Building Strong, Effective Family-School Partnerships

NPTA_Media Banner 2014-2016Today, National PTA announced that 170 schools and PTAs from across the country have been recognized as 2014-2016 National PTA Schools of Excellence for building strong, effective family-school partnerships. Research shows that when families and schools work together, student achievement increases, schools improve and communities grow stronger. The efforts of these schools and PTAs to engage and involve families are making a substantial, positive impact on student success and well-being. We are pleased to recognize their hard work and achievements, and we congratulate them on their National PTA School of Excellence designation.

National PTA also released a report today that summarizes outcomes for the 2014-2016 National PTA Schools of Excellence from their participation in the program. The outcomes, which were determined from family surveys administered at the beginning of the school year and then again at the end of the year, demonstrate improved family-school partnerships. During the course of the school year, the National PTA Schools of Excellence achieved:

  • 46% increase in families that always feel empowered to support student success,
  • 53% increase in families that feel they always share power in decision-making related to student success and school improvements,
  • 78% increase in families that feel their school and PTA always collaborate with the community, and
  • 102% increase in families that feel their school and PTA always speak up for every child.

The findings from National PTA’s report underscore the importance of building family-school partnerships to support student success and continuous school improvement.

As a new school year gets underway, it is an important time for families to make a commitment to get involved and schools to commit to partnering with families to ensure students have the support they need to succeed throughout the year. To build effective family-school partnerships, families and schools should make sure they are:

  • Welcoming All Families into the School Community – Families should be active participants in the life of the school and feel welcomed, valued and connected to each other, school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class.
  • Communicating Effectively – Families and school staff should engage in regular, two-way, meaningful communication about student learning.
  • Supporting Student Success – Families and school staff should continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school.
  • Speaking Up for Every Child – Families should be empowered to be advocates for their own and other children to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.
  • Sharing Power – Families and school staff should be equal partners in decisions that affect children and together inform, influence and create policies, practices and programs.
  • Collaborating with the Community – Families and school staff should collaborate with community members to connect students, families and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services and civic participation.

In addition to being designated as 2014-2016 National PTA Schools of Excellence, two schools also have been honored with the 2014 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awards for Innovation in Family Engagement. Eden Central PTA in Eden, N.Y., has been recognized with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award. Mountain View Elementary PTA in Purcellville, Va., has been recognized with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit. Named after National PTA co-founder Phoebe Apperson Hearst, the awards are the highest honor presented by the association to recognize local PTAs that have effectively implemented the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Click here to read about the efforts of Eden Central PTA and Mountain View Elementary PTA to reach and engage more families.

Eden Central PTA, Mountain View Elementary PTA and all of the 2014-2016 National PTA Schools of Excellence are true examples of what can be accomplished when families and schools work together.

As we kick off the 2014-2015 school year, I encourage PTAs and schools nationwide to evaluate their current family engagement strategies, brainstorm ideas for family involvement practices and activities, develop a plan to address barriers and open up new ways for families to support student success, and monitor progress throughout the year in reaching family engagement goals. The National PTA School of Excellence program helps guide PTAs and schools to engage more families in student success and school improvement. Learn more and enroll in the program at PTA.org/Excellence.

It is critical that meaningful partnerships are established between families and schools in every district and every school. Together, we can help every child reach his or her full potential and make every child’s dream a reality.


Otha Thornton is president of National PTA.

ENGAGE! in Core Beliefs

Mother_ChildOne of the things that frustrates me most is that most of us agree family engagement is a critical component of school success, after all we have 40 years of research that says so, but we still lack true family-school partnerships in many schools. How do you know if your school is really open to truly partnering with families?

Beyond the Bake Sale by Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, and Davies identifies four core beliefs that schools must hold in order to form authentic partnerships with families.

