Kindergarten Registration: Don’t Delay and Register Your Child Today!

Many parents are excited and feeling anxious about their child beginning kindergarten in the fall. Some parents feel this way simply because they may have unanswered questions about registration processes, transportation to and from school, and school expectations. This feeling is normal for parents; however there are several steps parents can do now to get their son or daughter ready for this exciting day.
• Don’t put off registering your child for kindergarten. Many schools across the nation begin registration for kindergarten in the spring of the year. There is no need to fret if you may have missed the special day set aside by many schools for registrations because schools will continue to register children throughout the summer.
• Check your school district’s website to determine the location of your child’s school. These sites have quick and easy navigation tools to locate your child’s school. The district website is the best website to use because it provides you with specific boundary information based on your home address. Other websites available to find schools in your area include www.greatschools.com.
• Check with your school district or school to determine the specific documents you will need to register your child. These documents usually include a birth certificate, proof of residency (e.g., utility bill, lease or mortgage agreement), and current immunization record.
If you don’t have a copy of these documents for registration, order these documents as soon as possible, so you won’t delay the registration process. Many states have online access to order birth certificates. Contact your child’s pediatrician to obtain their immunization records.
• Visit the school with your child to help ease the transition for your child and yourself. Many schools will allow you to schedule a tour.
Take the summer months to read books with your child that correlate with the beginning of school. Look for books that will help lessen apprehensions, and most importantly, can open a channel of communication about school between you and your child… the start of a lifelong habit; parent involvement.

Honoring Jan by Honoring Diversity and Inclusion

At the end of February, we lost a tireless advocate for this association, but most especially someone who had devoted her life to making the world a better place for our children. During its March meeting, the National PTA Board of Directors approved the recommendation of the Diversity Committee to name an award focused on diversity and inclusion for Jan Harp Domene. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be more fitting. Jan had a deep seeded passion for ensuring that everyone was included and treated with respect and fairness. She was someone who did not just ‘talk the talk’ – no, Jan did much more; she ‘walked the walk.’

You have recently had the opportunity to read about her many accomplishments, as well as her contributions as our National PTA President, 2007-2009. What I want to offer is some insight into Jan as a person worth knowing, as well as to Jan my friend.

I first met Jan when she served as NPTA Secretary-Treasurer during Linda Hodges’ administration (2003-2005). As Tennessee PTA president, I had the chance to work with her on a number of occasions and even had the good luck to have her serve as Nat Rep to one of our conventions. What I remember best about those first interactions is Jan’s warmth and sense of humor. Being around Jan could be such fun!

In the years that followed, our relationship grew from mere acquaintances to one of complete friendship. We traveled together, roomed together on occasion, sat up late into the night sharing our lives – in essence we shared a special bond, a deep friendship. There is something so remarkable about a person who can at once lead an association such as ours and also sit with you deep into the night to share all your secrets. But that was Jan!

More than that, Jan taught me many things about what it means to be a leader. It was her passion to ensure that the National PTA Board began to reflect the children and families of this country. Jan showed me that diversity does not just happen – we must work to make it happen. With each appointment to the Board and to committees, she made a conscience choice to guarantee that we would begin to set a standard for others to follow. It left an indelible mark on how I would choose to lead in the future.

When I got the call that Jan had died, I was speechless, shocked – it had to be a mistake. Her husband, Greg, asked if I could share some thoughts about Jan at her memorial. To say that it was one of the toughest things I have ever done would be an understatement. How do you sum up such a special gift as Jan in just a few minutes? Here are the words I shared at the memorial:

To know Jan meant so many things — above all was her love and devotion to Greg and her family — and her passion for her work.

Jan never went in to anything unless it was to succeed. She did not know the word “failure.” She could be a tough task master in the very best way — especially, when it came to PTA — and her passion for its ideals, and for our work.

Yet, she could be extremely thoughtful, especially in the way she could remember the little things.

In early December, we were able to spend one of those ‘perfect’ days together. We went to Newport Beach to have lunch and shop – it had been such a long, long time since we were able to spend that kind of time together. In the evening, we went to dinner at a favorite restaurant, Lin Chin’s, with Greg, Kris, Cali, her favorite niece, and friends – the family. And I was part of the family – we had such an incredible time — food, fun and laughter — it was quintessential Jan!

