Small, but Mighty Voice for PTA


(Left to right): Ramstad PTA Officers: President Nancy Tschetter, Treasurer Traci Barker, Secretary Jen Schultz

In towns across America, PTA volunteers are working tirelessly to support their community’s students, faculty and families. National PTA’s Kris Carey Prevatte shares this story of how one small, but mighty PTA in North Dakota—with a highly transient military population—has cracked the code on managing an online fundraiser so their PTA gets the resources they need to do great things.

Nany Tschetter, Traci Barker and Jen Schultz could be mistaken for sisters. They look alike, they have the same cheerful “let’s do this!” demeanor, and they often finish each other’s sentences. Together, they run the Erik Ramstad Middle School PTA.

Though their PTA has more than 100 paid members, a combination of factors have contributed to a common reality facing local PTA leaders—a few must do the work of many.

Still, Ramstad PTA has a reputation for providing excellent and consistent support through its work in serving meals for the entire faculty, running open houses, hosting an annual 8th grade dance, funding grants to teachers, sponsoring after school clubs and Junior Achievement, an annual PTA Founder’s Day luncheon and more.

Like many PTAs, Ramstad has prioritized helping those in need. The PTA officers and the school administration have worked out a discreet way to eliminate barriers.

“If a kid wants to play soccer but can’t afford cleats, we quietly can fill that need,” says Nancy. “We have the blessing of our membership to do this within a certain threshold, and [the members] know that they won’t ever get details on who got what.”

It takes a lot of funds to provide these programs, which means fundraising is critical to help where help is needed. During a recent interview by phone, I asked Nancy, Traci and Jen about their PTA’s fundraising committee and if they could connect me with their fundraising chair. For a moment, there was silence on the line; then gales of laughter.

Nancy caught her breath first and said, “We don’t have committees. We are the committee!” They explained that the three of them meet monthly and stay connected through group texts.

“When something for the PTA comes up, we text each other and figure out which of us can handle it,” said Traci. “With the bigger projects, we try to evenly divide the work.

To keep things simple, the trio is extremely selective about the fundraisers they launch. For the past several years, their top performing fundraiser has been through Schwan’s Cares.

“The first year we did the online fundraiser with Schwan’s, my daughter happened to be president of the student council,” said Nancy. She rallied the other kids to get their parents involved and also got a social media campaign going among her classmates promoting the fundraiser. Having a student-to-student promotional element gave it extra oomph.”

Traci noted, “We have a lot of military families and this kind of online campaign works well because we frequently see kids coming and going within a single school year. So families were comfortable ordering the products knowing they could have them delivered wherever they were going to be. Also, their extended family members and friends spread out across the country could order from Schwan’s and all be contributing to Ramstad’s fundraiser.”

Jen added, “Another thing that’s awesome about the [Schwan’s] fundraiser is that you don’t need to go door to door. You can pull up the fundraising order page from your phone and order easily from anywhere. We love it.”

After doing the same fundraiser for a few years, the group has some tips for running a Schwan’s Cares online fundraiser:

  • Timing matters. “Don’t start this campaign during back to school time!” cautioned Jen. “Between school clothes, supplies and writing all those checks for this fee and that fee, parents are out of money—and they’re emotionally spent, too.” The group favors a pre-holiday November start. “People can load up on great foods to have in the freezer for the holiday hosting season,” added Traci.
  • Incentives can improve results. The first year, the PTA dangled fancy incentives, such as gift cards and speakers as a motivator for families to hit big fundraising goals. The PTA sent home printed information about the fundraiser and the incentives, after piggybacking off a school event to get people excited about how the funds raised would be used in the school. The second year, the PTA didn’t offer incentives and their revenue dropped.
  • School support makes a world of difference. “Our principal Ione Sautner and our librarian Carla Luehe are amazing!” Nancy said. “Carla, for example, carved out time with the students at the start of our campaign to show them the fundraising page on the website and how to navigate the site. We believe it made a huge difference in the participation rate because the students could show their parents at home.” Ione has empowered the PTA to do a few “robo calls” during the school year, and the PTA always does a call to all parents (not just PTA members) at the start of their Schwan’s Cares campaign.”
  • The annuity period is crucial. With this fundraiser, there is an active campaign and then an annuity period where you still earn a percent of all the sales from customers related to your campaign. “If your initial campaign isn’t as successful as you wanted, don’t be too alarmed,” said Nancy. “We raised just as much money during the annuity period and that has been huge for us. Repeat business is what made this fundraiser so successful.”
  • Consider using one main campaign page. “We have done it where each student’s family had their individual fundraising pages,” said Nancy. “It was easier on everyone to do the one main page. The individual ask is done in a call or email and then you have the link, so you can personalize the ask.”