  1. All parents have dreams for their children and want the best for them.
  2. All parents have the capacity to support their children’s learning.
  3. Parents and school staff should be equal partners.
  4. The responsibility for building partnerships between school and home rests primarily with school staff, especially school leaders.

Why are these beliefs so important? Before they can build trusting, respectful partnerships with families, schools must believe that parents want their children to succeed and that partnerships can be done!

Often the barriers to achieving those beliefs are caused by fear and misconceptions, particularly when faculty and staff do not share the same cultural or social background. Beyond the Bake Sale offers an entire chapter on dealing with issues of race, class, and culture. Here are a few tips!

  • Recognize, learn about, and affirm all of the cultures in the school.
  • Connect family cultures to what students are learning.
  • Work with “cultural brokers” from the community to connect families to school.
  • Recognize and support different forms of parent involvement.
  • Support learning at home.
  • Address the language barrier.

For more information about diversity and inclusion, check out the National PTA eLearning course on Cultural Competence at http://redirect.pta.org/local_leader/elearning/cultural/index.html and the wide variety of resources available through the Every Child in Focus Campaign at http://www.pta.org/everychild.

 

ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

 

PTA and Juvenile Justice: Looking Forward

JuvenileJustice2In September, PTA will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the nation’s first comprehensive law designed to prevent children and youth from entering the juvenile justice system and to protect those currently in the system. Juvenile justice and delinquency prevention has historically been one of PTA’s key public policy priorities and the association continues to advocate for improvements to the juvenile justice system in the United States. Read more about PTA’s more than 100 years of juvenile justice advocacy.

Looking Forward

In 2014, there is still improvement needed to the juvenile justice system in the United States. Loopholes left in the JJDPA, as well as amendments made to the law over the years, have weakened its protections and additional protections are needed in federal law. National PTA’s current official position statement on juvenile justice urges members at all levels  to monitor, support, and advocate for laws and programs in the following areas:

Juvenile Justice

  • Promote initiatives to address racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequities in the juvenile justice system.
  • Encourage collaboration between law enforcement, the judicial system, and child welfare agencies.
  • Promote alternative dispute resolution techniques that provide a range of possible sanctions.
  • Prohibit youth who are charged with a serious crime from being tried in the adult court system unless there has been an opportunity for a judicial hearing and appeal.
  • Prohibit the incarceration of youth in adult facilities.
  • Assist youth leaving the juvenile justice system, and prevent their return.
  • Support research and data collection regarding youth offenses.

Today, as we have for over one hundred years, National PTA will continue to advocate for juvenile justice systems across the country that are safe and rehabilitative places for every child.

In September, look out for more information on the JJDPA in PTA’s One Voice Blog. Also check out:

PTA and Juvenile Justice: Over 100 Years of Advocacy

JuvenileJustice3In September, PTA will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the nation’s first comprehensive law designed to prevent children and youth from entering the juvenile justice system and to protect those currently in the system. Juvenile justice and delinquency prevention has historically been one of PTA’s key public policy priorities and the association continues to advocate for improvements to the juvenile justice system in the United States.

A Separate Justice System for Children

In 1899, the first juvenile court in the nation was founded in Cook County, IL. That same year, PTA convention delegates passed the association’s first resolution addressing the way children are handled in the judicial system. The resolution called for nationwide juvenile court and probation systems in order to protect children from being incarcerated with adults. At that time, juveniles committing even minor offenses such as truancy would be held with adults, putting them in potential danger and in contact with more serious offenders.  The mission of a juvenile justice system centers around the recognition that children have the ability to change, and the systems therefore focus resources on rehabilitation over punishment to help youth entering the system leave as productive adults.

After the 1899 convention, PTA members established their first Committee on Juvenile Courts and Probation (renamed the Committee on Juvenile Protection) and advocated at all levels of the association for safe and fair treatment of children involved in the judicial system. By the early 1925, as a result of the efforts of PTA members and other child advocates, all but two states had a separate juvenile court system.

