City PTA group is shut down

State organization takes action, saying bylaws have been violated

August 09, 2008|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,Sun reporter

Less than two months after temporarily stripping the Baltimore City Council of PTAs of authority to operate, the Maryland PTA has shut down the group for violating its bylaws.

The president and first vice president of the city's PTA council ignored orders to "cease and desist" operations since being notified June 16 that their organization was being made inactive. Mayor Sheila Dixon named the president, Eric White, to a panel last month that interviewed candidates for the school board. White is a vocal critic of city schools chief Andres Alonso.

Now, the board of the state group has voted unanimously to revoke the city PTA council's charter.

The Maryland PTA released a statement saying its action was the result of "bylaws violations and inappropriate management detrimental to local PTAs, parents and children." The city PTA's council could not produce copies of meeting minutes or a budget, and it was operating without a secretary or a treasurer.

In addition, state officials expressed concern that White has been using his position as a platform to express his personal views when he is supposed to be speaking in an official capacity. This week, White introduced himself as the PTA council's president when he criticized the school board at a City Council hearing.

"This was a very difficult decision for the board of directors and they do not take this matter lightly," Debbie Ritchie, president of the Maryland PTA, said in the statement. "We are very disheartened that we were not able to get the council to come into compliance with the bylaws and organizational structure of Maryland PTA."

White did not respond to a request for comment yesterday. The first vice president, LaV'ernee Curley, who was still working out of the PTA's office in school system headquarters yesterday, said she was in a meeting and had no time to comment.

Ritchie said she sent Curley an e-mail last week reminding her that the organization had to stop operating and using the PTA name.

In June, White vowed to provide the budget and meeting minutes that the Maryland PTA had requested before making the organization inactive. Ritchie said that documentation provided last month was "nothing substantial."

For at least the next two years, PTAs at individual Baltimore schools will receive support directly from the statewide organization while the city has no PTA council. The Maryland PTA is recruiting parents to serve on a team that will help provide technical assistance to city PTAs and help schools interested in setting up PTA chapters.

Only about 50 of Baltimore's nearly 200 schools have active PTA chapters. But since the local council was made inactive in June, the state PTA has received 14 inquiries from schools interested in starting PTA chapters, Ritchie said.

Two years after the charter revocation, the city will be eligible to apply to start a new PTA council, if at least three schools with active PTA chapters express interest and meet state requirements. Had the council remained on inactive status, without having its charter revoked, it could have worked to correct its violations and become active again.

The Maryland PTA has made other local councils inactive but has revoked a charter only once before, in Prince George's County.

The Baltimore City Council of PTAs had been on probation for more than two years, going back to before White assumed leadership.

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

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