Go Back to School Thinking About Your End Game

It begins again! When’s the first PTA meeting? When is Open House? Do we have enough volunteers? Where’s the budget? Who has the membership forms? It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of preparing PTA for a new school year. Want some advice? Think about the “end game” to help you focus on what matters. It’s so much easier to get to where you want to go if you know where you want to end up!

How many young people will your PTA touch this year? How many will decide to be a writer because of the PTA assembly, shine in a PTA Reflections program, get active in a PTA fun run, or have their futures open wide during a STEM night? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, will your PTA be able to say it positively influenced the lives of 100% of the children in your community? Think about the excitement your PTA can generate as you work toward that goal and think about how great it will feel to achieve it.

How many families will your PTA benefit this year? How many adults will get involved in their child’s education, have fun as a family, advocate on behalf of a child, or create a healthier, safer home environment because PTA provided the opportunity and resources? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t you love to report that your PTA made a positive difference in the lives of 100% of the families of your community? Think about the partners and members you can attract as you work toward that goal and how amazing it will feel to have that type of impact on children and families.

How many community members will your PTA influence this year? What services and programs can be made available through partnerships, how many non-parent adults will be become school supporters, how many resources can become available to families, children and schools because of the relationships your PTA builds? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t it be deeply satisfying to report your PTA’s role in improving your community and increasing the support it provides to children, families and schools?

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that movement as a member, volunteer or leader? PTA is out to change the world. How will your PTA take us all one step closer to our end game?


Deborah Walsh is the National Service Representative Manager for National PTA.

Cobb Middle School – Rise to Excellence Celebration

 

Cobb Middle School PTA in Frisco, Texas had a great deal to celebrate at their Rise to Excellence event as a 2017-2019 National PTA School of Excellence and the 2017 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Award winner. Cobb Middle School is the first school in Frisco ISD to receive the School of Excellence designation and the first school in Texas to receive the Hearst Award, National PTA’s highest honor for effective family engagement. Filling the auditorium in attendance at the celebration event were Cobb Middle School students, staff, administration, the PTA Board of Trustees and past PTA presidents, Texas and National PTA, Deputy Superintendents, the Mayor and his wife. Student performances from band, choir, theater and cheer groups adorned speeches from students in Teen Leadership, administration and PTA leaders.

In his speech, a Cobb Middle School 8th grader, James Kair, extended gratitude to the PTA saying, “They are the people who make Cobb stronger compared to other middle schools. What we have here at Cobb is special. We reflect back what the parents and teachers show us. This is not the case at all middle schools. We take it for granted because we’ve all been so fortunate our whole time here to have such amazing, amazing people running our school…it’s those selfless parents who volunteered their time to make our experience better.” James went on to explain that receiving the award was an enormous honor and show of support stating, “This is a big deal. This is what it’s liked to be loved. This is what it’s like to be cared for. Not many people can say that they have that. Life is a mountain. Taking a tumble down a mountain is not nearly as bad when you have someone behind you picking you up.” Cobb Middle School Principal, Kecia Theodore, started and ended her speech with cheer and applause. The excitement was palpable. She recognized everyone in the room for their efforts in enabling students to thrive. In her words, “PTA is awesome. PTA here at Cobb is woven into the fabric of who we are. I cannot imagine having a day here at school we do not have PTA here to support us. Students, please know this is a special day for us so today, we stand a little taller, we smile a little wider. This is a time to show your pride.”

Heather Ashwell-Hair, Vice President of Leadership at Texas PTA, broke down the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, the process of becoming a nationally-recognized School of Excellence and how Cobb Middle was the top-ranked, #1 School of Excellence to earn the Phoebe Apperson Hearst award saying, “I know how much of a team effort this was.” She went on to  explain that only 143 PTAs were recognized as 2017-2019 National PTA Schools of Excellence and that Texas recognized 18 of these PTAs. Leslie Boggs, National PTA President-Elect, shared the legacy of National PTA’s co-founders, Alice Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst over 121 years ago. She described the Cobb students as fantastic and special, and asked them to bring their voices to make positive change.

