How will your PTA change the lives of children in 2018?

The school-year kick-off is past and holiday craziness is on the horizon. Right now it’s time to grab a pumpkin spice latte, sit back and take stock.

Did the membership year start off with a bang? Maybe a mid-year drive is in order. Plan to start right after the holidays when potential members refocus on school. What value has your PTA already delivered? What value do you plan to deliver in 2018? Call attention to your success and ask for support for the future. Position membership in your PTA as a way to support students and PTA.  Ask people to join a successful movement to improve your school community.  People want to be part of successful teams. They want to know that their dues dollars have impact. Tie PTA membership with positive results.

Will your PTA meet its goals? Now is a good time to acknowledge successes and plan next steps. No goals? It’s not too late. Gather the board and decide what can be accomplished in 2018. Focus on empowering families to support student success.  Find a community agency or organization to partner in hosting a family event. Research your school’s goals and brainstorm ways to align PTA’s efforts to achieve goals together. Concentrate on making an impact and providing value to your community.

Are a few overworked volunteers trying to do the work of many? Consider how you ask for help: “Come be part of our success” vs. “We need people” and “400 children and family members had a blast in 2017. We’re aiming at 500 this year. Help us build an even better 2018 Spring Fair” vs. “We need volunteers for the Spring Fair.” Tie volunteer opportunities to outcomes, tell people they will be part of successful events, and help volunteers feel their volunteer hours have an impact. Break down opportunities into small jobs and find ways people can help from home or with their families—look for ways to help people say, “Yes” to the opportunity.

Candy canes will soon replace candy corn and PTA thoughts will take second place to planning family gatherings and holiday celebrations. Now is the time to make plans to jump start the New Year. How will your PTA change the lives of children in 2018?

Deborah Walsh is a National PTA Service Manager. 

Update from Florida PTA: All Children are Our Children

The following was shared by Cindy Gerhardt, President of Florida PTA.

Resilience.  That is our word for this year.  We are showing the capacity to not only recover quickly from the damage and chaos that Hurricane Irma brought to our communities, but we are being propelled back into the role of caregiver and advocate.  Only 10 days after Irma made landfall, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  While we know that many students from the Florida Keys, where schools have been extremely damaged, have been relocated to schools in Miami-Dade, we are now seeing hundreds of families from Puerto Rico migrating into areas in Central and South Florida.  We know that they are coming with very few possessions, scarce documentation and some with little mastery of English.

Here’s our call to action.  If your school is receiving these displaced families, please be mindful of what they have been and are still going through.  Most have lost everything.  If you can, put together a welcome package with basic toiletries, school supplies, spirit t-shirts, etc. – something that will help them feel some sense of normality.  Work alongside guidance counselors and other school staff to help meet other needs that may arise.  Some may be staying in short term housing, some in shelters, some with local family members.  If possible, let’s reach out and see how we can help with food, clothing and other necessities.

In the next phase, we will be working with district personnel and state decision makers to ensure that our schools are set up for success as they absorb these new families.  We’ll encourage common sense waivers and accommodations as we move forward to navigate the day-to-day curriculum and achievement expectations already in place for our schools.

Please stay tuned for more updates as we send them, and more importantly, please keep us posted on ways you and your volunteers are helping to provide a smooth and less distressing transition for these families and their children.  We will show them that our words are true, when we say ALL Children are OUR Children!

Cindy Gerhardt
President
Florida PTA

Parents Unite to Support America’s Healthiest Schools

When we drop our children off at school, we put great trust in the teachers and staff. Aside from home, kids spend the majority of their time at school, making it one of the most influential places in their most formative years.

As parents, we look to schools to support our children in reaching their full academic potential. At Shore Acres Elementary—my sons’ school where I serve as PTA president—that pursuit starts with being a healthy school.

We’re not your average healthy school. We’re one of America’s Healthiest Schools, a distinction earned through our work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program. We’ve transformed Shore Acres into a school where students eat healthier and move more, and staff are healthy role models.

