March 30, 2020
Dear Arkansas PTA leaders,
Arkansas PTA has been working these past few weeks to pass along information to assist our families with information on the current health status of our state as well as tools and resources to assist with keeping our children on their learning journey while schools are shuttered. We hope that you have benefitted from the shares and retweets through our FaceBook page and Twitter feed. As we come into April and May, many units are asking questions as to how to proceed with election season, and now, with the guidance we have received from National PTA, we want to assist you through making decisions concerning your local unit elections.
Our national president, Leslie Boggs, has encouraged us to “look at how we can do business differently. Albert Einstein said, ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.’ Nonprofits, such as PTA, are looking at following laws of the land over their bylaws. The environment has changed. We can no longer meet face-to-face, which then begs the question on annual meetings and elections.
After visiting with our legal counsel and parliamentarian, here is what we learned: In common law, the cy pres doctrine says that a legal requirement or a bylaw requirement cannot be enforced when the organization is not able to do it. The organization is charged with doing ‘the next best thing.’ There is lots of precedent on this in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We are also unaware of any states fining or penalizing their nonprofits for not having annual meetings during times of crisis.”
National PTA has also added a Coronavirus webpage with resources for Families, PTA Leaders, and Teachers. The PTA Leaders section under What You Need to Know includes a document “Guidance on State Meetings and Elections” that will help you as you consider an option that works for your unit. As we discuss our options, please keep in mind that “You can and should look at voting procedures that closely approximate the fairness you would normally require, such as making determinations about who is eligible to vote and how you will verify eligibility.” Remember to remain transparent, keep minutes, and when we are able to return to the order of our bylaws, the board can officially ratify (approve after the fact) the actions.
As always, Arkansas PTA is here to help you as well. If you need further assurances or just want to discuss your ideas with us, we are at your service. We do ask that you bring your questions to us before going to National PTA. We will also honor the example that National PTA has set that “we will not entertain complaints from members/nonmembers in your unit that claim you did not follow your bylaws in meeting requirements. We will address issues that seem to be clear attempts to manipulate the process for a power grab. So, let’s all be fair and just in our decisions and execution.”
President, Arkansas PTA