For more info about fundraising opportunities and discounts available to schools and PTA members through Schwan’s Home Service, visit


Kris Carey Prevatte is the associate director of corporate alliances for National PTA and a former local PTA president in Maryland.

About Schwan’s Cares, an official National PTA Member Benefit Provider

Schwan’s Cares is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Since 1952, Schwan’s Home Delivery has helped families share delicious, home-style meals. Schwan’s Home Delivery offers home delivery of over 350 foods—all made with premium ingredients and requiring simple prep. With Schwan’s Cares, your PTA supporters enjoy all of Schwan’s delicious foods, and your organization earns up to 40% back on every purchase during your 45-day fundraising campaign, and 5% back for the next 90 days. Schwan’s Cares is hands-free: you manage your fundraiser entirely online, your supporters order online or by phone, and Schwan’s Home Delivery will deliver directly to each supporter’s door. You’ll never need to deliver food or collect money. Start your campaign today by visiting

Laura’s Corner: Our Children Are Counting on Us

Copyright 2014 Lifetouch National School Studios, IncWelcome to my new corner of the blog!

I am honored to serve as the 54th president of National PTA and am excited about this opportunity to strengthen our mission to make every child’s potential a reality.

I look forward to connecting and working with you—our members—to achieve this goal.

PTA brings together families, educators, business and community leaders to solve the toughest problems and is a powerful voice for all children from schools and local communities to state legislatures and the halls of Congress.

We understand and believe that opportunity starts and ends with access to a great education, and as president, I want to diversify the association’s education platform and strengthen programs that support the whole child.

We can do this together by:

  • Advocating to make sure that all children have a safe place to live, learn and thrive
  • Working to enhance PTA’s STEM and early learning efforts and college and career programs
  • Diving deeper into health issues to meet every child’s physical, social and emotional needs
  • Ensuring that all families are engaged in education and PTA and are at the table to be a voice for their and all children

In Laura’s Corner, I will share my experiences as I visit communities across the country and meet the people who are making a difference every day for our nation’s children and schools.

You can also follow me on Twitter @PTALauraBay and share your questions, concerns, suggestions and activities. I want to know the positive strides you are making in your schools and communities and the challenges you face in advocating for every child.

Thank you for your support and your commitment to PTA! And thank you for all that you do for our children!

Laura Bay is National PTA President.

Why We Need Dads

The following blog post was originally posted on the website for Westchester Magazine. To view the original article, click here.

Elijah-and-David-(1024x681)-(1024x681)Thirteen-year-old Donovan had always been a good student. But when he hit the seventh grade, his grades started slipping, and he began getting detentions. One day, his mother, who was raising her son alone after leaving an abusive marriage, received a call from his principal: Donovan had punched a classmate in the eye and was going to be suspended. Like many children without an actively engaged father or father figure, Donovan had begun tuning out—and acting up.

“Children who are well-bonded and loved and whose fathers are involved tend to have fewer behavioral problems, are more likely to have higher self-esteem, and develop better relationships both with their peers and romantically,” says psychotherapist Alison Varianides, executive director of Westchester Psychotherapy in Sleepy Hollow.

Study after study bears this out, and “when you look at the [academic] achievement measurements, you find in every study that when a male [parent or father figure] is actively engaged, those measuring sticks come out a little higher,” says Lex Kessler, male engagement chair for the Westchester-East Putnam Region (W-EPR) PTA.

According to research from the US Department of Education, children with actively involved fathers are 43 percent more likely to earn A’s in school and 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade than those without engaged dads. Other studies have shown that children with involved fathers graduate at higher rates, score higher on standardized tests, and have a more positive attitude towards school.

