During one of my gung-ho moments, I volunteered to become part my daughter’s nursery school parent council. And let’s face it, there are several upsides: meeting other like-minded parents (good), knowing what’s going on in the school (good, with a slight hint of espionage!) and becoming an ‘involved’ parent (good, with a sprinkling of the altruistic).
Before you decide to jump in with both feet, go in with your eyes wide open. As a veteran of the corporate boardroom - and my kitchen, where I used to hold parent council’s meetings– here’s a list of tips to help you navigate the waters and have the best experience possible:
Know Your Strengths
If you’re new, stick to your strengths. For example, as a full-time working mom, I felt my ‘real-world’ PR experience would provide added-value. So, if you’re scared to death to make cold calls asking people/store owners/companies for favours – don’t sign up to help out with the silent auction!
Don’t clique out
Parent councils aren’t much different from breaking into a new clique of friends. The ‘veterans’ will be both in-the-know and chummy with one another. It can be intimidating! Find the other newbies, sit back and listen. Get a feel for the power players, the issues and where you best fit in.
Make the Meetings
Often issues need consensus (or quorum), and if there aren’t enough people present to vote then business can’t move forward. Your monthly participation will also make you a valued member of your council.
Pitching your brilliant idea
Before putting yourself and your idea out there, do a little homework. First, call a veteran council member to get feedback. Also, gather support from other council members before your next meeting; having their agreement will give you the confidence to pitch your idea.
It will get sticky
When a friend asked how my tenure as president of the parent council was progressing, I answered (without the slightest hint of sarcasm), “Well, first think of Enron. Now think of my school council.” You may deal with staff issues, irate parents, lack of fundraising dollars, cyber bullying…the list goes on. It’s hard to stay neutral, but it’s essential that you do.
You’ll be asked to move chairs, put up decorations, sweep the gym floor after an event – be prepared to roll up your sleeves (and maybe even the rugs!)
These tips can help ease you into your parent council role. To this day, I feel privileged to have been involved in something so important.