Guidance for Unit Leaders

PTA Leader,

We cannot thank you enough for supporting your members, unit, students, educators and communities during these difficult times. Know that NYS PTA stands ready to assist you in every way, as we navigate these unchartered waters together.  You are leaders in your schools and communities, and we THANK YOU.

During these extraordinary times, and working under both state and federal disaster,  emergency, and pandemic declarations, NYS PTA is attempting to provide adequate and full flexibility to units, councils and regions to allow for appropriate business to continue under these circumstances.

You can reach your Region Director HERE

You can reach NYS PTA staff at pta.office@nyspta.org


Video from NYS PTA “Chats”


Please see HERE for VIDEO from the 1st NYS PTA Chat held on April 29.

Please note – School Board and Budget Elections have been set for June 9, and will be conducted by absentee balloting.

Also, please review FAQs below for more information and answers to many questions.


General Guidance for Regions, Councils and Units


Waiting on PTA business (if possible) should be an option to consider.  In cases where waiting is not practical, we offer the following guidance.

NOTE: this guidance applies only to situations when working under state or federal disaster, emergency, and pandemic declarations.  Once emergency declarations cease, we expect all regions, councils and units to resume normal PTA practices for business.

NYS PTA and National PTA are currently allowing for full flexibility in state, region, council and unit business, including:

  1. Allowing for meetings by electronic means, phone or video conferencing, and/or virtual means;
  2. Allowing for voting by mail, electronic means, phone or video conferencing, and/or virtual means; and
  3. Allowing for elections by mail, electronic means, phone or video conferencing, and/or virtual means.

It is best advice to keep detailed minutes of meetings, decisions, voting, and elections during these times, and (if possible) ratify all decisions once in-person meetings have begun again.


General Advice for Virtual Meetings


Meeting Electronically and Tips for Holding a Virtual PTA Meeting

  • Decide whether to postpone your meeting and reschedule it, or replace it with a virtual meeting.
  • A virtual meeting often works best for a small group, like an executive committee or board that needs to address a specific topic or issue.
  • Virtual technology must allow for all attending to join a meeting and interact with one another at the same time, and you should ensure the technical resources needed to attend the meeting (like broadband or a webcam) should be widely available.
  • If internet access is a concern, a conference call may be your best bet.
  • Regardless of who officially “hosts” the virtual meeting, the usual presiding officer should conduct the meeting itself.
  • All potential attendees should receive advance notification with the date, time, and link or phone number they will use to join.
  • The agenda and other meeting materials should be distributed in advance.
  • Once the meeting is called to order, the secretary should call the roll to both take attendance and establish there is a quorum for the meeting.

Other phone/video conference suggestions:

  • Each participant may speak up to two minutes per discussion topic.
  • Each speaker should state their name for the minutes before making a comment.
  • Each person should have the opportunity to speak once before anyone gets a second turn.
  • A designated timekeeper will keep track of speakers and their allotted time.
  • All participants will keep to the agenda and stay on task –no sidebars!
  • To prevent disruptive background noise, everyone should mute their speaker when listening.

Canceling Events


  • You should make this decision based on the best interest of the PTA and its stakeholders without regard to the financial impact. The health and safety of your members are the priority.
  • Gather all contracts relating to the event and review key clauses, and calculate potential liability for each agreement.
  • Review your event cancellation coverage for the event, if applicable.
  • Explore if your event or portions of it could be held virtually.
  • Contact your Region Director or NYS PTA office if you need assistance with reviewing contracts.

Canceling Meetings


  • If health guidance requests or requires people to not be in close social proximity, you should follow your common sense and make prudent judgments about protecting your members.
  • No state (or National PTA/NYS PTA) will punish its nonprofits who did not meet state guidelines due to this unique situation.
  • Common law practice provides that a legal requirement or a bylaw that cannot be followed cannot be enforced. The obligation for any organization is to do the “next best thing.”
  • Delaying a meeting or changing it from face-to-face to virtual or telephonic are options you should and can consider.

General Election Information


Given the current state prohibition on social gathering, NYS PTA and National PTA are providing flexibility that allows for voting and elections to take place in a virtual environment. The following information is meant to guide units that consider this option.

IMPORTANT –  units have no obligation to hold elections under current conditions.  You may simply wait until an in-person election meeting can be held. At some point however, elections may be necessary. However, you should have elections as soon as possible. You should NOT wait longer than necessary after school opens or when social distancing is lifted.