Parents, teachers, students and community members played a major role in our achievement—but that doesn’t mean it happened overnight. Our transformation was fueled by commitment, teamwork and persistence. We did it, and you can, too! Here are three steps to consider:

  1. Start Small

Two years ago, we chose two PTA parents to serve on our school’s health and wellness committee. They worked alongside teachers and administrators to set new health and wellness goals for our school. While there were many things we wanted to improve, we knew we had to start small.

Using Healthier Generation’s Assessment tool as a guide, our PTA made small changes to support Shore Acres’ wellness transformation, like trading our annual chocolate fundraiser for a “fun run.” The event has become so successful that, last year, we used funds raised to provide recess activity bags, a school garden and even a new playground!

  1. Build Your Cadre of Wellness Champions

It takes a village to raise a child…and also to become one of America’s Healthiest Schools. Creating a strong network of wellness champions is essential to achieving your goals. Our PTA serves as a strong ally to Shore Acres, from connecting the school with a parent that leads school mindfulness programs to identifying local sponsors to fund health initiatives.

Our greatest victory, however, came when we tried to add recess back to the school day. Unfortunately many schools in Florida were no longer providing recess because of an increased focus on testing. But we were well aware of the research around health and academic performance—when kids are physically active, test scores go up; it’s that simple.

Determined to make our voices heard, we worked with the Florida PTA and school PTAs from around the state to advocate for a bill requiring 20 minutes of daily recess for public elementary school students. Through our strong cadre of PTA champions and many trips to Tallahassee, the bill was passed in 2017, restoring this critical play time for thousands of students across the Sunshine State!

  1. Be Steadfast and Consistent

Persistence paid off in our quest to bring recess back into the school day and so, too, did it in our mission to improve foods served and sold at school. We used Healthier Generation’s Smart Food Planner to ensure food served met the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School guidelines. We eliminated food-based fundraisers, instead favoring more creative ways to secure necessary funds. We worked to ensure staff felt supported and empowered to be healthy role models. Staff members participate in our run club, hold pedometer step contests and encourage students to stay active through class brain breaks.

The results of our concerted efforts have been nothing short of amazing. Teachers are healthier, student behavior has improved and parent involvement has increased. According to a recent district health screening, the number of obese and overweight students has decreased.

When it comes to school health, parents are a powerful force that can create healthier schools through actions big and small. From advocating for recess at the state level to creating healthier school events on the PTA calendar, we can have a major impact.

Ready to help your child’s school become one of America’s Healthiest Schools? Enroll the school in the Healthy Schools Program – or join its existing wellness team – to access free guidance, tools and trainings today!

Stephanie Cox is the PTA president at Shore Acres Elementary School in Pinellas County, FL, which was recently named to the 2017 list of America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Go Back-to-School with National PTA

Dear fellow PTA members,
As your 55th National PTA President, it is an honor to welcome you to another exciting school year. As we begin an energizing new school year, I ask that you stay laser-focused on our PTA mission. We must ensure that all children have equity and quality in learning, and that they have access to a first-class public school education.
National PTA’s resources, guides and tips can help you achieve our mission.
Help us celebrate the 2017 Back-to-School Season! Join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram by using #PTAB2S or #PTAProud.

Happy new school year!

JimAccomandoSignature.jpg
James L. Accomando
National PTA President

Tell Congress to #STOPCutsToClassrooms

Our public schools are at a crisis point. Federal funding for public education has remained at 2% of the federal budget for decades, despite the increase in public school enrollment and the rising cost of education resources and services. This disparity between funding and actual cost means that Congress has essentially made cuts to classroom budgets across the nation.

These overall classroom funding cuts couldn’t be coming at a worse time. Today’s classrooms are more in need of funding than ever—most public-school students are now from low-income families, yet federal spending for high-poverty schools has decreased by more than 8% in recent years. There are also more students with special needs in our nation’s schools than ever before, but funding to serve these students has also decreased.

