Virginia PTA, Alexandria chapter at odds over board meeting, leader's resignation

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A rift is widening in Virginia’s Parent Teacher Association, with supporters of a chapter president who resigned last week under pressure accusing the state organization of violating its bylaws and state law on open meetings.

Harry Jackson resigned Thursday as chapter president of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Parent Teacher Student Association in Alexandria, citing pressure from the state association over his objection to critical race theory in education and sexually graphic books in school libraries.

Mr. Jackson and his supporters say Virginia PTA members, including President Pamela Croom, participated in an Oct. 20 Zoom meeting of the executive board to discuss removing Mr. Jackson from the leadership of the Thomas Jefferson chapter without informing him. Such an “ex parte” meeting violates the state group’s bylaws and state law on open meetings for non-corporations, they say.

PTA held a secret meeting,’ that excluded its president, violating its own bylaws & VA state law on 10/20/2021 with coerced members of the Executive Board under threat of taking their funds & depriving services for their children,” Mr. Jackson tweeted Friday, the day he submitted his undated resignation letter.

Norma Marguiles, a volunteer member of the Thomas Jefferson PTSA who supports Mr. Jackson, called the situation “appalling and insulting.”

“What you see is [the state PTA] covering up our questions about the legality of all this,” said Ms. Marguiles, whose son attends Thomas Jefferson, an elite high school consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation.

Ms. Croom, the state association president, defended the Oct. 20 Zoom meeting, saying it was not an official executive board meeting and was above board.

“The [support team] did not participate in a called board meeting but rather a question-and-answer session, as several of the board members had questions and it was more convenient to speak virtually and all together, rather than to hold individual telephone calls and repeat basically the same information,” Ms. Croom said.

“We provided no additional service to those board members than we did for the former president of the association on multiple occasions,” she added.

But emails among PTA members, which were shared with The Washington Times, do not make clear what was done and said during the Zoom meeting.

On Oct. 30, Ms. Marguiles emailed Steve Berke, a parliamentarian hired by Thomas Jefferson PTSA, and copied her email to Ms. Croom, Mr. Jackson and several others.

She asked if certain people had been “informed” or “invited” to the Oct. 20 meeting, what was discussed and whether “the content and circumstances … met the legal requirements of the applicable laws, regulations and procedures pertaining to non corporations under Virginia law?”

Mr. Berke did not respond to the email, and he declined to comment on the situation.

Ms. Croom responded, telling Ms. Marguiles that because she had requested to withdraw her membership, she was not entitled to a response.

Ms. Marguiles contends that her withdrawal was never accepted by the association and her $40 dues were not refunded, and that she still considers herself a member.

Mr. Jackson emailed Ms. Crooms about her non-response on Saturday.

“You are trying to cancel Mrs. Margulies questions,” he wrote. “As a PTA member I have those same questions that I would like answered.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Jackson told The Washington Times he is considering legal action.

“It is very likely that there will be members within the General Membership that will litigate this matter,” he said. “I intend to consult with an attorney to determine if seeking criminal charges is a possibility. If it is, I will do so.”

Mr. Jackson, the first Black president of the Thomas Jefferson Parent Teacher Student Association, was elected in May.

Questions have swirled around his brief tenure with the Thomas Jefferson PTSA since he and a handful of candidates were elected on a “Coalition for TJ” ticket.

The coalition opposed race-driven moves to lower admission standards for the high school, critical race theory-infused material in school and what it considered overly zealous COVID restrictions.

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