Reide Onley
Reide Onley

One dad in a Parent Teacher Association in Brookhaven devised a more efficient way to run car pools. Another in Buckhead used his accounting expertise to scrutinize the PTA’s budget.

Local PTAs say there’s an increase in male membership, bringing different skill sets and approaches to problem solving to organizations traditionally dominated by moms. An official with the Georgia PTA thinks the uptick is partially due to the downturn in the economy, leaving dads with more free time to get involved.

Even with more men playing a role, the women still make up the majority of PTA members.

“An increase of 50 percent means one more dad,” said Tim Harvey, co-vice president of the Ashford Park Elementary PTA in Brookhaven. “There’s a large increase, but it’s all relative to what our numbers were in the first place.”

Reginald Forrest, male involvement chairman of the Georgia PTA, said he’s seeing the increase throughout the state.

“I’ve heard a couple of guys say, ‘Since I’m not working now I’m at the school more,’” Forrest said. “Historically, there’s been a domination of women throughout PTAs. Oftentimes, men just didn’t see that as their role. I think times have changed.”

There have been other efforts aimed at getting dads more involved, like monthly breakfast meetings, but today there are more examples of men taking on leadership roles within the PTA.

Reide Onley was recently co-president of the Sutton Middle School PTA and now serves as president of North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools, an advocacy group for schools in and around Buckhead.

When his commercial development and construction business slowed down two years ago, his interest in the PTA picked up. He said it was also a chance to make a bigger impact in the development of his own children.

“They’re forming ethics and values and morals, and this is the point where I can get my thumbprint on them,” Onley said.

But what kinds of thumbprints does a dad leave on the culture of a PTA?

Leigh Darby, who served as co-president with Onley, said his leadership brought more dads into the PTA’s ranks.

“They bring a different perspective to the table and are great role models for other dads,” Darby said. “Traditionally PTA has been an organization that moms head up, but with so many moms going back to work these days, it’s nice to see more dads involved in our school system.”

Jason Hassler

Onley said he’s been told dads bring a different dynamic, solving problems and communicating in a more direct manner.

“I think [Leigh Darby] appreciated me being able to step in and be the bad guy,” Onley said. “I would deflect a lot of problems she didn’t need to deal with.”

Harvey, who works in the home remodeling business, calls himself a “boy scout at heart” and said joining PTA was a natural fit for his personality.

“My volunteerism runs deep and one of the things that we noticed was some issues with kids and car pooling,” Harvey said.

He said he worked with other members to draw up a plan to improve safety and traffic flow. He said the PTA members asked him to join the executive committee.

“They felt like they wanted a male voice,” he said.

Forrest said what little involvement men had in PTAs in the past consisted of physical labor, but with men taking on more leadership roles, PTAs members are benefiting from their different skills and experiences.

Jim FitzGibbons, a certified public accountant, served as treasurer of the Sutton PTA within the past few years. He helped the group as it decided how to budget the thousands of dollars it receives from concertgoers who park on the school’s campus while attendinshows at Chastain Park.

“I just brought some business structure to some of our meetings and the way we ran the financial side of the operation,” he said.

David Clinch, who recently finished his second year as a member of the Parent Teacher Charter Council at Peachtree Charter Middle School in Dunwoody, joined the PTA because he has always been involved in his children’s education. Clinch, who runs his own social media news website, said he thinks his communications and web skills are important contributions.

Jason Hassler, vice president of student enrichment with the Spalding Drive Elementary PTA in Sandy Springs, said he came to the PTA thinking he would change the way things worked. He is a general manager of a labor management company and thought he could bring a more analytical perspective to PTA operations. He had his own assumptions about how PTAs operated.

“What I thought it was going to be was, you know, just a poorly run gossip session, to tell you the truth,” Hassler said.

He quickly learned the moms had everything under control.

“I’ve been really impressed,” he said.

He’s joined the school’s foundation board, hoping his business sense will help bring in more money for the school. Next year there will be another dad joining the PTA, increasing the total dad membership to two, he said.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com