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National PTA to restructure Maryland PTA after accusations of ‘hostile’ leadership and high turnover on board

Leslie C. Boggs, National PTA President, shakes hands with First Lady Melania Trump at the at the National PTA Legislative Conference in March. National PTA has put Maryland PTA on probation after local groups raised questions about how the state organization was being run.
Leslie C. Boggs, National PTA President, shakes hands with First Lady Melania Trump at the at the National PTA Legislative Conference in March. National PTA has put Maryland PTA on probation after local groups raised questions about how the state organization was being run. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The National PTA announced it will restructure its Maryland affiliate after putting the group on probation earlier this year due to high turnover on its board caused by “hostile” leadership that prevented members from performing their duties.

Restructuring means the National PTA can assist the Maryland PTA in electing new leaders and provide support for the state’s local PTA chapters. Restructuring also gives the national group access to Maryland PTA funds and records, as well the ability to arrange an audit.

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The Glen Burnie-based Maryland PTA represents hundreds of local parent-teacher associations in Maryland. The statewide group fell out of compliance with the National PTA’s “Standards of Affiliation,” according to letters obtained by The Baltimore Sun.

“National PTA made the decision to move the state PTA into the Restructuring Phase and assume direct support of all of the PTAs within Maryland PTA,” National PTA President Leslie C. Boggs wrote in a Thursday letter to Maryland PTA.

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Boggs wrote that a support team would work to bring Maryland PTA back into compliance.

The PTA is the nation’s largest child advocacy group with 4 million members, and it works with schools by volunteering in classrooms and raising money for supplies. The National PTA warned the Maryland PTA that it could revoke its charter, potentially putting Maryland’s 160,000 PTA members at risk of losing services and their input in setting the organization’s agenda.

The dispute between the two organizations started in May, when the National PTA first warned the Maryland PTA of complaints about how the state organization was managed.

The state PTA had high turnover due to “a hostile board environment, frequent special meetings, and an assumed directive of loyalty to the Maryland PTA president rather than to Maryland PTA,” Boggs’ May letter stated.

The letter said Maryland PTA leadership refused to provide access to resources and provided insufficient notice for meetings, preventing members from completing their duties.

The national organization also said local PTA members were concerned the state group violated regulations by “electing officers who do not meet the criteria for service” and didn’t follow proper procedures for meetings.

The national group wanted the Maryland PTA to verify “that all Maryland PTA officers were elected properly and meet the qualifications required to serve in their positions,” the letter stated. Maryland PTA also was told to provide proper notice of all special meetings, to provide board members access to documents prior to meetings, and to establish “a cooperative working environment.”

But the National PTA said Maryland PTA has not met those requirements, triggering the decision to restructure the organization.

Earlier this month, Maryland PTA President Edna Harvin-Battle sent a letter to Boggs stating all PTA special meetings were announced, according to a copy provided to The Sun. Harvin-Battle wrote “at no time has the current executive committee violated the bylaws regarding its authority or in conducting Maryland PTA business.”

The state PTA “consistently communicates with Council PTA leaders,” Harvin-Battle’s letter stated, but she wrote “Council PTA leaders have not responded in kind.” Complaints about a “lack of participation and support” can be attributed to “unlimited terms of Council PTA leaders and the lack of leadership development within the respective counties,” the letter stated.

The statewide PTA’s attorney, Charles Tucker Jr. of the Hyattsville-based Tucker Moore Law Group, called the restructuring plan “a poor attempt to circumvent the rules and regulations of the constitution that govern Maryland PTA.” Tucker said the National PTA had not given the state PTA a chance to explain the situation before putting the organization on probation.

“This aggression should be met with legal action if this board decides to take such action,” he said. “What is clearly apparent is that National PTA has no regard for due process or equity despite the social climate in our current union.”

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Tucker also said Maryland PTA board members were denied access to organization resources because they didn’t meet “prerequisites” required by the organization.

But former board members, like Laura Mitchell of Montgomery County, said she saw “red flags” in the way the state PTA was run. Mitchell said she was the third state PTA treasurer to resign from the position due to the organization’s lack of transparency and compliance with PTA rules.

Mitchell, an accountant, said Maryland PTA wouldn’t give her access to the organization’s bank accounts, that bank statements didn’t match program reports and that the board refused to conduct a forensic audit after an insurance claim was denied.

A prior auditor “took them at their word” when the nonprofit told the auditor they had financial safeguards in place, Mitchell said.

“There were six of us within a month that resigned from the board and now they have seven people left on the board, almost all of whom are from one county,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the PTA’s current treasurer was never appointed to the board, but Tucker said the entire board was “duly appointed” and authorized to hold their office.

Some board members are “filling dual roles,” said Mitchell, adding that one of the board’s student members is Harvin-Battle’s granddaughter.

Tucker acknowledged the Maryland PTA had issues in the past, but the current leadership has addressed those problems.

The National PTA has not accused the state PTA of misusing funds, he said.

“It seemed that a lot of funds were not used properly,” Tucker said of past leadership, “so they had to raise money to get their house in order, and they had to get everybody to follow the rules and regulations which traditionally had not been followed, so it ruffled some feathers and it caused some issues.”

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