PTA’s Juvenile Justice Advocacy Continues

Several decades later, in 1957, National PTA published What PTA Members Should Know About Juvenile Delinquency: Guide for Action, a booklet offering concrete courses of action for PTAs and communities to undertake to improve the juvenile justice system. In 1961, PTA supported the Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Control Act, signed by President Kennedy. The Act was the first piece of federal juvenile justice legislation and authorized pilot grants for anti-delinquency initiatives, training programs, and studies on juvenile delinquency.

The scope of the Act was limited and states still struggled to create a safe and supportive system for children. Research in the late 1960s revealed inconsistencies among juvenile justice systems nationwide. Children continued to be incarcerated for “status offenses”—noncriminal behaviors such as truancy, curfew violation, and running away from home—with some children still detained with adults. The National Council of Juvenile Court Judges (NCJCJ) approached National PTA in the 1960s, informing the association that “juvenile court judges were not qualified by training or experience to function effectively in the complicated area of guaranteeing justice to juveniles.” In response, PTA co-sponsored four regional conferences with NCJCJ to acquaint PTA leaders with juvenile courts and their procedures and to develop an advocacy strategy to help solve the problems of children in trouble. Then in 1973 PTA and NCJCJ co-published Juvenile Justice: A Handbook for Volunteers in Juvenile Court and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) and NCJCJ funded 25-state volunteers-in-court programs through the conduit of state PTA units.

In the absence of a comprehensive federal statute, the role of the federal government was limited and could have little impact on the way states dealt delinquent youth and youth at risk of delinquency. There was a nationwide call from advocacy organizations including PTA for expanded resources and consistent protections for children. In response, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) with wide bipartisan support in 1974 to improve outcomes for youth and community safety.

The impact of the JJDPA over the last forty years has been remarkable: thousands of children have been kept out of facilities for committing minor offenses and kept separate from adults in detention. The JJDPA changed the way states approached juvenile justice by establishing a federal-state partnership and providing them with resources to improve their systems. The JJDPA also contains requirements to protect every child in the juvenile justice system that states must follow in order to receive these resources. As a result, communities and families in the United States, as well as youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system, are better served.

Top 6 Ways to Fundraise for Your PTA

PayPal_blog1. Throw Themed Event  — Increase parent and student involvement in activities by planning creative activities events. If you have a PTA board, assign a chairperson to each event during the school year to split responsibilities. Plan fun events/activities, charge admission, and provide food. Be sure to offer online registration and sponsorship options to capture more participants. Events ideas include

  • Halloween Festival: Set up booths for mask making in the school gym, make ghoulish foods and punch, play music and perhaps play a scary movie.
  • Walk-A-Thon/Fun Runs: Stay healthy and help fundraise at the same time! Set a $75 fundraising goal for each student, and have students raise funds online from family and friends.

2.  Seasonal, Annual, and Year-Round Fundraiser Drives: Offer Prizes for Most Money Raised – Plan different types of fundraisers for each category to keep parents engaged. Hold a Direct Donation drive annually or seasonally. Get the Principal involved, or offer the class that raises the most funds to dump a bucket of ice on their favorite teacher!

3. Restaurant Takeovers – Partner with a local or chain restaurant that offers fundraising opportunities. You can hold a family night out at a restaurant, publicize the event on school social media/websites, provide signage, and hand out vouchers.  Your PTA can earn 10%-20% of the proceeds, which will be donated back to your PTA. This provides quality family time, PTA bonding, an easy way to give back to the kids, and is a win-win for you and the restaurant! You can even hold a double whammy: Hold a field trip for the kids, then end the trip with lunch/dinner at a host restaurant. Here’s a list of chain restaurants that offer school fundraising opportunities.  You can also partner with local businesses (i.e. tshirt printing businesses, nurseries, private children clothing stores) to promote their business with your PTA, and in return you will return 10%-20% of the proceeds sent from the PTA!