National PTA and NYS PTA have allowed telephonic voting, mailed paper ballots, Survey Monkey-like tools and virtual meeting balloting.

You 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.


Nominating Committee


  1. If a PTA has elected its nominating committee and the committee has met and decided on the slate of officers, they should follow their bylaws as closely as possible in publishing the slate of officers and presenting the nominating committee report.
  2. If a PTA has elected a nominating committee, but they have not yet decided on the slate, the committee should meet either by conference call or virtually (e.g. Free Conference Call, Zoom, free GoTo Meeting).
  3. If a PTA has NOT elected its nominating committee: (1) the unit can wait until they are able to hold an in-person meeting, or (2) The unit can hold a virtual meeting and elect the committee members according to unit bylaws. 

Other tips:

  • A copy of the current bylaws should be emailed to each member of the Nominating Committee before their meeting.
  • If a member of the committee is a nominee for office, the member should exit from the call or virtual meeting while the other members discuss the nominee. When the discussion is over, another member should text the nominee to rejoin the meeting.
  • After the meeting, the slate of officers should be published in the time frame stated in the unit’s bylaws via the form of communication the unit uses.
  • For Nominations from the floor (if allowed in your bylaws), the name of any additional nominee must be sent to the committee chair in advance. Such advance notice will allow for the “floor” nominee’s name to be added to the ballot used in the virtual election.  

Advice for Virtual Election Meetings


  • The simplest option for holding an election may be for the unit to wait until an in-person meeting is possible, however you may also hold a virtual meeting.
  • The unit must ensure that each voting member has equal advance notice of the virtual election meeting and has access to the technology needed to vote.
  • Since membership cards cannot be presented,  the unit secretary must have complete membership list available to ascertain the eligibility of members before voting.
  • If the election is uncontested, the slate can be elected by voice vote. 
  • If the election is contested, the unit must hold a ballot vote. 
  • Units should preserve the confidentiality of the vote as much as possible, being aware that some loss of confidentiality may be unavoidable when votes are collected by email, text, or other electronic means.  
  • Keeping detailed minutes of your virtual meeting is crucial as a record of the election and as proof that you have conducted the election meeting, especially if your election meeting or results are challenged.
  • The minutes must be made available by the unit upon the request of the Region Director or any member.
  • Ballots in any form should be destroyed immediately at the end of the election.
  • NOTE: we are working on virtual voting examples for your consideration and will post them here.

As you make your decision on whether or not to hold virtual nominations and elections, we offer you some suggestions on how you can ballot vote electronically.

You can GO HERE to view instructions for making a Google form, which could be helpful when holding a ballot vote (via California PTA).

We have also received many questions on how you can vote using polling or survey websites.  We have developed the following “Double Blind Voting” example for you to consider.

Setting up a Double Blind Voting System using polling or survey websites

As example, Jones School PTA has to have a ballot election.

I am a member of Jones School PTA, and I get an email from the PTA Secretary, saying:

“Dear Lorey, your member voting number is 37 for our upcoming ballot vote. You will get a separate email from the PTA President with a link to the vote. In the name section of the poll/survey, please vote by using number 37 as your “name.”

I then get another email from the PTA President, with the link to vote.

I then use my number 37 to vote (instead of using your name).


So how do you set up voting numbers and the poll/survey, and make sure confidentially is kept?

The unit secretary assigns each voting member of the unit a different number.  This can easily be accomplished by copying the names of your members and pasting the names into an excel sheet. The secretary could use the number of the line from the excel sheet as the voting number for each member.  You could also do this in a word document if you don’t have access to excel, and assign the numbers yourself.  The secretary then saves the document.  The secretary has a helper to ensure the document has no errors before numbers are sent. No one except the secretary (and the helper) see this excel file with numbers.

The secretary and their helper send individual emails to all members eligible to vote giving each an individual voting number.

The president (and a helper) then set up the poll or survey, asking the election or ballot question.

No one except the president (and a helper for verification purposes) sees the backend voting information of the polling/survey platform.

The results are announced.

NOTE – if someone has access to the voting number list, that person DOES NOT have access to the poll/survey system login. If someone has access to the poll/survey system login, then that person DOES NOT have access to the voting number list.  Thus, the ballot can be conducted in confidence.

Nearly any online polling software can then be used to accomplish holding a ballot/vote using this double blind member number voting system.


