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Richmond PTAs Disband Amid Infighting, Politics

The once-vocal Richmond Council of PTAs is now on life support.

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Just a year ago, the Richmond Council of PTAs was among the most vocal advocacy organizations in the city, pushing an aggressive agenda for school construction and acting as a thorn in the side of city politicians.

Today, the council is on life support, and how it ended up there is a matter of controversy — with some saying it was assassinated and others saying it simply atrophied through lack of leadership.

Whatever the cause, members of the Richmond Council of PTAs recently resigned out frustration, sources say, forcing the state organization to intervene. Doug Smith, acting president of the Richmond council, didn't return calls seeking comment.

The Virginia PTA, which has oversight over the Richmond Council of PTAs and its individual school chapters, is currently working to reformulate the organization, says the Virginia PTA president, Debbie Abadie. Abadie was elected to her post Nov. 15.

Art Burton, formerly the Richmond PTA council's legislative director, says the council was disbanded in August by the state group.

“The council was dissolved and there will not be another council until April [elections],” Burton says, citing a “conspiracy” to end the council's in-your-face advocacy efforts.

Abadie rejects this notion.

“That is not true,” Abadie says. “I'm the only one who has the power to do that and I have not done that.” Rather, she says, Jennifer Young, director of the Richmond district of the Virginia PTA, is overseeing the council's reorganization.

Abadie referred questions to Young, but when contacted Young declined comment. “I'm not going to talk to you,” she told a Style Weekly reporter.

Former Richmond PTA President Tichi Pinkney-Eppes, whose term as president ended in the summer of 2008, corroborates Abadie's version of events, but says Young has reason to evade.

“We've got to find a way to mobilize parents again and she's not doing that,” Pinkney-Eppes says, pointing to Young's failure to ensure that a number of the city's PTA chapters are “meeting the criteria to be chartered as PTAs.”

For example, Pinkney-Eppes says, there's been a failure to collect membership registrations and ensure proper financial audits are done.
 
Alyse Auernheimer recently resigned her post as the Richmond council's West End vice president, citing infighting and a lack of leadership. Auernheimer says the PTAs absence has silenced city parents and teachers at a time when a voice is needed on critical issues, such as school construction.

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