I don't know if it is something about this area, or if it is a problem across this country and the world, but both parent groups I have belonged to have been totally lame.
My children's education is important to me, and most of you know that I intended to homeschool Sebastian this year until he made other plans. Rather than tell him he couldn't go to school, I signed him up and have dedicated myself to making sure it is a good place for him to be. I cut up countless carrot sticks for healthy snack, I perform puppet shows involving talking snowflakes, I bake goodies I wish I could eat instead of donating to the never-ending bake sales, and I attend some of the most pointless meetings on earth.
Other than the officers of the group and the principal and assistant principal, how many parents do you think attended last night's meeting? Bear in mind that there are over 400 students at this school. I don't know how many different families they come from, but I would have thought (back before I had any real experience with these things, you know, when I was living in fantasy land) that a quarter of the families would be interested in bettering the school through dialogue and planning. Let's imagine, factoring in siblings and such, that there would be about 75 people. Ha!
Last night, there were 3.5 parents, including me. The half is for the man who arrived at the beginning with a child playing a noisy hand held game, but left before it was over. So, to recap, out of well over 300 families and numerous staff, they managed to attract 4 people... but couldn't even hold their entire audience.
Their theory? That 7pm is poor timing for a meeting. Contrarian that I am, I pointed out that they said they get a great turn out for their movie nights that start at what time? 7pm. I told them that it wasn't the timing keeping people away. The entire goddamn agenda was a list of upcoming opportunities for us to harass everyone we know, and some we don't, for money. People make time for the things they want to do. And no one wants to sit and listen to a laundry list of poorly planned events that will require even more of your time in the near future.
What I imagine a PTA should be is a group of caring parents and devoted teachers getting together on a semi-regular basis to discuss topics of substance that actually affect the students. Topics like bullying, homework, standardized testing, nutrition, self-esteem, physical fitness... Not bullshit like, "We need 5 more volunteers for Friday's movie night which I haven't even bothered to email people about." (Not a direct quote)
The only reason I really attend anymore (because at this point you are probably wondering why I don't just stop going, and believe me, I ask myself this question all the time) is to hear what the principal has to say. I think he has a lot of interesting information, and it is clear that he really cares about the kids and the school, and I think it is a real shame that his forum is so shoddily run and poorly attended.
Update: I do not mean to imply with this post that the hundreds of other parents at the school do not care as much as I do about their children's educations, only that they are so much smarter than I am since they obviously can see that this is NOT the way to show you care.