The Maryland PTA held its first meeting with new leadership Tuesday night, fielding questions from members and updating them about the organization’s relationship with the National PTA.
The Maryland group said on the conference call that National PTA board members were listening in on the meeting, and local President Edna Harvin-Battle said she “appreciated” and “welcomed” their attendance.
“Even though Maryland PTA board members are not permitted to attend the National PTA meetings, we appreciate their attendance,” she said. “We remain open to working with the National PTA to come up with an amicable solution to this dispute that is fair for both organizations.”
The 2 1/4 u00bd-hour meeting comes about two weeks after the Maryland PTA filed a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in Anne Arundel Circuit Court against its parent organization, seeking to block the National PTA’s plan to restructure the statewide affiliate due to high turnover on its board caused by “hostile” leadership.
The National PTA announced at the end of August that it was restructuring the Maryland group after it fell out of compliance with the organization’s “Standards of Affiliation,” according to letters obtained by The Baltimore Sun. Restructuring means the National PTA can assist the Maryland PTA in electing new leaders. It also gives the national group access to Maryland PTA funds and records, as well as the ability to arrange an audit.
Harvin-Battle said during the meeting that her focus for the local PTA will be “bylaws, business and branding.” She emphasized the need to communicate better with parents and PTA affiliates. The local president also said she wants to work on amending and reviewing the bylaws after she raised issues with them in June 2019 as president-elect.
“Even though I was the president-elect in the prior administration, I was not privy to many decisions made on behalf of the organization," she said. “The prior president took major action without the approval of the board of directors.”
In the state PTA’s annual report, the organization alleged that the previous president cashed a $95,000 deposit that was earmarked for building emergencies and improvements without board approval. The state PTA board filed a bond claim to recover the losses, but this decision “spooked” two of the elected officers who subsequently resigned from the new administration, according to the report.
A ruling on the restraining order has yet to be made, but Charles Tucker Jr., an attorney representing the Maryland PTA, said during the meeting that he hopes people see that current board members are following all bylaws in place by the National PTA.
“I went through them piece by piece to see if there is anything that would cause me concern to even represent them,” he said. “Clearly [board members] are honoring and respecting what they were called to do.”
As the meeting opened for questions, an unidentified parent asked why legal action was necessary. Tucker, of the Hyattsville-based Tucker Moore Law Group, reiterated his previous statements that the national group didn’t give the local PTA an opportunity to respond to its complaints and instead moved forward “aggressively” to restructure the organization.
Many attendees thanked the state PTA for hosting a public meeting but expressed frustration that something like it wasn’t held sooner both to update them on the litigation but also to help navigate the coronavirus.
Members said they were “scrambling” to keep their local boards afloat because they haven’t been able to meet in person due to COVID-19 and they didn’t realize what powers they could use.
“I personally had no idea that our board was able to pass a budget and to appoint board members,” a female member said. “Why wasn’t this done earlier? Why weren’t we told about this sooner.”
The meeting stretched an hour longer than the scheduled 1 1/4 u00bd hours and even at the end, at least 13 people sat in the queue waiting for answers to their questions.
Baltimore Sun reporter Wilborn P. Nobles III contributed to this article.
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