They’re also less likely to have problems with drugs or alcohol, and, according to a study published in the UK journal The Lancet in 2003, children of single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to commit suicide. According to the US Census Bureau, 90 percent of homeless children and runaways are from fatherless homes, and, according to the Center for Disease Control, 85 percent of kids who exhibit behavior disorders come from fatherless homes. Studies have also shown that kids with a positive father figure are 80 percent less likely to land in jail and 75 percent less likely to conceive a child outside of marriage. Even when a child is grown, having had an actively involved male figure during childhood continues to pay dividends, leading to higher levels of success in their careers; a better chance of having a strong, lasting marriage; and the ability to handle stress.

A Model Dad
Fathers influence their kids’ lives in many ways—first and foremost by being a role model. “The role of a father, especially when it comes to boys, is teaching what it means to be a man and providing a good, healthy model for the child,” says Bob Milich, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Croton-on-Hudson. “Somebody who can be effective at discipline, but not necessarily punishment—setting limits and being consistent in a warm, supportive manner.”

It is well known that a child, especially a son, will emulate and explore his father’s interests in things like sports teams and personal style. But Varianides believes a father’s greatest impact on his son’s life may be in the child’s emotional development. “Boys look to their fathers for how they share their emotions and what they should do in terms of masculinity,” she says.

Dr. Milich agrees. “A father’s role in teaching, especially boys, appropriate emotional expression is very important,” he says.

Likewise, “If you have a father who is not a good role model, then that is what a child will integrate,” says Dr. Milich. “They will follow in those steps.”  Alex Gonzales-Harsha, a Port Chester resident, former Somers High School student, and Cornell graduate who is now in graduate school at Rutgers, says that a father who’s a great role model “leaves no doubt in your mind that you can also become a good man, and also leaves no doubt that he will support you along the way.”

A father can be very involved in his child’s life, even if he doesn’t live under the same roof, as in the case of divorced parents. “As a divorced parent that has a successful co-parenting relationship with my ex-husband, I see how having my son’s father as an active and involved dad truly benefits my son,” says Antoinette Darden-Cintron, W-ERP PTA region director, whose 13-year-old son, Elijah, is a student at Woodlands Middle School in Greenburgh.  “My son is well-rounded, smart, fun, and a great student. Having his father involved in his school life is integral to his development.”

But what about fathers who are abusive or neglectful, or divorced mothers who don’t have such cordial relationships with their ex-husbands? “I would say it is better for a child to not have a father figure at all rather than a negative one,” says Varianides. “While the absence of something leaves you questioning and trying to figure out how you’re supposed to create these relationships and roles, that’s better than growing up in an abusive household or having a father with substance abuse [problems]. Growing up with that can lead to a host of issues.”

Daddys’ Girls
A father’s job as role model for his children is not limited to his son, says Kessler. “A father is just as important in a daughter’s life.”

Girls look to their fathers for protection, and also to see how a man should treat a woman, according to Varianides. “The first relationship they see is Mom and Dad. If a young girl sees her father always being respectful of her mother, always being there and loving her, then she will want that in a relationship as well,” she says. “But if she grows up without a father figure, she’s left to figure it out on her own and may end up in an abusive relationship because she doesn’t know what a good one looks like.”

Kessler concurs: “Even prior to kindergarten, the father is providing that role model of a healthy, loving, respectful relationship that a woman will be searching for later in life.”

What Makes Men Different?
“There is an emotional difference in the way fathers parent,” says Stacey Slater, a child psychologist in Chappaqua. “They often have a more matter-of-fact approach” than mothers. This is why fathers tend to hold children to limits and often play the role of disciplinarian.

“The father’s ability to build character and model character traits [can be] different than the mother’s. In most relationships, the father and mother have complementary character traits,” says Kessler. “Males are generally a little more black-and-white and women are a lot more in the gray.”

Ultimately, it’s the partnership of the mother and father that can have the strongest effect. “When a father is involved in a child’s education, even just to the extent of saying, ‘How’d you do on the test?’ at the dinner table, those children will do better in school,” says Kessler. “This is a scientific fact that’s been proven and re-proven.”

Today’s Dads
According to a 2011 Census Bureau report, only 20 percent of American households were married couples with children, down from approximately 25 percent in 2000 and 43 percent in 1950. These days, kids may have a stay-at-home dad, a single dad, two full-time working parents, or a stepdad. Or a child may have two dads. “American families are changing so much that kids are looking to both of their parents [equally] now for how they should develop and what roles they should have,” says Varianides. “Fathers are becoming as involved and as important a part of everyday family life as mothers.”

