his school and school related functions. Maybe the spirit of volunteering will rub off on him. He might be one to start a community related project or step-up to help others in need. This will be a direct result of your spirit residing in him. I will be anxious to hear what others say. I am hoping you will get some useful advice that I may incorporate in my volunteering efforts. In the meantime, I RESPECT what you are doing and wish I could thank you personally. don't give up!


I'm not in your school, so none of these may apply, but here are some things that make me not volunteer for particular events: 1. I'm working at the time when I'm asked to volunteer. I can't just pop over in the middle of the day for an hour. 2. Meetings are disorganized and inefficient. When 20 minute meetings take an hour, I'm unlikely to return. 3. When 5 volunteers are scheduled to handle something that 2 people could do. 4. When people put in hundreds of hours to raise... hundreds of dollars.

As I type, I see that all if these relate to efficiency. I don't want to waste my time. Assure me that I won't, or come up with measurable, non-time based tasks (stuff 100 envelopes, not stuff envelopes for an hour) and people like me will be happier.


The people who volunteer at schools are the people who like being volunteers at their kids' schools. Not everybody likes it or has the spare cycles for it. I have 3 kids who have attended both public and private; my youngest is now in middle school. I am a working mom who also spends 10-15 hours every week volunteering. Not at my kids' schools, though, at another non-profit.

I stopped school volunteering after a series of frustrating experiences. I had served on the Board at my kids' co-op preschool and planned to continue being active when they got to elementary school. At the time I was a poor grad student in a hard program at Cal, with two little kids and a part-time clerical job. I had flexibility during the day but every hour I volunteered was one less hour I had to study or put in my 20 hours at work.

  • I went to unmoderated PTA meetings where five minutes of business took ONE HOUR of time, and disgruntled parents were allowed to drone on and on about their personal grievances.
  • I attended fundraiser ''planning'' meetings that were actually leisurely 2 hour coffee klatches for stay-at-home moms.
  • I stayed late after walkathons where my job as a ''finance'' committee member was to count nickels, dimes, and pennies one-by-one, for two and a half hours, with a couple of Chatty Cathies.

If I'd had my days free and an extrovert's personality then maybe I would have stuck it out. But I didn't and I don't. Instead, I write out a check to the PTA, I donate office supplies on the wish list, I drop off bagels for the staff meetings. I am not dissing the mostly moms who do all the volunteering. I appreciate your work. But please appreciate those of us out here who are working just as hard, just not at the school. If there are not enough parents who enjoy school volunteering like you do, then scale back on the events that require volunteers. It's just a simple case of supply and demand. Grumpy mom


I'll preface this by saying I'm a shy introvert, but I wanted to help. When I was laid off four years ago I quickly went to the first PTA meeting available at my daughter's public middle school. The PTA parents seemed to already know each other, know each other's kids, and were very cliquey. I naively thought they would really want a new volunteer. I signed all the volunteer lists and spelled out all my skills. I never got a call back, not one phone call. I suppose I could have been louder, and just said "hey I'm doing this!" but I didn't feel very welcome. So I opted for other volunteer options (writer's connection always wants people, donations, etc), and wider neighborhood organizations that weren't so cliquey. So it may not look like I'm volunteering because I'm not a chatty parent part of a group, but I am. Shy mom


Your situation is very frustrating and I understand how you are feeling. However, speaking as someone very experienced in volunteering (and managing volunteers), I think that the problem is how your school's volunteering program is structured - it is not because people don't want to volunteer. You are currently caught in a vicious cycle because it sounds like a few people are doing all the work... that makes people afraid to volunteer as they assume they will get stuck with too much to do, and people have gotten used to a pattern where they can either not volunteer at all or else sign up at the last minute.

A couple of suggestions. One, your school's principal/director needs to drive the importance of volunteering. At my child's Montessori school, families were required to do a certain number of volunteer hours or else pay a fine - most did the volunteering. If that is not possible, it is important that the message of the need for volunteers needs to come from the top, and there should be recognition of volunteer work from the school. It sounds like you have a few active parents struggling on your own to get people involved and it is seen as a task without appreciation.