Here is an example created for PTA purposes in doodle:

STEP 1

Helen is secretary. Lorey is the President. Helen and her helper Jane assigns the numbers to members, after verifying they are eligible to vote. Carol is a member, and Helen and Jane assign Carol number 2. Only Helen and Jane know which number is assigned to which member.

STEP 2

Helen sends an individual email to members eligible to vote with their individual numbers.  Jane, Helen’s helper, could help with this process.  The email says:

Dear Member Carol,

We will be having a vote on Vice President for our association. You will receive an email from President Lorey with a link to vote. In place of “Name” please type in your assigned voting number of “2.”

STEP 3

Lorey and her helper build the vote, using the “write text option” in Doodle (instead of the “time and date option”). They then click “hide responses” on the doodle poll.  They send out the link to vote to all members eligible to vote.

STEP 4

Carol votes, using member number 2.

STEP 5

Lorey and her helper (neither of whom have access to the member number list) review the voting data and produce the tally. Helen and Jane, who assigned the numbers, never see this vote data. 

STEP 6

Lorey and her helper announce the results.


FAQs


Check back frequently, as these will be continuously updated. If you have another question, please contact us at pta.office@nyspta.org so we can add it to our FAQs.

We have families emailing us with questions on where to go for information. What do we tell them?

Always start with sending families to your school district website. You can also share the NYS PTA COVID-19 website, which has family resources and other information on things like unemployment, and links to state education and health departments.


BYLAWS

Our Unit/Council Bylaws have expired and we are unable to hold a meeting.

Please meet at the earliest and safest opportunity to approve and submit your expired bylaws. You can also meet virtually under the COVID-19 flexibility.  Until your meeting happens, you may follow the current expired bylaws.


NOMINATIONS AND ELECTIONS

Our nominating committee hasn’t been able to meet. How long can we wait?  

Please see the detailed advice above on nominating committees.

We can’t hold the election for next year’s officers. What do we do?

You have the option of waiting until your Unit/Council is able to schedule an in-person general membership meeting, or you can hold your meeting electronically or virtually.  If you choose to wait for a live meeting, your current officers will stay in place until you hold your election. 

No one has expressed a desire to run against our nominated slate of officers, so do we need to hold the in-person election meeting?

If your bylaws allow nominations from the floor without advance notice, an in-person meeting (or virtual meeting) is preferable to handle any floor nominees.  If the slate has an unfilled position, you will also need to request nominations from the floor to fill that opening.  Proper notice must be sent to all members of the election meeting, and the list of voting members must be available to qualify voters and floor nominees at the meeting.

I’m uncertain about the guidelines for elections. Can you help?

Guidelines for elections can be found in Section 7 of the NYS PTA Resource Guide posted on the NYS PTA website HERE. Electronic election guidelines are found in this document and other recent NYS guidance mailings.  You can also reach out to your region director for assistance if needed.

Can we post documents for the meeting on our website, in MemberHub or on our Facebook account?

Yes, so long as you make sure they are non-editable documents, like a PDF. Importantly, make sure that there is nothing confidential in the documents or nothing you wouldn’t share at a regular PTA meeting.


FINANCIAL/INSURANCE MATTERS

ADVICE FROM AIM INSURANCE
From our AIM family to yours, we hope you are doing well and staying healthy in these trying times. We wanted to reach out and remind all PTAs that right now your funds may be more exposed than they have ever been.

Embezzlement is our #1 claim here at AIM and in times of uncertainty, embezzlement claims become even more common.

That is why it’s more important than ever to be vigilant and maintain proper oversight of your finances. Unfortunately, many families are struggling with unemployment and having to make difficult decisions for their household. In times like these, “borrowing” from your PTA may seem like a temporary solution for those bearing the brunt of these unforeseen circumstances.

We understand accounting normal practices such as 2 signatures on all checks, may not be possible in this time but we strongly encourage all our insureds to maintain close oversight of your bank account.

In addition, you may consider doing the following:

  *   Confirm all PTA cash has been deposited into your account.
  *   Use checks instead of cash or debit cards
  *   Monitor online bank activity weekly while continuing your normal review of monthly statements

Our Unit/Council is unable to do our monthly reconciliation of the checkbook and we’re worried about our insurance coverage. What should we do?

Unfortunately, this requirement is part of the AIM insurance policy so we aren’t able to waive it.  We suggest that your unit/council make sure to go back and review any months that they were not able to reconcile as soon as they have the ability to do so. They could also look for a way to do this electronically.