4. Offer Sponsorship Levels or Membership  Packages – Each PTA collects memberships, but offering sponsorship packages ranging between $100-$500 that includes items such as local business coupons, a PTA mug, a child’s shirt, and a couple event tickets will pay off! Provide more incentives by recognizing sponsors on websites and at schools.

5. Art Contest + Spirit Gear — Hold a drawing/painting contest amongst the students. The winning artwork can be featured on mugs and posters, and be sold as a fundraiser. Selling Spirit Wear online (t-shirts, hoodie sweatshirts, branded school supplies) can also bring in thousands of dollars if designed well!

6. Make it easy for donors and sponsors to give money online.
Leverage digital tools to help organize and conduct campaigns, and provide a convenient way for Auntie Josephine to be able to donate with her credit card. For instance, the National PTA has partnered with the PayPal for Schools solution to offer online donation, fundraiser, and registration platforms and links to be easily emailed or posted on social media. And Auntie can donate at any time, any day while watching TV 500 miles away.


Liz Nguyen is a guest blogger from PayPal, and manages the PayPal for Schools solution. She has helped hundreds of PTAs, schools and nonprofits build online fundraisers and payment solutions to raise money for education advancement. PayPal provides an easy way to collect your PTA funds online. Take advantage of special school rates and specials by visiting www.paypal.com/education or emailing paypalforschools@paypal.com.

ENGAGE! in Creating Family Friendly Schools

How family friendly is your school? How do you know? Sometimes it’s easy to overlook things that could be a barrier to family engagement because after you see something day after day it tends to becomes invisible to you! I think it’s a lot like when you get a crack in your kitchen cabinet. At first you worry about it, you try to put a plant in front of it to cover it up or drape a tea towel over it to keep it hidden. But time goes by and soon you forget it’s there. You are shocked when someone comes over to you house and says, “Hey! There’s a crack in your cabinet!”

Have you ever done an audit of your school facilities to see if there are any unintentional barriers? How have you engaged families in that process? And then, once you identify the barriers, what’s your process for removing them? Do you engage families in that process?

Here are 10 more ideas on how to use the Assessment Guide:

  • To assess current family involvement practices at the school
  • To develop ideas for involvement practices and activities
  • To inform the development of a school improvement plan
  • To monitor progress in reaching school improvement goals
  • To design professional development for staff
  • To discuss the Standards at PTA and faculty meetings
  • To conduct a school walk-through looking for evidence of implementation for each Standard
  • To create a survey for parents and staff
  • To guide the development of school-based parent involvement policies and compacts
  • To design research and evaluation studies and instruments

For more information, check out the PTA National Standards for Family School Partnerships at www.pta.org/nationalstandards.

Beyond the Bake Sale by Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp also contains a checklist to help you assess your school. The checklist is a good start to identify some barriers and begin conversations about how to break them down. The PTA National Standards for Family School Partnerships Assessment Guide offers a much more intensive assessment tool that includes a rubric to see if your school is emerging, progressing, or excelling each of the six National Standards for Family School Partnerships. PTAs can also enroll in the School of Excellence program to engage families in the process of identifying barriers and then developing an action team to break them down!

ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

 

 

Top 5 Ways to Instill Good Study Skills

StudyingIt’s that time of year again – we’re trading beach days for school days. Much like the National PTA, we here at Sylvan Learning want to give parents the tools to help their children be successful students in the new school year but as teens and tweens progress through the upper grades, this can be easier said than done. As a mom of two, I know that as my kids have gotten older, their homework assignments have gotten tougher and their workloads have become heavier. This has made staying ahead of the curve much more of a challenge for them.

As the Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan, I’m often asked, “What is the ‘secret behind the A’?” My answer? Having strong study skills. Study skills and strategies are sometimes overlooked on the academic journey, but I’ve seen firsthand how having effective study skills can make good students into great students. Instilling good study skills can have a major impact not only on your child’s current academic success but also set him or her up for achievement in college and beyond to the workplace.

