Friday, October 16, 2009

Priorities, Priorities

Brace yourself. I'm about to vent.

A few weeks ago we had THE big fundraiser for our local elementary schools. Unfortunately, Colorado has one of the worst school funding systems in the country and we're constantly struggling to make up the shortfall between what the government provides (of course, this is the story everywhere, I know) and what kids need in the classroom.

Anyway, this huge fundraiser we have is very volunteer intensive. The money raised is divided up amongst all of the elementary schools. Each school is assigned a certain number of volunteer positions to fill. If the school doesn't fill its positions, it doesn't get an equal share of the money.

Fair enough.

This year, I am serving on the PTA board as secretary. I figured I'd go and take notes and that would be my commitment.


I figure if I spent as much time working for pay as I now do volunteering for stuff at the school, I'd be a millionaire in just these few short weeks since school started.

So one of my jobs as a member of the PTA board is to help staff a PTA table at various school events--sort of a "what is the PTA and what do we do" type of thing.

Great. Afterall, remember, I have an MBA in the field of common sense (marketing), so this is right up my alley.

So a few days before the big fundraiser, our school had its back to school night. We were trying to sign people up to volunteer at the fundraiser. We were in dire straights. Our volunteer sign up sheets were originally due the day before, but we hadn't filled our spots. We weren't going to get an equal share of the proceeds from the event. We were desperate. We begged for an extension to get volunteers since our back to school night fell on an unusually late date this year.

Let me say a few things here--first, we are the biggest elementary school in the district. In fact, only the high schools have more students. It is totally ridiculous that we didn't fill these volunteer spots right away. And can I just say, it's not like we're asking for a limb or the scalp of someone's youngest child--these volunteer positions are doing things like running games, baking things for a bake sale, or directing traffic in the parking lot (a very dusty job that I ended up volunteering Eamonn for to fill the spots) for, at the most, one hour during the fundraiser. You've got the whole rest of the day to hang with your family.

So, there I was, along with a few other dedicated PTA members, standing at this table on back to school night, calling out to people to help volunteer because we weren't going to get the money we need to run our school if we didn't fill our spots.

How do you think that went? Not well, in case you're wondering.

I couldn't believe it. People looked the other way when we asked for help. Literally would not make eye contact and walked on by. This is a small town, by the way, so I find that totally bizarre. Hello! It's not like I don't know who you are and where you live! One person actually said to me, "I don't want to." Um, and I do? I WANT to spend several hours of my Sunday doing this? No. I don't WANT to. I do it because we all NEED to whether we like it or not.

And I've been on a tear ever since, wondering what the hell is wrong with people. It seems like no one wants to volunteer to help out and do things anymore. At PTA, it's the same 10 - 15 people who pull the load for everyone over and over again and so then those 10 - 15 people end up in volunteer burnout and you can't even get them anymore because they're so fried. And I get it. I'm one of them. I'm over the whole volunteer thing and it's only mid-October. But not volunteering is not an option.

In the end, we did fill our spots--barely. I had to sign up for three different jobs that day and I volunteered Eamonn without his prior knowledge. But the whole thing has left me with a bad taste in my mouth about the willingness of parents to get involved in schools (which is HUGE) and why a few have to pull the load for the masses.

And you know what, I totally don't buy the "I work full time, I can't volunteer at the school" argument. We all work in some way or another and there are a million ways to be involved at school that don't required hours and hours of time.

We're all busy, we all want to spend time with our families, but if we would all pitch in just a little and share the load, it would be so much better. What's that saying? Many hands make light work? We want top notch education for our kids, but it doesn't come for free. Are we willing to work for it?

But then, I realize I'm preaching to the choir once again. Thanks for listening to me rant. I just got an e-mail asking me to make food for teachers this week. Also on the e-mail? The same 15 people who are always on it. GAH!


Anonymous said...

This is a problem everywhere. I volunteer hours and hours at my daughters school - today is a prime example. No one would volunteer to work the bookfair so I am stuck with working today 9 - 11:45, tomorrow 9 - 11:45 and tomorrow night 3:30 to 7 which also happens to be the pumpkin lighting at school which I will miss while I'm working the bookfair. I put in hour after hour because I want a better education for my child, I want to be involved, but it gets to the point where I want to avoid my email and phone because not a week goes by I'm not asked for something. A few years ago I was room parent for my oldest daughter - 5th grade - and not one person helped me all year. I bought every supply needed, I received 7 dollars towards a gift, I went in every single time they needed help. It's amazing to me how little parents want to be involved.


sportzmom said...

Amen! As one who volunteers a lot, I feel your pain. I do refuse to volunteer for cafeteria duty at the twins' school though--2 and 1/2 hours of screaming kids. I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a stick...repeatedly.

Happy Monday! Hope everyone is healthy and attends a full week of school!!!!

Leeann said...

I'm sorry. That is just crappy.

I think it is a problem everywhere. Schools, churches, anywhere that need volunteerism to make something work. :-(

Fortunately, I don't see it too much at the elementary school level here. Middle school is probably the worst.

Hang in there and please vent any time. You are a good person and we recognize all that you do!

jean said...

Like Leeann said, it's not just in the schools - it's anywhere that relies on volunteers. Our Exec Board for Jr League next year will be filled with ladies who have only been in the League for 2 years b/c none of the 'older' members want to serve in those leadership positions. And we keep doing what we do b/c that's the way that we were raised - to give back & be involved.

Krisha Arias said...

Wow, I could have written your letter. I am on the board at my son's school for Choir, ironically, I am the vice president of fundraising. We have 256 students in choir and it is consistantly the same 5 (yes, only 5) people volunteering at EVERY event. Mind you, 3 of those 5 are board members and the other two are spouses of board members. We hear the same excuses, I don't have time, I go to school, I work, blah, blah, blah. I work a full time job, 40 hours a week at a job that is an hour away from my house, so add two hours a day driving time, yet I am at every event up at the school. The thing that really burns me up is that these are high school kids, and most volunteer opportunities are mostly just chapparones, no real work needed, just a warm adult body to keep the kids in check. I have volunteered for stuff since my kids started activities and it never changes. The payoff that I get is knowing all the kids up at the school and seeing their faces when they do something good and they come running up to me to give me a hug or to cry on my shoulder. It makes it all worth it. It doesn't make it any less frustraiting though. Good luck with what you are doing!

The Professional Bag Lady said...

You are definitely preaching to the choir...

Yup - it happens here on the Front Range too... and it is not the working mom's who refuse to volunteer... it is the stay at home mom's...the one's who are perpetually late to pick up their little darlin's after school!

I could write a book!

Anonymous said...

That just sucks! I WORK full time as a teacher and at one point my 3 kids went to 3 different schools and I belonged to 3 different PTAs and attended 4 different Back-to School Nights (because one was in my classroom,) and volunteered at 3 different schools plus my duties at my school...and there were parents who did not work who NEVER stepped on campus until 6th grade graduation!! I don't ge tit either- you have every right to fume!

Happy October :)