It’s a whole different dynamic, according to Kessler. “Now I’ve got two parents both involved. That’s a huge statement, rather than,  ‘one of my parents cares and one doesn’t.’”

David Neilsen is a PTA dad.

Milton High School is All in for our Students

Milton High School PTSA is committed to excellence. Colin Powell said, “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” Milton High School’s PTSA made a commitment to becoming a National PTA School of Excellence by strengthening our programs relative to our focus area goal from the National PTA School of Excellence Program as “Ensure Health & Safety of Students”, with the objective to support students’ emotional and mental well-being through our programs and events.

Milton PTSA student and parent volunteers are on hand for our orientation session.

Milton PTSA student and parent volunteers are on hand for our orientation session.

To accomplish this goal, we offer information, education, support and guidance for the growing community concerns over our teens’ mental health. Recognizing that the teen years are wrought with internal and external stressors, we provided a forum in the fall to discuss the topic via our Milton Mom’s and Dad’s luncheon featuring outside speaker John Trautwein of The Will to Live Foundation. During the second semester, Dr. Daniel Falor spoke to us about “Hormones, Brain Chemistry, and Depression in Teens”. One of our business partners, Whole Foods, hosted this event in memory of an employee/former MHS student and provided a demonstration of healthy nontoxic snack solutions suitable for the teen years. We welcomed all families within the community, including Milton parents as well as parents from other area high schools.

Milton students test their texting and driving skills on driving simulators during a "Don't Text and Drive" event running concurrently with AT&T's "It Can Wait" campaign.

Milton students test their texting and driving skills on driving simulators during a “Don’t Text and Drive” event running concurrently with AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign.

We also shared power by promoting and supporting MHS Kindness Week, a student initiative to encourage random acts of kindness in the MHS community. Our support of finals week included a social media blast to encourage parents to text their student MHSWLVU and #RepTheM, striving to bolster their confidence and ease their stress over testing.

Our goal related to Speaking up for Every Child was to increase Safe Home Pledge rates by giving parents an opportunity to pledge their support. The pledge focuses on the prevention of underage drinking and drug use, with the parents pledging to provide a well-supervised environment that will combat possible occurrences of drug or alcohol use in their home. The pledge is printed on the backside of all bilingual PTSA membership forms and is available on the Milton High School and PTSA websites. All families are encouraged to sign the pledge, and those families are then listed on the PTSA website in the Safe Home Pledge page. Due to our efforts at communicating the importance of the Safe Home Pledge, we successfully recruited over 400 families to sign the Safe Home this year.

In addition to Supporting Student Success outside the academic realm, our family involvement committee hosted a “Don’t Text and Drive” event concurrent with AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign. Two driving simulators were staged in the cafeteria during all lunches and the students tested their texting and driving skills. The computer software used with the driving simulators reinforced to students that texting and driving is indeed dangerous. As a result, students pledged their commitment to not text and drive on a large banner that was prominently displayed in the hallway. [Read more…]

Lessons Learned from the PTA

KathieGreen_8x10printAs I retire from PTA this year, there are so many memories and opportunities I have had because of my involvement at the local, council, state and national PTA level.   My entire life would truly be different if one person had not asked me to get involved! I wouldn’t have had two jobs I absolutely love. The skills PTA taught me have served me very well. When I interviewed for my first job when reentering the workforce, the interviewer even bumped up the job I was going for because of the work I did in PTA. At that time I didn’t even equate writing newsletters, managing volunteers, public speaking at school, and organizing events as a PTA member relatable tasks to a job. Every day I am thankful for PTA for teaching me the very skills I need to succeed in the workforce. Without PTA, I wouldn’t have met incredible staff, creative and talented parents, and I wouldn’t have really gotten to know my community. The lifelong friends I have made are a bonus in my life and I am sincerely grateful.

In that spirit, the top things I have learned over the years are:

1) Be positive and be a cheerleader for your school. Sing the praises of the teacher that went above and beyond, thank the staff who work hard every day for our children, and notice the hours your principal is putting in. If you tell EVERYBODY the good stories, then you will start seeing those good stories everywhere. Be a school champion every chance you get!