By middle school and high school, developing strong study skills is critical because they give students a consistent process to succeed with every academic challenge. Here are some ways you as a parent can help instill these skills and strategies in your student now:

1. Get Organized. With so much going on in the average student’s life, how can your child keep homework, tests and extracurricular activities all in check? A planner is an easy way to keep everything organized and your son or daughter on schedule. Students should write down assignments, appointments, to-do lists and anything else going on throughout the day. To stay on top of everything, ask your child to review items in the planner at both the beginning and end of the day.

2. Know the Expectations. Most teachers will provide a syllabus or course outline during the first few weeks of school. Students should keep this document handy as a roadmap for the year and also so there aren’t any surprises when it’s time for report cards to come in. Talk to your student about being proactive – if grading isn’t clear, he or she needs to be comfortable approaching his or her teacher with questions. As a parent, don’t be afraid to step in and work with your child and his or her teacher to make a plan of action if things still aren’t clear.

3. Make a Study Schedule. When your student first learns of an exam, ask him or her to sit down and map out a study schedule. Writing out the topics that will be covered and assigning a certain day and time to review each concept can help your student feel prepared and confident. Setting study goals and taking practice exams can help too. This is a great time to make use of that planner!

4.  Practice Test-Taking Strategies. You may hear about this the most when it’s time to take the SATs or ACTs but practicing test-taking strategies can help students of all grade levels. To reduce test-taking stress and anxiety, make sure your son or daughter is rested and arrives for the exam on time. It’s helpful to put aside the materials he or she will need for the test – such as pens, pencils and calculators – the night before so there’s no scrambling in the morning. Students should take great care to read and understand the exam’s directions before beginning and pace throughout the test so as not to feel rushed. If the exam allows, it can often be helpful to skip around and start with the questions he or she knows the answers to. This can help him or her feel confident going through the rest of the exam.

5. Create a Study Area. Distractions can be detrimental to study time. While kids may want to study with all of their friends at the local coffee shop, this most likely won’t help them ace the exam. Work with your son or daughter to designate a study area within the house that reduces distractions and curbs procrastination. Keep the area well stocked with all of the supplies your son or daughter might need and make sure the area is well lit and quiet.

Are you ready to take instilling good study skills a step further? To help prepare students to go back to school this year, Sylvan Learning is offering a new Study Skills course focused on Organization and Time Management at the special price of $199 (a $200 savings) now through September 30, 2014. During the four-week program, which includes eight sessions, students will learn time management, strategic planning skills, better organization habits, how to use an academic planner and how to properly track grades.

It’s time for you and your child to bring your “A” Game this school year!

Julia Fitzgerald is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sylvan Learning.

 

What You Don’t Know About Pests, Can it Hurt You?

Dr. Green is an entomologist and directs the IPM Institute of North America, a non-profit based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Missing or damaged door sweeps and seals are public enemy number one!  Mice can enter a gap the size of a nickel.

Missing or damaged door sweeps and seals are public enemy number one! Mice can enter a gap the size of a nickel.

One of my most satisfying experiences as a professional, and as a parent, is to visit schools to do IPM inspections. IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management, a common sense approach where the focus is denying pests food, water and shelter, rather than relying on pesticides as a first line of defense.   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that schools use IPM – – a Smart, Sensible, and Sustainable approach to pest control. Smart because IPM creates a safer and healthier learning environment by managing pests and reducing children’s exposure to pests and pesticides. Sensible since practical strategies are used to reduce sources of food, water, and shelter for pests in school buildings and grounds. Sustainable because the emphasis is on prevention that makes it an economically advantageous approach.  Research at the University of Florida showed that pest complaints in schools can be reduced by as much as 65%, just by having well-sealed exterior doors!  That’s how IPM works.