Two, reach out to people individually to recruit them for tasks and talk to them out how they can help . Mass requests via email or signups on their own are never enough. When you call people or talk to them, they are tickled and often appreciate being reached out to (the new families like the chance to ask questions about the school and it makes them feel welcomed). Make sure one person in each classroom is the designated person to reach out to people - that divides up the effort.

Three, prioritize your top programs. At the schools we've been involved with, there are a one or two big events that everyone enjoys participating in. The other volunteering depends on the number of people available and their time - don't be afraid to cut out something if you are stretched thin. Fourth, have different ways people can volunteer, and functions that are both specific and short-term. For instance, at our preschool, there were MANY ways to get hours for the carnival - for instance, you could get credit for cooking a dish for our annual fair or there were specific time slots for carnival games, set-up, take-down, etc. That makes it very hard for people to just say ''no.'' Especially when contacted personally, per above.

In closing, I think you should talk to the head of the school about how volunteering could be better and work to have that person recruit new blood as well before you quit from burnout. Good luck! volunteer too


this is in response to those parents who say they work full time and just don't have TIME to volunteer: My kids are now 30 and 27. I am a single mom who worked full time in SF, riding bart every day, picking up my kids at day care at 6pm. I volunteered when I could - especially driving on a few field trips a year, being a ''room mother'' for parties, plus any weekend fundraising events they might have. Just let me tell you one thing:::: Your kids REMEMBER when you showed up.They notice! Sorry that driiving requires paperwork - fingerprints, etc - but your kids benefit from that also! When you volunteer in the classroom, your kids are there and that IS quality time. You learn about your own kid, their friends, their teachers, etc. Giving money to fundraising is great but your kids want to SEE you there. And when you spend time at their school they want to do better in school. It just shows you are interested. Maybe those working full time can take a couple of vacation days a year for classroom field trips or half days for a class party. I don't think you have to show up a lot for it to count. If you want to be an example to your kids, take some time and show up and volunteer. My experience is that a little goes a LONG way. FORMER PARENT OCCASIONAL VOLUNTEER


I'm a volunteer mgr. at a large nonprofit organization. Frankly, I get enough ''volunteering'' that way-I used to actively volunteer @ my kids' schools when I had time. But-to echo some of the others-I found it very frustrating and not a fulfilling experience in the least: *''Alpha mom'' organizers were unfriendly, ignoring the ''worker bees'' they'd signed up for tasks. Too busy talking to each other to direct the work. *No efficiency-too many volunteers, not enough to do. Waste of time to get somewhere and find out you're not needed-you won't come back. *Some of the events seemed totally unnecessary (and too frequent)-yes, to building the school community events are great-but honestly, some seem more like parent social hour-the kids would rather run around outside after being scheduled all day. I'd rather spend the time @ home with my family.

Ok, I sound crabby and antisocial, which I'm not. Volunteering is great-but let's make sure what we ask people to do with their limited time is truly needed, well-organized, and appreciated! Volunteer to do only what YOU want to do, for what you feel is important and a good use of your time. Let go of resentment towards anyone else. If something doesn't happen because no one wants to organize it, re-evaluate if it's really the end of the world for your kids' school. (; Not really a curmudgeon


I'm a little late to this but as a former PTA president I have a few thoughts. For the people who are frustrated that more parents don't volunteer:

1) Accept that many people will not do it. Maybe they're too busy or maybe they just don't want to. It's their business, and at the end of the day, unless it's a co-op school and they signed a paper saying they'd put in a certain number of hours, they are under no obligation to do so.

2) Don't waste your time with impersonal emails or newsletters. Speak to people in person or on the phone. One to one interactions are always better. Emails to one person at a time can work.

3) Get to know your crowd. People who work full time in an office are not good candidates for volunteering in the classroom... BUT they might be able to create a flier during lunch, and photocopy it at the office. The nurse who works the night shift might not have the time to do computer work, BUT... she might be able to sell a whole lot of chocolate bars to her co-workers for the fundraiser. There is always something people can do.

4) Ask people to fill precise needs. ''Can you sell tickets at the fair from 11-11:30'' is much less intimidating than ''can you be on the fair committee?''. For people who think their kid's school has too many events: You can't expect the PTO/A leadership to read your mind. Bring it up. Send an email if you cannot make it to an evening meeting. Even if you're not actively involved in the parent organization, you are still a parent at that school, and you need to voice your opinion if you'd like things to change. former PTAer