Melinda Samberson, PTA President of Frisco ISD PTAs, Immediate Past President and 2016-17 School of Excellence Program Leader at Cobb, spoke about her personal involvement in the school, having three children that span 8 years at Cobb. Regarding the School of Excellence, Melinda said, “The great thing about this award and honor is that it wasn’t just me, or the PTA, or the teachers, or the principal or the families or the students, but It was a unified effort to make Cobb Middle School better; A true family-school partnership. And because of the collaboration, it wasn’t just the PTA or the school that benefitted, but the students and families and the entirety of this campus. This award sparked interest …as we all strive for excellence, our community wins.” In her role as Council President and with 10 years of PTA experience, Melinda is now working to make Frisco ISD Council’s vision come to fruition, to make all schools better, saying, “We can do this together as a team and the students will benefit. That is the power and value of PTA.”

It is clear that Cobb Middle School PTA is incredibly honorable and remarkable, working collaboratively with the administration, teachers and staff to make their school a true School of Excellence. To learn more about Cobb Middle School PTA’s journey to become the 2017 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Award winner visit PTA.org/Hearst. To learn more about how your PTA can become key partners in continuous school improvement and to enroll in the School of Excellence program visit PTA.org/Excellence or email Excellence@PTA.org.

 


Amy Weinberg is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA.

Enroll in the 2018-19 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 600 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 2018-2019 School of Excellence is now 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 Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2018-2019 School of Excellence program.

Membership Matters: Focus on the Mission

FastCompany recently published an article asking, “Which brands inspire consumers the most with their missions?” The article, written by Adele Peters, reports on an annual survey called the World Value Index. The World Value Index evaluates companies, nonprofits and some social movements that have come to be identified as brands–and studies how well their purpose or mission succeeds in inspiring consumers. Do you think your community knows the PTA mission by your activities and actions?

“To make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.”

Enso, which published a list of the top 10 brands on the World Value Index, identified two questions that you can ask yourselves and your board to improve your community’s awareness of the PTA mission:

  1. Are we inspiring our parents to use their power to support the mission?
  2. What could we be doing more of to inspire and engage people in our purpose and create more value?

Take some time this summer to answer these questions with your board.

This past year, National PTA served 16.5 million children out of the 50 plus million children in the USA. Out of all PTAs, more than half—55%—are in Title 1 schools. A recent PTA study asked parents if they believed that their local PTA lived up to the mission. The response was eye-opening as many participants were unaware of the mission.

Once they heard the mission, they felt that ours is a cause that they could support.

We have a great deal more work to do to secure our children’s future. You are our grassroots ambassadors and we need you to live the mission. PTA is about advocacy, family engagement and student success.

As PTA, we believe in speaking up for all children and our members lend their support on all advocacy efforts both federally and statewide. PTA is the oldest and largest volunteer child advocacy association and has been for the past 120 years. And we’re not slowing down. Over the last year, National PTA endorsed 17 bills and sent over 70 letters to Congress to advocate on behalf of children and families.

We know that parents first want information to help them raise their children. Please take a few minutes to check out the PTA website, where you can find a wide variety of information under the Family Resources tab, such as our parent guides, health, safety and special education information. Or, feel free to share the Our Children Online Magazine, which offers more general parenting advice. As PTA members, you can take those resources and deliver them to your community.

Family engagement resources and activities can be found on our website as well.  The School of Excellence program embodies the values of PTA—school and community improvement through effective family engagement—and can bring the home and school closer together.  The program provides a roadmap on how to implement change in your school. Enrollment starts now and ends Oct. 1, 2018.

National PTA also offers grants for other activities, including arts education and STEM programs. It is important to check the PTA website often.

As you plan for your year ahead, take a hard look at our PTA mission and plan activities that promote student success and family engagement. Our education systems and schools are facing difficult issues such as school safety and budget cuts—so get involved. We need YOU.

Thank you for all that do in the name of PTA for families, children and educators each and every day.


Mary Jo Neil is a national service representative for National PTA.

Becoming a School of Excellence: Pearson’s Corner Elementary School PTA

Do you want to step up your PTA’s involvement in school improvements or do you want to see the meaningful work your PTA and school is already doing recognized nationally? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to become a nationally-recognized PTA School of Excellence? Here’s how one PTA took part in the program and celebrated their designation as a 2017-2019 National PTA School of Excellence.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Pearson’s Corner Elementary School (PCES) PTA in Virginia committed themselves to improving family, school and community partnerships by enrolling in the School of Excellence program. After taking a Baseline Survey of their school community, PCES PTA created a plan to improve and implement effective engagement practices at their school—building off the Roadmap to Excellence they received from National PTA with recommendations customized to their survey responses and focus areas.