I typically start the inspection by visiting with the facility manager.  I ask a lot of questions and look at records for pest complaints and pesticide use. Most often the picture is fairly rosy! Management is happy with the program, pest complaints appear to be few and far between, and pesticide use looks to be minimal.

Then we head out to the schools.  Most times, it’s a whole different world out there!  I find unauthorized pesticides in teachers’ desks, kitchen shelves, coaches’ offices and elsewhere. I see mouse and cockroach droppings, and flies in teachers’ lounges, stockrooms and locker rooms. I spy food debris in hard-to-reach places like under and behind equipment in kitchens and cafeterias.

Dirty floor drains in food service areas are public enemy number two!  They feed flies, ants and cockroaches, and can harbor harmful bacteria and fungi.

Dirty floor drains in food service areas are public enemy number two! They feed flies, ants and cockroaches, and can harbor harmful bacteria and fungi.

I hear things like, “Well, we stopped complaining about the mice because nothing changed when we did complain. They’d send someone out who would put some bait here and there, but the mice preferred the French fries under the counter in the kitchen!” Or, “I know I’m not supposed to use pesticides, but it’s not healthy to have these flies in here either!”

Not healthy is right!  Flies, cockroaches and other insects can carry pathogens which can cause food-borne illnesses.  Mice, cockroaches and dust mites generate allergens that can trigger asthma attacks.

How is your children’s school doing?  Are you, your kids or your kids’ teachers unhappy with the pest control at your school? Do you see pests, or signs of pests such as mouse droppings?

Do you see poorly sealed exterior doors, doors propped open, overflowing trash bins or dumpsters, plumbing leaks, or holes in walls or ceilings? Are pesticides applied frequently, or on a regular schedule?  Are pesticides sprayed indoors?

Public enemy number three is food debris in hard to reach places. Out of sight, out of mind, but plenty here to feed families of mice and insects!

Public enemy number three is food debris in hard to reach places. Out of sight, out of mind, but plenty here to feed families of mice and insects!

If your answer is yes to one or more of these questions[1], help is available!  In 2012, the US EPA rolled out its Strategic and Implementation Plan for School IPM.  The initiative is being led by EPA professionals at EPA headquarters in Washington DC, and implemented by a team housed at the new EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas, and at regional offices throughout the US.  These professionals are connected with experts at Land-Grant Universities and elsewhere, all around the country.

As a parent, you want your child to be educated in a safe, nurturing environment that’s free of pests and allergens.  Talk with your school administration about their pest management policy and whether it’s IPM-based.  If it’s not, have them contact EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM at school.ipm@epa.gov.


[1] The questions above have been adapted from those developed by Dr. Albert Greene, US General Services Administration.

Setting the Record Straight: Healthy School Meal Rules Allow for Bake Sales

USDA_photoKevin Concannon currently serves as Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services in the United States Department of Agriculture. Working in partnership with state and local organizations, Food and Nutrition Service oversees child nutrition programs including National School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food Service Programs.  More information can be found at http://www.fns.usda.gov/school-meals/smart-snacks-school.

Several recent media reports have misrepresented how the bi-partisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards will impact school fundraisers like bake sales.

I’d like to set the record straight: the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is not imposing federal restrictions on bake sales or fundraisers.

USDA has given states complete authority to set policies on fundraisers and bake sales that work for them. States are free to allow fundraisers and bake sales featuring foods and beverages that don’t meet the new standards during the school day if they choose. They, not USDA, are responsible for determining the number and the frequency of these events each year.

Even before the Act was passed in 2010, USDA made clear in a letter to Congress that it had no plans to limit bake sales and other fundraisers.

According to USDA research, prior to Smart Snacks, more than half of all schools did not hold fundraisers that sold sweet or salty foods. It is not surprising that many schools and states have now opted to continue those policies. That is their choice and a local decision.