Congress must agree on the federal budget by Oct. 1, 2017. With restrictions on how much the government can spend in fiscal year 2018, there is a strong possibility that funding for education will be cut.

Already this year, President Donald Trump proposed cutting $9.2 billion. More recently, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a cut of $2.4 billion. Both proposed cuts would be extremely damaging to public schools that already struggle to give students the education they deserve.

All PTA members and education advocates must take a stand. Tell your friends and family to demand that Congress “STOP Cuts to Classrooms” and invest more than 2% in public education before the Oct. 1, 2017 deadline.

One way to spread the word is by doing the National PTA #STOPCutsToClassrooms social media challenge. It’s easy!

  1. First, sign the #STOPCutsToClassrooms petition
  2. Then, take a picture and/or videoof yourself holding the “I signed the petition to #STOPCutsToClassrooms” official sign and post the image on your social media platforms.
  3. Finally, tag up to three friends to encourage them to do the same.

For those who have already signed the petition and taken the challenge, please continue to participate in Funding Fridays every Friday until September 29. Also stay tuned for the release of a #STOPCutsToClassrooms letter to Congress in September.

For more information about the #STOPCutsToClassrooms campaign and to learn more about the state of federal funding for education programs, visit PTA.org/STOPCuts.

Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

Becoming a National PTA School of Excellence

Have you ever wondered what PTAs have done to help their schools become nationally-recognized Schools of Excellence? Check out how these PTAs made a tremendous impact on continuous school improvement through the School of Excellence program. Enroll your PTA in the 2017-18 School of Excellence program now thru October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence.

Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA – FL

Through the School of Excellence program, the Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA created the Kindness Project with the mission to foster kindness and respect in our student body by engaging students, parents and faculty alike. All students worked together during their art classes to create art while focusing on 8 core values: Citizenship, Cooperation, Responsibility, Integrity, Fairness, Kindness, Respect and Honesty. Furthermore, families were encouraged to work one-on-one with their children at home by coming up with examples on how they could be kind at school.

The PTA communicated this program by reaching out to all faculty members via emails and educating the faculty at their Faculty Meetings. Parents and students were sent home “kindness contracts” to fill out and work on together. “Kindness Necklaces” were given out to all students “caught” being kind in the classroom and during lunch. Each week, winners were chosen by teachers and faculty members and children were asked to make a special appearance on the school’s television stations so that they could be recognized for their kind acts. At the close of school year, the classes with the most participation throughout the process were awarded with a cookie party. The Kindness Project was so successful that the pilot event will become a permanent program at the school.

Thomas B. Chinn PTA – MO

As a Title 1 school with 41% free and reduced families, Chinn Elementary PTA chose the goal of increasing access to the arts so that all of their students had access, regardless of their economic situation. The PTA met one of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, Collaborating with Community, by making connections with a local ballet school to host workshops for the students. The ballet school introduced the history of ballet and demonstrated ballet moves.  The students were then challenged to do moves themselves, gifting many of the students their very first dance class.  At the end of the week, the ballet studio performed the Nutcracker Ballet for the whole school community, including family members, again, bringing the arts to many whom may never see a ballet. One of the students summed up the experience perfectly: “I’ve NEVER seen a ballet before…. and it was BEAUTIFUL!”

Floranada Elementary PTA – FL

The Floranada Elementary PTA worked to increase male role model participation by creating the Floranada Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program enlisting male family role models to volunteer at least one full school day during the year. The program was promoted by having the Watch D.O.G. and the students he represented wear designated t-shirts during the volunteer day and having their picture taken for a Wall of Fame. The Watch D.O.G. started the day by greeting families in the car line at drop off, then joining in on classroom activities, specials and even field trips, and closing out the day with the children at dismissal. Most importantly, the Watch D.O.G.s were encouraged to pay particular attention to children who demonstrate a need for male role model interaction and act as a mentor to those children. The program was so successful that it increased exponentially by mid-year through student recommendation.

