HCPTAs Responds to Finanacials Request

At about 7:00pm tonight, the Huntsville Council of PTAs offered the following response to the request by the central office for the PTAs to submit their financial reports to Mr. Jason Taylor. Here is the text of the email:

From:”Huntsville Council of PTAs” <huntsvillepta@gmail.com>
Date:Sun, Aug 16, 2015 at 7:01 PM
Subject:Request for PTA bank statements from Huntsville City Schools

PTA Presidents,

Thanks for contacting the Huntsville Council of PTAs with your concerns about the recent request for PTA bank statements from Huntsville City schools. As soon as we were made aware of this issue we began investigating the basis for this request. In addition, we have spoken with representatives from Huntsville City Schools as well as several Board of Education members.

Several PTA Presidents expressed concern that this would be the first step toward having to share PTA funds with those at other schools. We would like to assure you that this is not the case. Huntsville City Schools recognizes that they do not have the authority to dictate how PTA funds will be spent since PTAs are separate organizations and has assured us that they have no intention of doing so.

This request for bank statements stems from Huntsville City Schools seeking to be in compliance with guidelines listed in the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) Financial Procedures for Local Schools.Here is the link to the document on the ALSDE website. The section that relates to PTAs is Section 7 page 2.

Based on our review of this document as well as the Local Unit Bylaws Template, we noted that principals are members of the boards of their local unit PTAs. Local unit bylaws require that the treasurer provide financial reports at each board meeting. Since, the ALSDE guidelines do not specify that these financial reports must be bank statements, we are of the opinion that our PTAs, operating in compliance with their bylaws, are already in compliance with these guidelines and have shared this information with their principals.

The reporting requirements are as follows:
a) The organization has obtained an employer identification number from the IRS. – This is public information and is available on the IRS website.
b) The organization provides a report of the annual audit of the organization to the school. – According to our local unit bylaws, the results of the annual audit are supposed to be shared with the board and the principal is a member of the board.
c) The organization makes its financial records available to the school’s auditors and authorized school employees upon request. – According to our local unit bylaws, the treasurer is supposed to provide an updated financial report at each board meeting. Since, the principal (authorized school employee) serves on the PTA board he/she is already receiving updated financial reports on a monthly basis.
d)The organization provides required financial reports. – See response to (c) above.
e) The organization provides proof of a fidelity bond for the treasurer. – We strongly recommend that all PTAs carry insurance for directors and officers and have proof of such insurance accessible to their boards.
f) The organization will not provide any payment or benefit to a school employee (or family member of a school employee) in violation of the State Ethics Law. – We urge all PTAs to operate within the limits of the State Ethics Law.

In sum, the Huntsville Council of PTAs has investigated the basis for this request and found that it is an attempt to be in compliance with ALSDE guidelines. According to our understanding of these guidelines, all PTA local units operating in accordance with their bylaws are already in compliance. We strongly recommend that all local units closely review their bylaws, update them every three years, and operate in accordance with them. We will continue to study this issue and let you know if any changes are necessary.

We appreciate all that you do for our schools and hope that you are aware that you can count on us for support and advocacy. Please share with your members that this request from Huntsville City Schools is not a cause for alarm but an attempt to be in compliance with ALSDE guidelines.

On another note, we have a Presidents’ Meeting scheduled for Friday, August 21st from 11:30am – 12:30pm in the Blue Room of the Merts Center. We hope to see you there.

Preeti Francis
President, Huntsville Council of PTA

The Huntsville Council of PTAs is attempting to take a Solomonic approach here of splitting the baby.

First, I’m pleased to see that HCPTA has responded, although it’s troubling that seemingly the first they heard of the request was when they were contacted by local PTA presidents asking for guidance. One wonders why the HCPTA was so out of the loop here?

Second, HCPTA offers the opinion that:

“Huntsville City Schools recognizes that they do not have the authority to dictate how PTA funds will be spent since PTAs are separate organizations and has assured us that they have no intention of doing so.”

While I appreciate that the HCPTA is reassured by HCS’s assurances, I see no reason why anyone else should be.

As I pointed out on Friday, if a school organization gives over fiduciary control of the organization to the principal, and if a school organization allows a school employee to lead fund-raising, then the school organization is a “school activity” under the control of the district. Releasing financial records to the district is the first step towards turning the PTA into a “school activity” under the direct control of the district.

In the earlier post tonight, I raised the question, “Why Now?” One logical answer to this question is the consent agreement. While the consent agreement does not call for a leveling of PTA funds, we’ve seen it used to level other programs. School Activities such as Dance and Theatre programs have been “leveled” already. (While I fully support that all schools should have the same services, I do not believe that one school’s programming should be hindered to ensure that another schools programming is “better.” This is how the district is approaching leveling services: weakening one school rather than making all better.)

This assurance from HCPTA is not sufficient.

Third, HCPTA claims that the request for bank statements is an attempt to be in compliance with the Financial Procedures Document that we’ve discussed extensively in the previous two posts.

Again, the document HCPTA is linking to was approved on June 10, 2010. This request has nothing to do with “compliance.” The document makes it crystal clear that our PTAs are not “school activities” and are therefore not required to abide by the six requests that the email references.

Everything has been moving along swimmingly for the past eight years when these procedures were first written. The reason for this is simple: ALSDE knows that PTAs are not “school activities.” 

Finally, HCPTAs claims that the local PTAs should not submit bank statements to Mr. Taylor and that the PTAs are already in compliance with the ALSDE requirements.

I completely agree with this statement; however, their understanding of why they are in compliance is dangerously different from mine. It seems that HCPTA is of the opinion that the local PTAs must follow those procedures even though the document clearly states that those procedures only apply to “school activities.”

I realize that I’m likely going to be accused of splitting hairs here; however, this distinction is crucially important as the district can control and level the funding of “school activities.”

It is, however, good to know that the HCPTA agrees that the local PTAs have been in compliance with these financial procedures for a long time.

Hopefully, this will put this issue to rest with the district.

However, Wardynski is not exactly well-known for conceding anything to anyone, ever. Even the naming of Lee High School, which has been referenced as an example of Wardynski changing his mind in the past, has ended up being named exactly as he wished. If you drive by the school, the primary name on the building is “Huntsville City Schools.” The building then has two secondary names, “Lee High School” and “New Century Technology High School” in a significantly small font size.

I mention this not to bring up old news but rather to remind HCPTAs that whatever else you might say about Dr. Wardynski, he is certainly not known for backing down when he’s proven wrong.

It will be interesting to see how he and the board respond to this seeming rejection of their request.

I would still encourage local PTAs to decline any requests for any financial information from the central office. I would further ensure that the school principals receive only the financial reports that are available to any member of the PTA. Wardynski, Taylor and McCaulley are not requesting this information to ensure “compliance and transparency.” They are requesting this financial information for their own political gain.

And their gain is, sadly, our children’s loss.

"Children see magic because they look for it." --Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel according to Biff, Jesus' childhood pal.