2) Ask. Ask for help. Getting over this barrier is huge. Importantly though, be specific. Make it reasonable and break it down. I believe people do want to help, they just don’t know how and are worried about over-committing. Know what you need donations for. Is it for programs, scholarships or membership?  As for membership, this may be the most important ask. Members mean more informed parents, more volunteers, more of everything you need or at least access to that. Make it easy to join your PTA and make them ask year round—not just at the beginning of the year.

3) Say yes. Time is a valuable commodity but I will never regret one moment I spent volunteering to help schools. You CAN make a difference – it still stuns me that it is as simple as that. You may have the one idea your school, your PTA, your state, or National PTA needs. What do you do well or what do you want to learn? The opportunities for you to develop as a leader are there, but you have to have to say yes first.

4) Take advantage of opportunities. The smartest thing we ever did was write a Take Your Family to School Week Grant application for National PTA. Winning the grant made it easier to apply again, to have the courage and faith to apply for the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Award, and it gave us the momentum to grow to 729 PTA members—a number we did not expect. This also gave us the opportunity to attend any trainings, and National PTA and state conventions. The very best part of PTA is networking, sharing ideas and knowing you are not alone. So take advantage and step out of the school to make connections that will help you!

4) Say thank you often and to everyone. This spirit can take over PTA and people want to feel needed and appreciated. List your members in a newsletter to say thank you for joining. Start a Volunteer Hall of Fame. Write a thank you note. Post on Facebook that you are grateful for someone after an event. Every little “thank you” can go a long way with being positive.

5) And the most important thing of all…communication is the key and it needs to be consistent. What is the best way to reach parents at your school? At our schools it was a weekly email. This kept us organized and built in a natural deadline so it kept us on our toes. Parents do crave information. There are so many easy, free and even low cost avenues to spread the word about your PTA’s events or projects. The best money we spent was for Constant Contact to send our weekly newsletter. Much of the successes in PTA I have seen–whether it’s growing membership, increasing volunteers, and involving new leaders—is because of connections built through communication on a regular basis. Keep PTA in front of people and let everyone know where you stand. Publicize how many members you have, the events you do, how you help your school. If you don’t tell people, who will? Tell your story!

I sincerely love PTA and what it can bring to schools and children. No one will ever convince me that we don’t change the world every day. It’s in those hugs from kids when you do something fun at school that wouldn’t maybe have happened. It’s in the eyes of a new leader when the light bulb goes off and they figure out they can do it. It’s in the conversations with school personnel who need our support now more than ever. It’s getting your point across to a legislator who needs to hear your voice. Now it is my turn to walk the walk and get out of the way for young leaders to have this wonderful opportunity. I hope you grow to love it as much as I have. Thank you PTA for a wonderful experience over the years and for allowing me to be a small part of an amazing association!

Kathie Green is currently the Indiana PTA NE Region Vice President and National PTA Communications Committee Member. She was a former president for the Fort Wayne Area PTA Council and former co-president of Northrop High School PTSA.

Attract More People to Your PTA

More PeopleWhat was it that sparked you to become an active PTA member? Or rather, WHO was it? Think about that person. What did he or she say or do that attracted you to joining and volunteering for PTA? How did you feel that first time you volunteered? What did you most admire about that person?

Hopefully, yours was a positive experience – one where you felt welcomed, supported and empowered to give more of your time, talents and skills. Speaking from my own very recent experience, most of us “newbies” walk in the same way, right? A little shy, a shade intimidated, not sure if “they” (those who seem to know exactly what needs to be done) really want us there – and most of all, fearful of stepping on toes or doing something wrong.

But all it takes is that one PTA leader – title unknown – to change our PTA future.

You know who I’m talking about: that one person who greeted us with a smile, made a quick introduction to the other volunteers, and showed us a specific way to help out that first shaky day. That’s how PTA leadership is sparked. Then the spark becomes a flame of pride when we see the ways students and families benefit from our collective efforts – enjoying the event, learning together, improving the school and strengthening the school community.

In 2015, resolve to be the PTA leader who sparks a PTA future for others. 

No matter the organization, volunteers get involved and stay involved when they feel:

  • Welcomed and supported by leadership through effective, two-way communication;
  • Proud of the way the mission supports others;
  • Engaged in decision-making and respected for unique perspectives;
  • Valued for time, talents and skills contributed; and
  • Connected in a positive way to others in the community.