Johns Creek High School PTSA – GA

Johns Creek High School supported student success through a College and Career Fair, with over 60 college representatives to provide hundreds of students information to assist them in their college and career planning.  They welcomed all of our diverse families by displaying a welcome banner created by the PTSA.  JCHS PTSA spoke up and advocated for every child by holding registration drives, attending PTA Advocacy Day at the Capitol and hosting a Voter Information Night and Candidate forum open to the entire community. JCHS PTSA collaborated with their community by bringing in community members to speak with students during the PTSA sponsored Red Ribbon Week (to address issues of drug and alcohol abuse) and for Wellness Week (to promote mindfulness and stress management).

Enroll now to start the process in becoming a School of Excellence! Visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence, contact Excellence@PTA.org or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.

Start the School Year Right With Healthy Habits

(Sponsored Post) Help Protect Your Children From Germs This Back-To-School Season

With school bells ringing and teachers diving into their lesson plans, help your children focus on what matters most during the school year – learning! As part of the Healthy Habits Program, Lysol alongside the National Parent Teacher Association hope to spread the word on healthy habits, starting with simple yet effective tips to help keep germs at bay and help prevent your children from getting sick, whether in the classroom or at home!

Set your children up for a successful and healthy school year with the following tips:

  • Kick-Off The Year and The Germs: Start the 2017 school year by stocking classrooms with disinfectant cleaning product. Using Lysol products, such as Lysol Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol Disinfectant Spray, kill bacteria and viruses on hard surfaces in your home and classroom. If you’re one of many parents who collect Box Tops for your children’s school, you’re in luck! Now all Lysol products are eligible for Box Tops for Education redemption, so you can continue to help earn cash for your school.
  • Get A Good Night Sleep: With homework, soccer practice and science projects filling up your children’s schedule, it’s important that they get an adequate amount of sleep each night. A good rule of thumb is 9 to 12 hours for children ages 6-12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[1]
  • Reinforce Healthy Habits: The third week of September marks Healthy Habits Week. Use this time as your reminder to start the school year off on a healthy note by teaching your children to use proper etiquette for sneezing and coughing to help keep sick days to a minimum! Make sure they’re frequently handwashing at home and at school too –use warm water and soap to create a nice lather – scrubbing for at least 20 seconds!

Visit Lysol.com for more information and tips to help keep your family healthy and always check with your school before bringing products to the classroom.

 

Rory Tait is the Marketing Director at Lysol. He drives the Lysol Healthy Habits campaign, a program focused on educating parents across the country on the importance of healthy habits and good hygiene practices.

Box Tops for Education and associated words and designs are trademarks of General Mills, used under license. ©General Mills

[1] CDC.gov. “Are you getting enough sleep?” (April 24, 2017)

Enroll in the 2017-18 School of Excellence Program

Maybe you are looking to step up your PTA’s involvement in school improvements. Maybe something meaningful is already happening between your PTA and school, and you would like to see that recognized. In either case, National PTA’s School of Excellence program offers customized tools to help you to make a substantial, positive impact on school and student success, and to earn recognition for your PTA and school.

By enrolling in this program, your PTA and school administrators are making a year-long commitment to identify and implement an action plan for school improvement based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

Throughout the school year, you will use tools, resources and support provided by National PTA to bring positive change in family engagement. In the final step of the program, your work be evaluated through a Final Application. Those resulting in a stronger family-school partnership, will receive the two-year National PTA School of Excellence distinction and recognition that comes with an honor of this caliber.

The steps in the program are as follows:

Step #1: Enroll and Gain Support (Enroll by Oct. 1)

Enroll at PTA.org/Excellence and start to build your Excellence Team to improve family-school partnerships through the school year.

Step #2: Deploy Baseline Survey (September-November)

Use National PTA’s Baseline Survey to gain feedback on current family-school partnerships at your school.