Ashley Owen, PCES PTA President and School of Excellence Program Leader said, “the Roadmap to Excellence tool was an invaluable resource that our board was eager to reference to help shape our efforts.” Towards the end of the school year, PCES PTA administered a Final Survey to their school community to see if their hard work had made a difference. Upon submission and review of a Final Application, in August 2017, PCES PTA was designated as a 2017-2019 National PTA School of Excellence.

This amazing PTA worked hard throughout the school year to improve their communication efforts. The PCES PTA disseminated information in a variety of ways, including a monthly newsletter, a trusted website and a popular Facebook page that was updated several times each day with friendly greetings. They also had a PTA bulletin board, posted information on the school marquee, sent information using the school’s email blast system, sent PTA information in student folders and sent information in the mail. Their easy-to-navigate PTA website looked professional and acted as a clearinghouse of information seen as a reliable and trusted a source of information.  Furthermore, a PTA newsletter was used to communicate upcoming events and news. It was distributed through email, posted on the website and publicized on Facebook.

To honor their School of Excellence designation, PCES PTA worked with the school principal to hold a celebration ceremony during the school’s Fall Festival. Their excitement for this event and honor can be felt through Owen’s remarks; “We are so excited to be recognized for the significant progress we made over the past school year with welcoming and empowering our families to support student success and school improvements. We focused our commitment to building an inclusive and welcoming school-community and were excited about our results. We worked with determination toward this honor and are proud to share with everyone this accomplishment. This honor is so exciting for us, for Hanover County and our local and state PTA! We are shouting it from the rooftops and wanted to let you know!”

Congratulations, Pearson’s Corner Elementary School PTA and thank you for sharing your story with us!

You too can join the ranks of over 600 PTAs across the nation in becoming a designated National PTA School of Excellence. By enrolling, your PTA will identify and implement an action plan toward school improvement while attracting new, action-oriented members who want to focus on issues that affect our children the most. And being a National PTA School of Excellence will open the door to other opportunities and honors for your school. To enroll in the School of Excellence program, visit PTA.org/Excellence or email Excellence@PTA.org with any questions.


Amy Weinberg, MA is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2018-2019 School of Excellence program.

PTA Palooza?! What’s that you say?

We’re bringing New Orleans to you in our Expo Hall at the 2018 National PTA Convention & Expo! Don’t miss this free, family-friendly community event.

So, what the heck is a PTA Palooza?

PTA Palooza (noun).

  1. An exciting, brand-new event during the PTA Convention in New Orleans occurring Saturday, June 23 from 10:15 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  2. Chock-full of fun and local flair, PTA Palooza will feature more than 100 exhibitors in the school and family category offering hands-on activities, roaming entertainment by a stilt walker and magician, and face painting for everyone!
  3. New Orleans-style gumbo and even alligator sausage will be available for purchase to really get you in the local spirit.
  4. If the spicy local flavors aren’t enough, a Second Line band and Mardi Gras Indian will be on stage as well as Make Music NOLA, to keep our toes tapping throughout the event.
  5. And while you there, come and make a Mardi Gras mask, get a signed autograph from Aidan Anderson and check out the swag at the PTA Store!

Example of use: We hope to see you at PTA Palooza for a day of family fun!

PTA Palooza is a free event open to everyone! Register now (for Palooza only) at PTA.org/Palooza. Register for the entire 2018 National PTA Convention & Expo at PTA.org/Convention.


Jennifer Bradley is the manager of corporate alliances for National PTA.

Join the First-Timers Experience at National PTA Convention!

Are you a PTA mission believer and achiever? A PTA leader of leaders? An advocate who wants better for our students and schools nationwide? Then we’ll see you at 2018 National PTA Convention & Expo June 21-24 in beautiful and historic New Orleans, La.

In true New Orleans hospitality, we will welcome our first-time attendees with extra kindness. We will show you how to navigate National PTA’s largest and most comprehensive leadership development experience while making the networking easy for you!

Here are your three FIRST steps to making sure this is your best PTA decision ever:

  1. Come to the First-Timers’ Boot Camp. Join the Convention General Arrangements Committee and other first-time attendees at this must-attend event designed just for you on Thursday, June 22 at 1:15 p.m. in Room 235/236. Walk in knowing who you came with and walk out knowing at least five new friends. You’ll hear about the business, special events and learning experiences at Convention, and then your National PTA First-Timer Friend will help you design a plan for workshops and networking experiences that will match your goals for the weekend. Finally, you will take a tour of important locations like the workshop rooms and General Meetings. Leave this workshop feeling oriented, confident and connected.

