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Parent Organization Jon B. Gilliland, Fond du Lac

A school music pro- gram that enjoys the support of an active and success- ful music parent or- ganization is in an enviable position. When parents, the school music cur- riculum and staff

work in concert toward the same goals, it is easy to see how students will benefit.

Of course the partnership between parent support – or booster – organizations and the school curriculum does not just “hap- pen” because the association is in place. Special attention on fostering a positive relationship between the support group and the music teacher – or teachers – is essential to the success of both the curricu- lum and activities of the parent group.

In the past, it might have been sufficient for parent support organizations to raise funds for uniforms or robes, student trips or specialized equipment. Many parent support groups were initially formed to reach a fairly short-termed goal, such as acquiring concert attire or sending the ensemble on a performance tour. For- tunately, current booster organizations realize that they must provide more than financial assistance in order to assure students in their schools have access to quality experiences in music education. Today’s parent booster groups often provide scholarship funds for students to attend summer music camps, state and national honors programs and other music education opportunities. In addition, par- ent groups are in a great position to offer assistance to school music staff in the form of volunteers for any number of projects. Meanwhile, advocating for music educa- tion in their school district is becoming an increasingly important responsibility of music parent associations.


Parental support groups require a great deal of planning and effort to establish, and once in existence, continual monitor- ing and nurturing to maintain. However, in almost all instances, when good people work together for the good of students, good things result. Some general obser- vations regarding the operational aspects of music support groups are probably appropriate.

The Parent Organization Itself

Whether the parent support organization is designed to “cover” the entire music de- partment of the district, the specific school or a particular band, choir or orchestra ensemble, the operational aspects of the group are the same. There are benefits to each permutation for the scope of the parent organization. Determining which will work best in a specific school district is best left to the individuals – parents, music teachers and administrators – in- volved. Additionally, with recent changes in districts and instructional models, just because a particular configuration for the parent support association has long been operational and even successful, a revisit- ing of the purpose and scope of the group may result in an organizational change that would benefit all students.

The constitution and bylaws (links to samples are available in the digital online version of this article) of the group will outline and define the roles and responsi- bilities of each officer. The regular elec- tion of officers is essential to the vitality and success of parent organizations and will help encourage and ensure active parent participation.

Finances and the reporting of financial records (often the most “contentious” of the many issues with which groups must deal) must be carefully and meticulously maintained according to stated provisions in the group’s bylaws and must include an

See the digital online version of this article for links to sample handbooks and bylaws of parent organizations.

annual audit of all accounts. Some school districts may require any treasurer of sup- port organizations to be bonded. In almost all organizations of this sort two signatures are required for issuing checks. Parent organization funds should be kept separate from school accounts and, in no instance, should school personnel be involved in managing (or signing for) the finances of the parent support group.

Often, parent support groups – especially those that may actively seek grants or other aides from industry or fraternal insti- tutions – apply for status as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt charitable organization. Simply put, this classification allows the parent as- sociation to accept funds and to advertise that donations to the organization are tax deductible. The application for the 501(c) (3) designation – much like the materials necessary for the incorporation of the parental group – is best accomplished with the oversight and assistance of an at- torney and/or certified public accountant.

“Parental support groups require a great deal of planning and effort to establish, and once in existence, continual monitoring and nurturing to maintain.”

January 2012

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