Step #3: Set a Shared Objective (September-November)

After you’ve compiled your survey feedback, work with your Excellence Team and school administrator to choose one focus area and objective to concentrate on in the coming school year.

Step #4: Complete Initial Application (Submit by Nov. 1)

You will then complete an online Initial Application. Upon receipt, National PTA will provide you with a Roadmap to Excellence guide that contains specific recommendations that respond directly to the survey results and focus area you identified.

Step #5: Follow Roadmap to Excellence (Throughout School Year)

Using your Roadmap to Excellence, you and your Excellence team will develop an action plan to address barriers and expand methods for effective family and community engagement throughout the school year.

Step #6: Deploy Final Survey (March-June)

Towards the end of the school year, you will conduct a second survey to gather feedback from your school community to evaluate your progress over the school year.

Step #7: Complete Final Application (Submit by June 1)

With the Final Survey results, you will complete a Final Application online to receive a new Roadmap to Excellence to continue the momentum you have gained in engaging families the following school year.

Step #8: Celebrate Your Excellence (August)

In August, Schools of Excellence will be named and honored with this two-year designation. If awarded, you will receive information on how to plan your school and community celebrations as well as a banner to hang prominently at your school.

Join the ranks of over 500 PTAs who have earned this prestigious distinction. You too can achieve excellence and be known as leading the nation in effective family-school partnerships.

Enrollment for the 2017-18 School of Excellence is open. To learn more and to enroll, visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence. Contact Excellence@PTA.org or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.

Are You Engaged?

As PTA members, you know that family engagement is an important part of your child’s successful development and academic outcomes.  You participate on school advisory committees, lead parent advocacy, work with teachers in their classrooms, read all about ESSA and other regulations related to children’s health and education, and inspire your community to support all children.  Family engagement is evolving from “involvement” in the sense of families receiving a one-way stream of information and sponsoring endless fundraisers at school.  Instead, it’s the opportunity to build relationships between two crucial components of a child’s life together–families and school personnel–to further support their successful education, well-being and development.

As a parent, you have plenty of options, depending on availability, interests, skills, and personal constraints, to be engaged.  Many of you are finding ways such as these to do become a part of your child’s school community.

  • Establishing positive relationships with school administrators and teachers.
  • Meeting with teachers about academic and social development goals for your child. If you aren’t exactly sure what to ask your child’s teacher, check the Department of Education’s Parent Checklist to get started.
  • Attending PTA or school meetings to find out about the issues in your school.  Ask questions if other’s aren’t bringing up the things that matter to your child’s success or your community.
  • Volunteering on a committee that focuses on an activity or issue important to you, whether it’s school transportation, safe places to play after-school, teacher diversity, bullying or academics.
  • Voicing your opinion to local and state Boards of Education and local, state, and national elected officials on things that matter to your family.
  • Keeping up with and providing input on your state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. Check your state’s education website to find out about your parent representative and the developing plans.

Being engaged in education doesn’t require endless free time or multiple degrees and in-depth knowledge about schools. You just need a concern for your child and a little bit of time to act on that concern.

We know you are engaged in your schools, supporting your community and the Department of Education wants to hear from you.  If you’ve been recognized for your involvement in education by your state, share your story.  What did you do to garner such recognition? What lessons have you learned through your involvement?  What tips do you have for other parents who want to be engaged in their schools?

The Department of Education’s Family Ambassador, Frances Frost, wants to feature you in an upcoming Family, School and Community Engagement Newsletter, distributed monthly by the Department.  Submit your story for consideration, in 400 words or less, with your contact information to carrie.jasper@ed.gov, with the subject line “Parent Involvement for Newsletter.”

Frances Frost is the Family Ambassador at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as an advocate for family engagement in education and equitable opportunities for learning for all children. She brings the family voice to discussions at a national level and facilitates discussions between the Department, families and family engagement stakeholders.