 

  1. Meet back up with your First-Timer Friends for an Expo Hall tour and #PTAProud team-building experience. Your National PTA First-Timer Friend will give you a special invitation to explore an Expo Hall tour designed just for you. Meet National PTA’s sponsors, connect with National PTA Board Members in the PTA Booth, and then head over for a fun #PTAProud Team-Building Experience. Enjoy a fast-paced icebreaker with your new friends and then take a group selfie at our #PTAProud Wall. Leave this experience with a #PTAProud Recipe for Teamwork that you can take home and facilitate your own PTA team-building experiences!

 

  1. Pack a sweater—even though the average temperature in New Orleans is 90. Trust us. Every Convention Center looks a little different but offers the same chilly relief from blazing summer heat. So, bring a sweater or jacket that will help your mind to stay focused on all the possibilities National PTA’s Convention has to offer!

If this is your first time at National PTA’s Convention & Expo, get the VIP treatment—join the First-Timers Experience!

Didn’t register yet? There’s still time. Visit PTA.org/Convention to register today.


Mary Pat King is the director of education and leadership development at National PTA.

The Military Education Savings Account Act: Detrimental to Public Schools and Families

Earlier this year, Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) and Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced House and Senate versions of the Military Education Savings Accounts Act (HR 5199 / S 2517). This bill would create an Education Savings Account (ESA) program that would allow children with an active-duty parent in the military to use a voucher to attend a private school.  National PTA opposes this bill as it would divert much-needed public funds away from public schools and into the hands of unaccountable private schools.

ESAs are simply private school vouchers by another name. They shift public money—in this case, federal taxpayer dollars that would otherwise be used to fund public schools—to expenses including private school tuition and homeschooling. National PTA opposes any use of public dollars to fund private schools. We must adequately invest in public education and strengthen our system of public schools, not divert public school funding into private schools that are not accountable to the public and create division and separation throughout the community.

Like all voucher programs, this program would undermine public education and harm students. However, this military ESA program has additional problems unique to its funding and the population it would impact.

This voucher program would divert federal funding from Impact Aid

Impact Aid is a program that helps fund school districts that lose local tax revenue (which traditionally funds public schools) because their district includes federal tax-exempt land such as military bases, national parks, Native American reservations or federal housing.

Reducing Impact Aid funding for public schools and funneling those dollars to private schools would significantly undermine the public schools that serve the majority of military-connected students. It would leave those students, as well as the non-military children at these public schools, to attend a school with fewer resources.

This voucher program will not benefit most military families

The voucher program would only benefit those families who can afford to enroll their children in private schools. The voucher amount is $2,500 (with a small percentage of $4,500 vouchers available for students in “heavily impacted districts”), but the average annual cost of a private elementary school is $7,700 and high school is $13,030. Military families would be left to pay the remainder of the tuition.

Military families do not want this voucher program

Groups representing military families, Native American students and public schools oppose this proposal. These groups include organizations such as the National Military Family Association and the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).  The National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) and NMFA explain, “the proposal is a bad deal for military families—and a disaster for local public school districts charged with educating our nation’s children.”

The men and women who serve our country deserve excellent public schools for their children—not private school vouchers, which undermine religious freedom, strip students of rights and protections, lead to declines in students’ education outcomes and lack accountability to taxpayers. To learn more about this proposal and how it would be detrimental to public schools, visit the National Coalition for Public Education’s page on vouchers for military-connected students. And to learn more about National PTA’s positions on vouchers, visit our website.

Founded in 1978, the National Coalition for Public Education supports public schools and opposes the funneling of public money to private and religious schools through vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, and portability. 

5 Secrets to Finding the Perfect Balance as PTA Leader AND a Parent

(Sponsored Post) Let’s be honest. Parents are some of the busiest people on Earth. And when you add in a PTA leadership role, it can be tough to juggle responsibilities at home and at school. So how do you strike the right balance?

After working with thousands of PTA leaders, and helping them run over 10,000 successful fundraisers during the past 16 years, at Boosterthon we’ve learned a thing or two about serving in a parent organization. Here are five simple secrets to creating a healthy balance between being a parent and a PTA leader.