Our Unit is unable to pay our insurance due to lack of funds. What should we do?

This issue will be handled on a case by case basis, so you should contact your region director as soon as possible for assistance.

When we will get our insurance bill?

Insurance bills have been mailed by AIM. If you do not receive your bill, please call AIM at 1-800-876-4044.

Do we have to sign our insurance forms and pay like normal?

Signing your forms and paying your insurance bill is a requirement of the insurance carrier, we cannot change that. As a reminder, your insurance for the coming school year begins once you complete your forms and make your payment.

Do we still need to have two people sign checks?

If safe to do so, yes. However, safety must come first, and that might not allow two signatures on checks until we are past this pandemic. A process you should consider is as follows:

  • First, check with your financial institution as they may still require two actual signatures on your unit check per their rules. If so, please be as safe as possible and use social distancing practices (stay apart from each other when signing, use gloves, wash hands, or mail to each other).
  • The treasurer should contact the Executive Committee with a summary of the check(s) that need to be processed for their approval. Email is best for this, so there is a printable record.
  • The Executive Committee should email back their approval to the treasurer.
  • The treasurer then signs the check and mails.
  • The approval emails should be kept, and printed (when possible), and attached to the bill/invoice, etc.
  • NOTE – during this time, all Executive Committee officers should be reviewing financial statements on an ongoing basis.

Can we pay bills using electronic payments or transfers?

Yes, see above guidance.

Can we present financial documents at virtual meetings?

Yes, you can present anything you would normally present at an in-person meeting, like a treasurer’s report or audit. You can even present the budget for the next school year.

Can we approve bills that need to be paid?

Yes, just like a regular meeting, you can transact business as usual.

We are worried because our spring fundraisers are cancelled. How will we be able to support our students next year with less funds?

Realize next year may be different, but that is ok.  We know your board, members and schools can find unique ways to still support your students that may be low cost or no cost. Making a difference is what matters.

Can we donate funds to other charities, or families we know need financial help?

Under federal law, PTAs may donate to other 501(c)(3) organizations ONLY if they have similar missions, and the association voted to do so. However, please use caution when considering this, as unit level finances themselves may be impacted by COVID-19.   You can read more about this on page 28 of the NYS PTA Resource Guide section on Finances.

Further, the IRS is very clear that a public charity like PTA may NOT gift funds to individuals or families. PTAs are not organized for that purpose, so we may not give money (including gift cards) to individuals or families in our school communities, regardless of need.

However, there are several other things that PTAs CAN do to help:

  1. PTAs may share information about benefits/fundraisers being held for individuals or families in need, or local charities who are assisting those in need, or community based projects.
  2. PTAs may encourage individual volunteers to personally donate.
  3. PTAs may sponsor a food/diaper/necessities drive or solicit donations of those items to be given to a local food bank. “Necessities” could include personal protective equipment (PPE) for local hospitals and medical facilities if that’s a need in your area.
  4. As a reminder, checks can NEVER be made out to PTA unless it is truly PTA business, and no deposits may be made to the PTA account on behalf of another organization or family in need.

Again, check out the finance section of the Resource Guide for tips.


FUNDRAISERS

What do we do with items that may have been donated for an event or fundraiser (like silent auction items)? 

If donations were solicited for a specific event you now cannot have, it is best to ask the donors if they can be used for a different event in the future (email might be easiest).

Do we need to vote to cancel events, even though we can’t hold due to school closures and COVID-19 restrictions?

No, right now schools are closed. You don’t need permission or a vote to cancel an event when school is closed or when NYS has social distancing restrictions in place, but your Board should inform your members, school and community. 

We held a chocolate fundraiser (as example), and right now the company is storing the chocolate people already purchased. What do we do?

If there is a safe way to deliver the chocolate that is not an added expense, try to deliver.

Ask, will the company ship the chocolate directly to the buyer for no or very low cost? Can your school district deliver the chocolate when they are delivering student meals?

If there is not a safe way to deliver, then inform your families that their order is on hold with the company, and they will receive it as soon as practical once social distancing restrictions have been lifted. 


Technology Examples


See examples of free/low cost technology which your unit might use if you decide to have a conference call or virtual meeting/election:

Conference call technology (offered for informational purposes only, not a recommendation):

Balloting or Online Polling Technology (offered for informational purposes only, not a recommendation):