MY JOURNEY WITH PARENTS & CITIZENS
Most parents who volunteer their time and energy are beautiful, giving and exceptional individuals.
They share their passions in drama, science, arts and writing to educate, plant seeds that result in life changing benefits for the children who are influenced, and create an atmosphere of warm acceptance and joy.
Similarity it is often the same small group, and the same dedicated individuals who attend to sizzling sausages, hanging the signs, building the stalls and generally bending over backwards to make their child’s school environment one of joy, treasured memories and to connect with their community.
MONEY BRINGS OUT THE BEST AND THE WORST
Money has the potential to bring out the best and the worst in us.
The handling of money becomes a reflection of our own emotions, insecurities and ultimately our irresponsibility that we associate with it.
Individuals who have failed in the money management of their own businesses or personal finances, volunteer to raise funds for the school.
As they do so, they bring their easy come, easy go attitude along with them.
The work of a mother can be a thankless and a monotonous one.
To volunteer at your child’s school is a sensational idea and that should be applauded, supported.
To drag your insecurities and lack of self-esteem along with you, is one that is not so pleasant.
Somewhere along the line there has to be discipline, structure, process, profit / loss, yes and no.
I have experienced crazy committee members who throw money around everywhere, to committee members who manipulate of their position within the school to feed their own deluded sense of popularity, to those who blatantly use the P & C funds to create an income for their friends and partners.
THE COST OF A CASH ECONOMY AND KUMBAYA ATMOSPHERE
While it’s important to have a warm atmosphere of friendship and trust in any community group, this should not extend to the handling of money.
The P & C association provides an extensive 98 page document for accounting that all committees should follow to the letter when it comes to cash handling.
When a P & C has a kumbaya attitude they often fail to follow process and expose themselves to theft.
I have seen this time and time again.
A not-for-profit organisation has set accounting guidelines and regulations, why do parents who volunteer believe they are exempt from protocol?
Why do school principles allow sloppy accounting practices within their P & C Associations?
Why does the education department allow a kumbaya attitude within these organisations to exist?
Why do accountants audit sloppy P & C Association books when they know, the figures don’t stack up?
THE REALITY OF THEFT
By the time the police are involved, innocent hard working, honest people end up being the ones they target and investigate.
While the real thieves get away with it because they know that they have already spent the cash, hidden their tracks and know there is no paper trial left to follow.
Some thieves move away from the school, while those that do remain, often feed the gossip mill.
Once the fever of gossip takes hold, they quietly slink into the background, holding their mouths shut and wait for the storm to pass……..
HOW DO REAL THIEVES GET AWAY WITH IT?
The principle of the school does not care what the correct manner in which the Parents and Citizens should function
Everyone enjoys the glory of saying they volunteer, but no one wants the buck to stop with them.
Some committees are all about the social club atmosphere and the benefits that come with it, and do not care two hoots about the school itself.
Accountants who are given the books that do not reconcile, look suspicious go ahead and audit the books anyway.
That was until a few concerned parents start to ask questions ………..
EMPLOYING A BOOKKEEPER OUTSIDE OF A COMMITTEE
A smart Parents and Citizens association will either enlist a bookkeeper to volunteer or employ one to reconcile the books for them.
This gives the school some confidence that money collected will end up in the bank account, because a third unrelated party is checking over the books.
WHEN THE GOOD TIMES STOP
It is a obvious red flag event that where once there were smiles. and atmosphere of aggression clicks in due to a committee deciding to follow due process and bring in a third party to help.
Questions need to be asked…..
Why did people become so threatened by a Parents and Citizens wishing to follow due process?
Were they following due process before the change was suggested and a third party required?
Honest people have nothing to be upset about when a third party is introduced.
If people are protesting, getting aggressive and getting defensive, then it’s time to investigate what has been going on to get them all hot and bothered….
What are they hiding?
GOSSIP, FEAR AND RESENTMENT CAN TAKE ROOT
P & C’s with a history of sloppiness will often resist change and their weapon is to spread gossip and fear.
It’s their smoke screen to deflect from their own dishonest behavior.
This often will take hold when a school principle has failed in their role to ensure that P & C manuals are followed.
AGGRESSIVE ATTENDEES FOCUS
Committee members in this environment will need to be prepared to be grilled about every single cent, every single vote, every single claim, every single process you take.
I recall when appointed as a treasurer, I faced this very situation every single meeting.
My preparation was in stark contrast to previous treasurers who failed to provide a bank statement, tax invoices or even reconciled accounts.
However, because I demanded that the P & C accounting manual to followed by all, I was faced with a cold reception each and every month.
My monthly financial report took 10-15 hours to create and was 40 plus pages thick to ensure I missed absolutely nothing which was ridiculous.
A prelude of sub-committee resignations, uproar, protest, aggression and gossip were all associated with my killing the cash economy they enjoyed for over a decade.
What was the result of all our committee’s implementations?
I will let this one example paint the picture for you…….
Rather than have the money presented as one solid bundle of cash by the then uniform shop volunteer, with no open book process.
We changed it to:
New shelves (provided at cost by a kind dad) was made and installed into the shop to make stock taking easier
List all items sold on a daily takings sheet with the money received and a total recorded
At the end of each day the daily takings in the cash box and float had to reconcile with the the total daily takings
A term based stocktake was to be accomplished to prevent any oversupply or wasted stock
Items on the shelves that were years old were sold at a dramatically reduced rate to clear the space
Money banked, had to reconcile with the daily takings for that week
A safe was installed by one of the new volunteers to ensure security
The year’s result?
Their Uniform shop was treated as a community service for almost two decades with year on year losses.
The year we made all the changes we saw a $15 000 profit.
WE WERE HATED
Once the cash economy was killed, we began to see the following benefits:
Children in need were being feed lunch, provided with shoes, clothed, and going on excursions for free
A fund was created for the teachers to empower them to attend additional courses
Air conditioning was installed at only a 10% profit margin by the installers
Equipment that previously had to be hired each year, was purchased at steep discounts
Unused school spaces were created into locked storage areas
Insurance policies were updated to ensure all stock was covered in case of the unexpected
Community based gardens, artwork, children activities were being paid by the committee
New Educational tools
New Community initiatives and donations
More money, more benefits to the school and a better learning environment for the kids like never before.
However, our hard working, self sacrificing committee members were called Bitches, Greedy entrepreneurs, Evil women of commerce and I am sure many more unkind names.
Why did we continue?
It was as a matter of principle, it was the right thing, not the easy thing to do.
Any not-for-profit organisation that fails to follow due process will attract the attention of thieves, it is too delicious a temptation.
Any principle of a school, who fails to take an active role in ensuring their Parents and Citizens abide by the regulations, processes and mandate is an accessory to the fact.
They are as much to blame for the lack of regulation, as the thief is for stealing the money.
Do not tell me that there is just not enough time.
If you don’t have the time, do not have a Parents and Citizens committee.
Money attracts all sorts
Just as we all need to breath oxygen, so to does money attract a whole chorus of emotions from people who have money and those who do not.
Rock hard ingrained principles, spiritual ethics, integrity and a high self worth are the qualities that keep everyone who is honest in check.
We all are born with a conscious, that little voice that intuitively whispers or shouts to us what is right and what is wrong.
To be complacent as to not follow the processes stated in black and white, as easy as a mouse click away in a tidy online folder has no excuse and no exception.
A Kumbaya attitude in a not-for-profit school or any organisation for that matter does not belong and never will!