Top things to do in Las Vegas | #PTACon17

I have lived in Las Vegas for over 20 years with my husband and four children.  I am very excited to have the 2017 National PTA Convention & Expo in my home town this year and to share a few ideas for things to do while you are here!

Las Vegas is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week town.  There is something for everyone at all hours of the day and night.  Whether you are coming into town early before Convention, have a few spare hours in the evenings or staying a few extra days after, there is plenty of fun to be had.

If you love to shop, everything you could ever want is right here.  From high end designers to discount outlets, there are four malls within a 15 minute walk of the Paris Hotel and even more shopping experiences just a short drive away.  Several malls are even open until midnight, if you still have the energy to walk around a mall after the Convention day is over. See my full list of activities below.

Even though it will be hot here in June, there are still fun activities to be had in the great outdoors. You can choose from two water parks, if splashing in the hotel pool is not enough fun.  Hiking, rock climbing, bouldering and  scenic drives are just 30-40 minutes away at Red Rock Canyon Conservation area or a one hour drive to Mt. Charleston, where it can be 20 degrees cooler than the strip. Need more adventure?  Jump from a plane, kayak the Colorado river, four wheel through the desert, or ride in a hot air balloon. If there is an adventure to be had, you can probably do it here in Las Vegas.

Believe it or not we have many family friendly and fun activities that keep you inside with the air conditioner blowing.  If museums are your bag, we have everything from The Mob Museum, Natural History, Children’s, Atomic Testing, wax figures, old cars, old neon signs, pinball machines, and several quirky museums you could only find in a town like Las Vegas.  There is an indoor amusement park and many arcades on and off the strip to keep big and little kids entertained.

If you have little time and little money there are free activities up and down the strip.  Watch the Volcano show at the Mirage, the dancing waters at the Bellagio Fountains or stroll through the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. You can check out all things candy at the M&Ms World or at the Hershey’s Chocolate World.

Las Vegas is known for the many shows available at venues all over town.  Singers, bands, magicians, comedians, impersonators, Cirque du Soliel shows, variety shows  and even the occasional Broadway show.  Make sure you make reservations ahead of time if possible as many shows sell out.

Last but not least is the food.  You could eat at a different restaurant for every meal, every day of your stay and you will not put a dent in the number of great restaurants in Las Vegas offering every kind of cuisine.  Buffets and four star restaurants can be found all along the strip and you can also find food being prepared by famous chefs in small shopping centers away from the strip.  Choose a cuisine, check out the reviews and enjoy amazing food from around the world.

A few tips as you are having fun.  Drink way more water than you usually do at home. It will be hot and the humidity is usually around 10%, so it is easy to get dehydrated here.  Wear comfortable walking shoes.  The hotel buildings are huge and much farther away than you realize.  Try not to pay full price for anything. Check the internet or your favorite coupon app for available discounts.

Have a great time at convention learning, networking, and sharing all things PTA and then in your free time, enjoy all of the things Las Vegas has to offer!

Linda Johnson is a national service representative at National PTA.

Shopping:
Grand Bazaar– just north of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel in front of Bally’s.
Miracle Mile Shops– just south of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace– About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to Caesars Palace. Use the pedestrian bridge to cross the street.
Linq Promenade – About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to the High Roller observation wheel located at the end of the promenade.
Las Vegas North-Premium Outlets–  13 min drive
Fashion Show Mall– 8 min drive

Adventure:
Sky Jump Las Vegas– Jump off the Stratosphere tower
Slotzilla Zipline through the Fremont Street Experience
Flight Linez Bootleg Canyon
Vegas Indoor Skydiving
Hiking at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area– this is best done first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.  If you are not into hiking, you can just drive the 13 mile scenic loop.

Family Friendly Activities
WetnWild Las Vegas
Cowabunga Bay
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
Game Works at Town Square
Pinball Hall of Fame

Free things to do in Las Vegas
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the Bellagio Fountains
Take your Picture at the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
Hershey’s Chocolate World
M&M’s World Las Vegas
Volcano at the Mirage