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No doubt, at least one student in any music program in Wisconsin has an attorney or an accountant for a parent who would be willing to work pro bono to file the proper paperwork with the state.

The adherence to Roberts Rules of Order, the established guidelines and/or bylaws of organization and well-designed meeting agendas will go a long way at maintaining a positive working relationship that focus- es on the needs of all students. Some of the hesitancy of establishing a booster group is fear on the part of the music teacher that the parent group will attempt to preempt the curriculum and/or program decisions of the school personnel. An overt state- ment in the parent organization’s bylaws reinforcing the fact that the group’s focus is on “support” and not interference in the workings of the music curricular program is probably an important point.

Working in Partnership With the Parent Organization The importance of establishing and main- taining a positive working relationship between a music director (or directors) and the support organization cannot be overes- timated. It probably goes without saying that these relationships are very personal and fraught with emotion. Because both the parents and the teachers in this support enterprise have a great deal at stake (the success of their students) the relationship is often intense and volatile. Since the teacher, perhaps, has the more objective perspective, the responsibility rests with the school personnel to keep the booster group focused on the task.

A high level of success is most often ac- complished when the curricular program and the booster organization is integrally connected through common goals. Teach- ers and the parent group leaders who are involved in long-range planning that ben- efits the students and the music curriculum will provide a dynamic foundation for program success.

Parents will always be parents and, by definition, will seek what they perceive to be best for their child. This might include making special requests to their child’s

Wisconsin School Musician

“The parent support organization should … have its own methods of communicating to its members.”

teachers. When these requests run contrary to the decisions or actions of the parent support organization, the teacher must exert utmost care to avoid any semblance of parental special treatment while fending off parental influence. In the final analysis, the maintenance of positive relationships with all parents is probably more impor- tant than winning arguments or “making points.”

Ultimately, of course, (to paraphrase President Truman) the “buck has to stop somewhere.” The director helps set the focus and direction for the parental or- ganization, in a perfect world, based on the goals and direction of the school’s curricular program. The booster organiza- tion should be committed to supporting the curricular and instructional program. When this integrated approach is real- ized students benefit. In situations where booster organization leadership and the director have differing views of the major goals, the program often suffers and per- sonal relationships can become strained. It is important to remember, however, that should things “go south” parents do not lose their jobs over intractable or unworkable circumstances – teachers do. Utmost care should be taken by the teacher to make sure decisions that affect the education of students remain squarely in the staff member’s purview.


As with most human endeavors, everyone benefits when communication between parties is clear and effective. The parent support organization should – by virtue of its bylaws – have its own methods of communicating to its members. Email, web sites, phone trees, etc. have made it completely unnecessary to run the support

group communications through the stu- dents or their music ensembles. Students are notoriously bad at carrying information home and should not be expected to relay information to their parents from the sup- port organization. In addition, taking time from classroom educational experiences shortchanges the very students the booster organization claims to be helping.

Last – and definitely not least – teachers have a singularly important responsibil- ity to keep their school administrators apprised of the activities of the booster organization. Not only is this an impor- tant operational responsibility, but one with ethical implications, as well. Since the parent association’s activities have a direct affect on the school’s curricular program, administrators need to know the focus or goals of the group. Of course, the music staff will have worked closely with the support group to the extent that the organization’s goals will be in synch with those of the curricular program. From an ethical standpoint, the music staff of the school will always seek to be “above board” with all plans for educational ex- periences designed for students.

Instinctively, we know that we can ac- complish more when we work together with similarly minded individuals and groups toward commonly held goals. A well-organized and energetically led parent booster organization can exert a level of support, assistance and advocacy on a music education program that is unequaled by almost all other entities. Further, when the goals and objectives of the parent group are integrated with those of the school’s music curriculum, students receive direct and real benefits that cannot be obtained via the school acting alone. It is vitally important that a positive working relationship between the music teacher(s) and the parent support organization be maintained and it is the music educator’s responsibility to see that this happens.

Jon B. Gilliland is retired coordinator of fine arts from Appleton Area School District, WMEA past-president and WSMA Publications Committee member.

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