PTAs on the Palos Verdes Peninsula are experimenting with night meetings in response to complaints that a longtime practice of holding most events in the morning excludes working parents.
Joan Borodkin, president of the Council of Peninsula PTAs, said all 14 school units in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District are scheduling evening sessions to test the contention that more teachers and parents will turn out for events held after work.
She said one of the PTA's major events--the presentation of a slate of new council officers--will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Valmonte Administration Center in Palos Verdes Estates.
Borodkin estimated the Peninsula's PTA membership at nearly 10,000, but said active participation is limited to a small fraction of that number. She said she doubted that changing to night meetings would increase involvement.
"The majority of men are out working hard during the day so that they can live up here," she said. "They aren't interested in going to a meeting at night, and neither are many of the teachers who don't live on the hill and would have to drive back to their schools."
However, to "appease those who may feel they're being left out, we'll try to make some adjustments," Borodkin said.
Most Parent Teacher Assn. groups in the South Bay meet at night to encourage more participation by fathers and a growing number of working mothers, officials said. But the schedule on the affluent Peninsula began shifting to morning sessions more than a decade ago, Borodkin said, when leaders found that housewives were the only members who could be counted on to carry the bulk of PTA volunteer work.
Teachers and parents who objected contended that the morning meetings rule out wide participation.
"Obviously, the fathers can't attend and that deprives the schools and the community of the valuable contributions they could make," said Marie McEneany, a member of the Palos Verdes High School PTA who has objected to morning meetings.
She said there was "tremendous participation" by fathers in PTA groups in her native state of New York, where she was active in state and local groups.
In urging a switch to evening meetings, McEneany said the change should be accompanied by what she called better content and format at the events.
"What we have now are strictly business meetings, with a lot of reports from officers and committees, and that's not too exciting for many parents," she said.
"I think the PTA units at the schools should become more issue-oriented. People will come to meetings when they understand that vital issues affecting their children are going to be discussed."
She suggested such topics as drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, child abuse and special education for handicapped students.
Borodkin, the PTA council president, said those topics are discussed at PTA-sponsored events, usually in cooperation with other community groups. Those programs, however, are rarely presented at regular membership meetings, she said.
Marlys Kinnel, one of two prominent PTA leaders elected to the Peninsula school board in November, said evening meetings would exclude non-working mothers who carry out the bulk of volunteer work at the school.
"These mothers drop their kids off at school in the mornings, leaving them free for a few hours for PTA work," Kinnel said. "If we don't accommodate them, I don't see how we can continue to function."
Ann Kahn, national PTA president who lives in Fairfax, Va., said "the vast majority" of chapters across the country hold their meetings at night. The evening schedule, she said, has helped promote participation by fathers and working mothers.
More than a third of the 105 members of the national PTA board are men, she said, and more fathers are emerging as PTA leaders at the local level.
"We had a generation in which going to PTA meetings wasn't the in thing to do," said Kahn. "But now there is a new awareness that involvement at the schools by both fathers and mothers is vitally important."