These expectations of membership and volunteer service align well with what we aim for through the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. These standards are evidence-based guidelines for schools, PTA leaders and families to use when building strong and effective family-school partnerships.

You may have heard someone say before, “Take a look in the leadership mirror.” Well that’s what these standards will help you to do — examine your strengths and weaknesses (it’s ok, we all have them!) as a PTA leader and PTA Board. Once you’ve answered the questions, you can begin to map out a plan for the year to do a few things different. Don’t aim for a self-revolution, nor a PTA overhaul. That wouldn’t be authentic, nor practical – and it might even yield unnecessary drama.

Instead, resolve to engage families – all families, even the ones that you can’t really see yourself hanging out with – in a more meaningful way as PTA members and leaders. See the potential for participation and leadership in every parent, every teacher, every grandparent – every caregiver or community member that cares about the kids of your school.

Making this resolution will increase your PTA membership and grow new leadership. But it will also fuel your own personal satisfaction from this leadership experience. You will feel fulfilled by new energy that new people bring. You will feel the glow of passing on your passion to new child advocates, and you will create a positive flame of family engagement that shines on all of the children of your school community. You’ll be the one they talk about someday – you’ll be “That PTA Leader.”


Answer the questions below on your own. Then share the questions with other board members. Talk about your answers in a safe, supportive, team-building way. For each Standard, agree on one priority for the PTA Board that will have the greatest impact on your PTA membership and school community.

Standard #1: Welcome All Families

  • Do you know who the families are at your school – their unique perspectives and their needs?
  • Are you welcoming and consider the leadership potential of every parent/caregiver, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender preference, family structure, employment status, education level, socioeconomic level, etc.?
  • Do you know what families and teachers think of your PTA? If so, is it all positive? Is there anything that could be better?
  • Do you always assume every parent/teacher wants what’s best for their students?
  • Do you treat every parent/teacher as a potential PTA leader?
  • How do you welcome families at the beginning of the school year and at each PTA event that follows?

Standard #2:  Communicate Effectively

  • Do you communicate in many ways and often?
  • Do you communicate simply and in the languages preferred by families?
  • Do you encourage feedback for improvement? Do you incorporate the suggestions you receive?
  • Do you view every face-to-face interaction as an opportunity to recruit a PTA member or potential PTA leader?
  • Do you share many ways to contribute to PTA’s success?
  • Leader, Board Member, Event/Program Volunteer, Promotional Volunteer, Program Participant, Financial or In-Kind Supporter, Fundraiser, etc.
  • Do you regularly communicate how membership dollars and PTA volunteer hours contribute to student success and school improvements?
  • Do you know your X, Y and Z so that you can often say, “Thanks to families and teachers like you – who support PTA as members – we can have X, do Y, and improve Z?”

Standard #3: Support Student Success

  • Do you provide opportunities for families to experience what their child is learning and how they can support that at home?
  • Do you offer events or forums that foster relationship-building and positive interactions with school professionals?
  • Do you talk with the teachers about the challenges they are having and work together to develop PTA-supported solutions?
  • Do you access the turn-key toolkits, grants and family resources available through National and State PTA to support your efforts?

Standard #4: Speak Up for Every Child

  • Do you know what students need for their educational success and overall well-being?
  • Are you working in partnership with your school leaders to address a specific school improvement goal?
  • Do you share PTA’s District, State, National advocacy efforts that are important and relevant to your school community?
  • Do you create opportunities for families of your school to voice their perspectives to school leaders, district leaders and policymakers?
  • Do you access the advocacy tools available through National and State PTA to share needs and address concerns of the families at your school?

Standard #5: Share Power

  • Do you treat every member as a potential leader?
  • Do you always say “Yes” when someone offers to help in some way? Do you provide them with direction to get them started?
  • How are you engaging all families in PTA decision-making?
  • Are your general meetings well-promoted and do you offer educational value for families?
  • Do your offer flexibility related to timing and means of attendance (conference calls, etc.)? Do you have translators?
  • Do you have a central place for minutes, upcoming events, and ways to gain feedback on PTA progress from general membership?