Additionally, even in states that choose to require that fundraiser foods meet nutrition standards, there are reasonable limitations on when the state’s policy will apply. For instance, the standards only apply during the school day. Food sold at after-school sporting events, weekend school plays and other events is unaffected. It does not prevent band or athletic boosters or other fundraising organizations from hosting fundraisers after school or on the weekends. It also does not prohibit sales of foods meant to be consumed at home, like frozen pizzas and cookie dough, during the school day. Schools can also choose to hold as many fundraisers as they want during the school day that feature foods that meet the Smart Snacks standards. In addition, Smart Snacks does not have any bearing on the many non-food fundraisers that take place in schools.

All of these provisions apply in all states. And again, states can choose to allow fundraisers and bake sales with foods that don’t meet nutrition standards during the school day if they choose.

The Congressional intent is clear that the purpose of Smart Snacks is to improve the nutritional quality of certain foods and beverages sold in school, like those in vending machines. This work is particularly important, as we face a growing obesity crisis in this country. Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese. One in five young adults is too overweight to serve in the military. At a treatment cost of $190.2 billion per year, obesity is not just a health issue. It is an economic and a national security issue that leaves this generation of children at risk of dying at a younger age than their parents for the first time in American history.

Recognizing that, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act on a bipartisan basis in 2010. The law directed USDA to set reasonable nutrition standards, based on recommendations from pediatricians and other experts, for foods sold to children at school. The law specifically directed USDA to consider special exemptions for school-sponsored fundraisers involving food.

We agree with and respect the intent of Congress to continue those time-honored traditions, which is why we chose not to regulate fundraisers or bake sales at the federal level and instead allowed states to determine their own policies. It is also important to note that Smart Snacks only applies to the sale of foods—foods brought to school in bagged lunches and treats for time-honored events like birthday parties, holidays and special events are not impacted by the standards.

Our children’s ability to learn in the classroom and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to secure their future. Healthier meals and snacks at school—with flexibility, common sense, and occasional treats—are how we get there.

 

National PTA Family Mourns Passing of Former Secretary-Treasurer Tina Zubeck

Tina Zubeck HeadshotTina Zubeck, former secretary-treasurer of National PTA, passed away on August 4, 2014 surrounded by her family after a courageous battle with Myelodysplasic syndrome. It is with a sad heart that the PTA family says farewell to an exceptional woman.

Those who were fortunate enough to work alongside Tina knew her as one of the most passionate and dedicated advocates for education and the health and welfare of every child across the nation.

Tina felt strongly about the unique role of PTA when it comes to providing support to schools; promoting responsible leadership; and encouraging parents, teachers and the entire community to get involved in the work of nurturing and educating the next generation.

We will always remember Tina for her steadfast leadership and unending commitment to take action and make a difference for the lives and futures of our nation’s children. Tina’s passion for education and the wellbeing of every child was remarkable, and she touched so many lives personally and professionally.

Tina was elected and installed as National PTA secretary-treasurer at the June 2013 Convention. Prior to her election, she served as the Field Service Committee chair on the National PTA Board of Directors as well as a member of the Membership and Strategic Planning Committees.

Tina also served as president, treasurer and legislative vice president of Missouri PTA and was a member of the Platte County High School PTSA and the Show Me PTA. Additionally, she worked for 22 years for the Platte County R-3 School District, most recently serving as a school-community relations and communications coordinator.

Tina received, among other honors, an Excellence in Education Service to Education Award, the Missouri PTA Distinguished Service Award and the National PTA Life Achievement Award.

National PTA is truly honored to have had Tina as a leader. The PTA family is deeply saddened to lose such a passionate and committed advocate and a friend. Tina leaves a lasting legacy.

The PTA family extends our deepest sympathies to Tina’s husband, Bob Zubeck, and her children, Bobby, Ashley and Ellen. Our thoughts, prayers and hearts go out to her loved ones, friends and colleagues.


Otha Thornton is president of National PTA.