 1. Schedule and save

Leading the PTA requires a ton of planning and time-consuming work. One way to overcome this is by scheduling time for PTA-related work (just like you would for any other job). For example, try setting aside several hours one weekday for PTA meetings, projects or just getting organized. Knowing this time is blocked out on your calendar will allow you to be fully present in other areas of your life. And because you’re not worried about finding the time to get the work done, you’ll be far less likely to feel overwhelmed.

 2. Next, flex

Whether it’s a last-minute PTA project or a DIY project at home, we all know things don’t always go as planned. Having flex time built into your schedule can help you catch up. Find some open time in the week and protect it like you would an important meeting. That way you can use your scheduled flex time to catch up before heading into a busy weekend.

 3. Be realistic and communicate expectations

When working with others on a PTA project or event, you should first consider your schedule and how much “PTA time” you have available. Here’s a tip: Be realistic. Don’t try to do it all. Then communicate openly and clearly to ensure everyone understands the expectations on timing. Most people are working to establish the same type of balance in their lives, so others will understand if you have to say no.

 4. Don’t be afraid to ask for H-E-L-P

As a PTA leader, one of the most important parts of your job is building relationships with other parents. Many parents genuinely want to help out. Get to know the volunteers who sign up to help at events, and let them know how much you value them. Make note of parents who sign up regularly to volunteer, and ask if you can contact them directly with other volunteer needs.

Building relationships you can lean on is crucial in maintaining more balance in your life.

 5. Focus on your family

As PTA leaders, you spend a lot of time at various PTA events throughout the year, and many of them occur outside of school hours. Getting your kids involved gives them a sense of pride and allows you to spend time working together as a family to help your school. Who knows? Your kids might just love making posters for book fairs, greeting new students at the open house and helping with carnival set-up.

A Final Thought

Remember, no one gets the whole “being a parent” thing perfectly right. Give yourself grace as you seek to strike the right balance between parenting your kids and volunteering at your school. But remember, it’s because of committed parents like you that schools thrive. And to that we say this: Thank you.

Boosterthon is an elementary school fundraiser on a mission to change the world by helping schools raise more and stress less. With over 2,400 schools and 1.6 million students across America participating in our programs, we’re reinventing the way schools do fundraising. To learn more, visit Boosterthon.com

Membership Matters: Reevaluating at the End of the School Year

It’s hard to believe, but the school year will be over in just a few short months. Right now is the perfect time to take a step back and evaluate the impact that your PTA has had on your community over the past year. Have you created a welcoming environment for parents, teachers and community members? If you feel that you may have missed the mark or would like to try some new things, now is the time to try out some new tactics.

In a recent article in FastCompany titled, “The Best Brands Are The Ones That Build ‘Belonging’,” enso co-founder Sebastian Buck explains that most people today essentially live in social isolation. This means that despite the fact that we communicate more than ever—with the advent of social media, texting and emailing—these means of communication are impersonal, and we end up feeling more alone than ever before.

Buck cites several disheartening statistics to back up his point, including the following: 40% of Americans report feeling chronically lonely and only half of the population trust their neighbors. It seems that we have lost the ability to spontaneously begin the meaningful, in-person conversations that build relationships and communities. But PTA just may be the perfect solution.

Association trends show that individuals want to join groups to belong. Here is an opportunity for PTAs to create a strong community where families, teachers and the community can interact and connect with one another. From these interactions, your community will develop trust and empathy toward each other as well as learn about each other’s similarities and differences.

So before the school year ends, ask yourself and your fellow PTA members the following:

  • What can you do to build these relationships?
  • Have you considered having an icebreaker at the start of your general meetings—something to get folks talking to people that they would not otherwise reach out to?
  • Could you do some large team building activities to get the community involved?

At a recent training, we did an exercise where individuals walked around and greeted each other. The concept was simply to say hello; however, the activity went to a new level and participants ended up hugging each other.

Another idea that we played with was to thank people for coming to a training session by saying “thank you” in some fashion. I observed participants giving each other high fives and hugging each other. Could you imagine how your members would feel if you ended your meeting or training session in this manner?

The last few months of the school year provide you with the chance to try something new and to build stronger relationships with your members. Give it a try, who knows what kind of connections you might make!

Mary Jo Neil is a National Service Representative at National PTA.