Male presence in PTA is blooming

Discussion in 'Black Parenting' started by dustyelbow, Jun 23, 2006.

  1. dustyelbow

    dustyelbow Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Oct 25, 2005
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    Male presence in PTA is blooming
    Involvement is gaining in school organization
    By Helen Gao

    May 22, 2006

    For an organization that began as the National Congress of Mothers, it probably comes as no surprise that the PTA for decades has been dominated by women. Throughout its 109-year history, women have been at the helm of the National PTA, and they have been the backbone of its local and regional associations.

    JIM BAIRD / Union-Tribune
    Brian Bonner toted supplies for a PTA district executive committee meeting. He was inspired by men he met at a national convention to become district president.

    But slowly, men are taking PTA leadership posts at school, district, state and national levels. So many more men are attending PTA conventions that women can no longer take over men's restrooms to avoid long lines.

    Today, nearly 1 million of the PTA's 6.5 million members nationwide are men. The transformation comes as the organization is also trying to reach out to minorities, immigrants and non-traditional families headed by grandparents and single parents.

    For the first time in its history, the Ninth District PTA Council covering San Diego and Imperial counties has a male president – Brian Bonner. Districts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Marin also are headed by men.

    In July, Bonner, 55, will be the only man on the 15-member state PTA board of directors.

    Charles Saylors, one of 10 men on the 28-member board of the National PTA, spoke last weekend at the California PTA convention in Anaheim on recruiting more men to join. The topic has become a staple at PTA conventions around the nation. Saylors' session drew about 200 people.

    “In simple terms, mom needs a little help,” Saylors said in explaining the push for dads, who remain absent from many routine school site PTA meetings.

    Last year, PTA started an initiative to recruit men, after a 2004 survey revealed that men were interested in getting involved, but they had not been asked.

    The National PTA encourages its local affiliates to organize events that appeal to men, such as father-daughter dances or an outing to a baseball game. Locally, PTA leaders have tried nights out with the Padres and Gulls.

    Bonner wants to recruit more dads, Latinos and others to better reflect the diversity of the local population. But it's an uphill battle with the PTA's overall membership in decline and many families struggling with multiple jobs.

    In 1956, the PTA had as many as 10 million members. That was when many married women were homemakers and had time to spare. Today, most mothers work outside the home, leaving less time for PTA involvement.

    Working his way up
    Bonner, a retiree from Paradise Hills, first became president of the Ninth District PTA in 2005. Previously, he was the Ninth District's director of legislation and president of the San Diego Unified Council of PTAs serving city schools.

    Like other PTA leaders, he started out volunteering at a school – the PTA at Zamorano Elementary where his daughter was a student – and eventually moved up through the ranks.

    Bonner was drawn to the PTA when he went to a meeting on why test scores were going down at Zamorano.

    Bonner is surrounded by women but appears to get along well with them. Being black, he said, is something he is more aware of than being male. Growing up in the Central Valley, he was one of a handful of black students in his school.

    “Being different is the norm for me,” he said.

    Last September, Bonner retired from the county after 32 years as a legislative analyst and probation officer, including nine years at Juvenile Hall. Retirement allowed him to volunteer more time for the PTA. Now he goes to work at the district PTA's Linda Vista office at the San Diego County Office of Education.

    Debbie Vincent, executive vice president of the Ninth District, said initially, some women were apprehensive about working with a man because they didn't know what to expect.

    “It's kind of my job to explain him to other people,” Vincent said.

    Bonner said he has strived to upgrade the professional image and operations of the organization. He eliminated cartoon figures from the stationery and is working to improve a database used for keeping track of contacts and school information.

    He's traveled to Imperial County, where there is only one PTA unit, to promote the organization. He represents the Ninth District at numerous state and regional meetings on education and other youth initiatives. His years working with juvenile delinquents have turned him into a crusader for bettering young people's lives.

    At the National PTA Convention in 2000, Bonner was inspired by men he met, so when the job of district president opened up, he went for it. “They certainly had broken the mold of the traditional PTA,” he said.

    Getting involved
    In the past decade, researchers have documented the positive effects on children – ranging from higher grades to better behavior – when their fathers are involved.

    According to one study, students in two-parent households, where the fathers are highly involved, are more likely to get top grades than those from families with disengaged fathers.

    Another study showed that very young children whose fathers are hands-on show more curiosity and problem-solving skills, because “fathers' involvement seems to encourage children's exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.”

    “When dad walks in the door, there is a little bit of extra excitement,” said Saylors, secretary-treasurer of the National PTA. “They realize when dad is there, it takes a little bit more effort. Dad has not been there as often.

    “They appreciate mom being there, but they appreciate dad being there more.”

    Pat Sando, vice president for parent involvement for the board of the California state PTA, said fathers' traditional role has changed over the years.

    “Dads are playing more a part in their children's life, in everything, not just in the PTA,” she said.

    Rich Brady, the president of Grant Elementary Elementary School PTA, is one such example. He and his wife are involved at Grant, where their daughter is a third-grader.

    A bachelor who got married later in life and became a father at 53, Brady never thought of himself as PTA material. He owns a men's clothing store and his wife is full-time self-employed. “You just kind of naturally want to follow along with what is happening with our little kid,” he said.

    Most recently, he helped his campus win approval from the school board to expand into middle grades. As PTA president, he said he's made meetings shorter and more to the point.

    Likewise, Los Angeles 10th District President Scott Folsom has brought his professional expertise to his organization's financial operations. Using his business school training, he's working to get a children's dental and vision program on better financial footing.

    He's assumed a higher political profile than past PTA presidents and has thrown himself into a fight against Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's bid to take over the city's school system.

    The stay-at-home dad said he's proud to succeed generations of strong female leaders who proceeded him. Looking through his district's historical archives, he said he was full of admiration for former PTA presidents who advocated for suffrage, provided milk to the poor and sold war bonds, while raising their children.

    “I am certainly not a trailblazer. I am just doing the best I can.”

    Helen Gao: (619) 718-5181; [email protected]


    Jun 14, 2006
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    This is a good thing, however I didn't see any specific reference to Black Men being more involved in this most important organzation, and I certainly didn't see that involvement while raising my own. I dare say that were that the case, we'd see a lot less of the problems that plague our communities. Just having that fatherly presence and concern would calm a lot of our children down a piece.
  3. dustyelbow

    dustyelbow Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Oct 25, 2005
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    There was a young brother who father was involved with the PTA in Norfolk VA that graduated valenvictorian (spelling) top of his class in high school. I believe he made history. He excelled in several advanced placement course where you dont see us around due to many issues.

    The cicumstances of his situation in relation to his black peers was one that he could not relate to and most likely not to many of his black peers could relate to him. His peers like TV and the likes while he was interested in sciences and technology. He mentioned if he FOLLOWED their footsteps he would not be where he was today. He did not do it to distance himself because he is BLACK but those PEER ASPIRATIONS had LIMITS he himself chose to not FOLLOW.

    We could bash him but he CHOOSED his PATH and this is where he was with the support of HIS FATHER and MOTHER together.

    I hope he continues to do well and inspire many of us to TRY A DIFFERENT APPROACH than what is considered ACCEPTABLE when there is the INFINITE.

    If his father presence helped then I can imagine what it could do do many of our other children.