Standard #6: Collaborate with Community

  • How are you seeking support from local businesses, including parent-owned businesses?
  • Financial support
  • Member benefits
  • In-kind donations
  • Employee volunteer hours
  • Promotion space/visibility
  • How do you partner with local community organizations to reach new families and support the needs of your families?
  • How do you work with other PTAs to share best practices and support each other?

Mary Pat King, MS is the Director of Programs & Partnerships, National PTA. She serves as the Legislative & Advocacy Chair at Cypress Woods Elementary School PTA in Palm Harbor, FL. She is the mom of Mason (first grade) and Jenna Bea (Pre-K).

Celebrating Schools of Excellence in Garland, TX

Garland 1For the past two months, 170 schools throughout the country have been celebrating their designation as a National PTA School of Excellence. The designation recognized schools and PTAs for building strong, effective family-school partnerships.  Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Garland, Independent School District (ISD) in Garland, Texas to celebrate the 34 schools in this school district that make up an exuberant cohort of Schools of Excellence. With 30 elementary schools, one middle school, and three high schools receiving the designation, Garland ISD represents 80 percent of Texas’s School of Excellence designees and 20 percent of the nation’s.

Garland ISD took a district approach to encourage their schools to enroll and participate in the School of Excellence program. They believed that participation in the program would provide them with specific strategies to engage families at each school building to strengthen family-school partnerships. The vision was set by superintendent Dr. Bob Morrison and supported by family engagement facilitator Dr. Pat Mullins. All of the schools in Garland ISD are fortunate to have either a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or a Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). Consequently, the district approach to participation in the School of Excellence program was monumental and truly a trend setter.

Garland 2Before the bi-monthly Board of Trustee meeting, a reception was hosted to honor each school. At the reception, Shannon Sevier, National PTA vice president of advocacy; Leslie Boggs, Texas State PTA president; and I congratulated each school on their achievement and expressed to them how important the precedence that they had set is for schools in their district and across the nation. Each school was given a small token to celebrate their recognition at the reception.  For me, it was most rewarding to finally meet, face-to-face, with many of the principals, PTA leaders, and family engagement coordinators that I had spoken with on the phone or corresponded with through emails numerous times throughout the school year. Together, we worked to create a successful and impactful program.

Garland ISD 3At the board meeting, Leslie Boggs presented Suellen Atteberry, the immediate past president of Garland ISD, and Shannon Wainscott, president of Garland ISD Council of PTAs with a proclamation to celebrate this outstanding achievement for the district and their support to the schools throughout the program year. Shannon Sevier then awarded Dr. Bob Morrison and Dr. Pat Mullins with a National PTA Lifetime Achievement Award for their unwavering commitment to children. Finally, school board trustee president Rick Lambert awarded each school with a certificate of excellence for their achievement.

As the new school year progresses, I encourage schools and school districts nationwide to evaluate their current family engagement strategies, and commit to establish meaningful partnerships in every school and in every district. Garland ISD has accepted the challenge, and set the mark, where families feel welcomed and empowered to support student success, and PTA is a key partner for continuous school improvement through participation and recognition in the National PTA School of Excellence Program.

Learn more about National PTA School of Excellence at

IRS Releases Shorter, Easier Tax-Exempt Status Form

IRS_Form_1023We are pleased to share with you that after National PTA’s extensive effort to advocate for an easier process for small charities applying for and reinstating 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, the IRS has delivered Form 1023-EZ. Unlike the original 26-page Form 1023, the new Form 1023-EZ, which is available as of July 1, is a mere three pages. The IRS estimates that as many as 70 percent of all applicants will qualify to use the new streamlined form. Most organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less and assets of $250,000 or less are eligible. This change will not only enable the IRS to speed up the approval process for these smaller charities, but also will result in additional resources to review applications from larger organizations.

In addition to advocating for a more streamlined application, earlier this spring, National PTA provided feedback to the IRS on the potential form, including suggesting to reduce the gross receipts threshold to $50,000. National PTA will continue to work with the IRS to make the reinstatement process as seamless as possible for those PTAs that are struggling with revocation.

While the new application must be completed online and submitted at, National PTA has provided a pre-populated Form 1023-EZ to be used as an example as well as simplified instructions which PTA members can access by visiting National PTA’s Tax-Exempt Revocation webpage, National PTA also will be providing a webinar at the end of August. Look for more information on the webinar to come soon!

