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New PTA President to Emphasize Diversity, Advocacy, Leadership

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Otha Thornton, the newly installed president of the National PTA, wants to lead a more inclusive PTA, an organization sometimes stereotyped as catering to suburban moms.

Thornton, 45, the first African-American man to head the National PTA, said in an interview that the organization's membership must become more diverse as it advocates on behalf of the nation's children.

The National PTA will take a grassroots approach to diversify its membership, which will include attempting to set up more units in urban and rural communities, Thornton said. During the recent selection process for members at the national governance level, Thornton emphasized that the National PTA's leaders needed to reflect the country's ethnic and racial diversity. Last year, he noted that of the 1,087 state PTA board members, only 47 were Hispanic.

"That really does not reflect our population," Thornton said. "We want our audio to match our video."

A retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, Thornton plans to draw on his military experience to provide PTA members in every state with a clear vision and a disciplined message as they advocate for their children's education. And although the PTA is nonpartisan, he also is calling on PTA members to invite elected officials to tour their schools so that lawmakers can see the education issues first hand.

"We need informed advocates at the table," he said. "Laws can be passed if we are not vigilant and well read."

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