The new form should make the application process for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status much simpler for PTAs. We encourage you to share this information with local leaders across your state. For questions and more information, send me an email at

Lindsey White is a senior accountant for National PTA.

The Lysol Healthy Habits Bus Hits the Road!

National PTA is a proud supporter of the Healthy Habits Bus Tour, which will visit schools nationwide.


We are excited that the National PTA is a proud supporter of the Healthy Habits Program, presented by Lysol in collaboration with the NEA and PTA. The program is focused on providing families and classrooms with the resources and tools they need to help live healthy, happy lives. The Healthy Habits Program provides teachers, parents and children with lesson plans, activity guides and a science museum on wheels – the Healthy Habits Bus, a first-ever educational bus that helps make germs more understandable and real. It’s important to reduce absenteeism in schools due to illness, so we strive to educate children on what they can do to help stop the spread of germs and stay healthy inside and outside of school.

Healthy Habits Bus InteractionBeginning in June and running through October of this year, the Lysol Healthy Habits Bus will tour schools and retailers across the country, spreading news on the importance of healthy habits and good hygiene practices. The bus offers a series of features that show children how thorough hand washing and healthy habits can help keep them healthy:

  • Clean Hands Germs Scan: Children will place their hands in the Hand Scanner and see their hands projected onto a screen in front of them with animated “germs” wriggling all over them! A video then teaches the proper way to clean hands and kill germs.
  • Anatomy of the Sneeze: An animated nose on a screen sneezes – accompanied by a burst of air so children feel like they have been sneezed on. They then see themselves surrounded by animated “germs,” simulating how sneezes spread germs around a small area.
  • When to Wash: A touchscreen game shows a class in progress. Children tap the students who need to wash their hands. Correct answers get a reward; missed chances prompt videos that explain how germs spread when hands aren’t washed.
  • Defeat the Germs!: In this KinectTM –styleaugmented reality game, students use disinfecting wipes with the goal of preventing germs from getting past them.

We have also developed the Lysol Healthy Habits contest, where you can enter your school for a chance to win one of three school grants valued at $15,000, $5,000 and $1,000, a year’s supply of Lysol Disinfecting Wipes, a Healthy Habits Day Celebration and a visit from the Healthy Habits Bus.  Please visit to learn more about the Healthy Habits Bus, and visit for details and information about how to enter the Healthy Habits Contest!

We hope you to see you soon!

Conor O’Brien is the Marketing Director at Lysol. He drives Lysol’s Mission for Health campaign, a program focused on educating communities across the country on the importance of healthy habits and good hygiene practices.

Grow Your PTA Membership with Diversity & Multiculturalism!

Diversity_CrowdMore than ever, families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders have more reasons to work together for the educational success of children. Why? The Huffington Post states public school demographics will experience a record multicultural growth by 2022. The findings discuss growth in terms of diversity and multiculturalism. These two terms are used by many people, but what do they mean? And how can PTA membership prepare for this growth?

It is important to understand the relationship between diversity and multiculturalism. Diversity and multiculturalism may sound similar, yet they are very different. Simply, diversity can be defined as we are all different from each other. The recognition of diversity within organizations or settings is valuing differences and similarities in people through actions and accountability. However, multiculturalism is the preservation of different cultures or cultural identity, which is identified as first recognizing a person by her or his ethnicity. Diversity can exist in the absence of multiculturalism.

Many people are familiar with efforts to embrace diversity while preserving multiculturalism is not as familiar. As your PTA becomes more familiar with creating diverse and multicultural events for your school and community, take into consideration the necessary steps to strengthen your PTA membership. Be prepared to meet the future of record multicultural growth!

Take steps now to produce a membership growth plan based upon diversity and multiculturalism. Your plan should be three basic things: 1) adaptable, 2) specific, 3) and simple. It should also be dynamic and focus on ways to analyze community demographic trends and new membership opportunities. Review your plan and update it periodically to represent the diverse demographics of your PTA, school, and community.

Embracing diversity and multiculturalism helps Today’s PTA continue to grow and expand our vision. Try the listed three steps to grow your membership and share your experience with me in the comment box below.

Remember, you still have time to participate in the 14 in ’14 National PTA Membership Challenge.

I wish you success!

Armen Alvarez is multicultural membership development manager for National PTA.