As she took me to the airport the next morning, she gave me an early Christmas gift – a Lenox china star, which reads ‘Believe.’ Jan believed in her family, in her mission as an advocate for children…..Jan believed in me.

I want to share her note with you, because it is so ‘her’ – “Remember we have a whole country of children depending on us and the work we do. Stay focused on them — and always believe in yourself. I am always here for you….Whatever!”

Her legacy is in the family that she loved ….in her California roots….it is in her tireless devotion to every child in this nation. Jan served as our National PTA President – one of only handful of individuals that have ever held that honor. She has left an indelible mark on an association that would not have been the same without her leadership.

Jan believed in the ‘all’ – not just the ‘one.’ She believed in the ‘end’ — not just the ‘beginning.’

Most of all, she showed us the value of a “single” life and how important each one of us truly can be in making a difference.

Our memories of the people we have loved are truly how we keep them alive. I have wonderful memories of Jan – our friendship wasn’t always smooth, but that is what made it all the richer. She was in many ways the big sister I never had – as I was part of her family, she was part ours. Mary Frances’s wedding would not have been the same with her and Greg!

It would mean the world to Jan to know that she will be remembered to future generations of PTA leaders and members through this award.

My friend, Jan, made a difference to me – much more importantly, she made a difference in PTA that will only continue to enrich and grow our association until we finally are truly reflective of the children and families that we choose to serve. Just as she dreamed!

My Inspirational Visit to a Local PTA for Take Your Family to School Week

I was so excited to represent National PTA as a member of the National PTA Board of Directors at a local event in honor of Take Your Family School Week. I went to Norco Elementary in Norco, California to participate in their event and present them a “big” check because they were one of 45 PTAs to receive a Take Your Family to School Week grant of $1,000.

What an amazing visit to Norco Elementary! I was amazing to see the turnout of parents. I drove two hours through heavy rain thinking that few parents would turn out… but not so. The event was supposed to be a picnic with parents, teachers, the principal and students. However, the rain caused us to move the picnic inside the cafeteria which could not hold more than one grade at a time, so each grade took turns in the picnic.

We started with the first grade class and there were many parents eating with their children. Almost every grade level had as many parents for the picnic. Sandy Ramirez, 23rd District PTA President, participated in the “big” check presentation during the third grade picnic.

In addition to mothers and grandparents, there were so many fathers taking time to be with their children. It truly was a great turnout of parents.

Norco Elementary is nestled in a horse ranch community with a diverse community of students. Amy Shainman, the school principal is wonderful! It’s no wonder the school has the support it has of the PTA and parents. I observed her interaction with parents and students and she was so caring and warm.

I wish we had pictures to share but, Kathleen Camarillo, the PTA parent who wrote and submitted the grant application, will forward the pictures of the event to us and we’ll post them then.

We did have heavy rains all day but the sun is out again in sunny California. I have lots of snow in the mountains near my home… What an inspirational experience!

Thank You, Congressman Platts!

United States Representative Todd Russell Platts (PA-19) announced last week that he will not seek re-election after six terms in office. Congressman Platts is best known as one of the last Members of Congress who refuses political action committee dollars, instead relying only on personal contributions to fund each of his congressional campaigns. He’s also well-known around the Capitol for his long daily commute to and from York, Pennsylvania – choosing to forgo the convenience of a DC apartment for evenings at home with his wife and two sons. What an incredible example of family engagement!

It comes as no surprise, then, that a steadfast commitment to children is a hallmark of Platts’ Congressional service; particularly, issues of educational equity and children’s health, both PTA priorities. As a senior member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the Congressman has been a loyal champion of public education. Platts was the lead Republican sponsor of Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation in 2010 that significantly improved the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, a champion of special education funding, and has consistently bucked his own party in opposition of federal funds for private school scholarships.

During the 111th Congress, Platts teamed up with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY/04), to secure bipartisan introduction of the Family Engagement in Education Act, serving as the lead Republican cosponsor of PTA’s signature piece of legislation. This Congress, despite a new majority and shifting political dynamic, Representative Platts assumed the lead, reintroducing the bill with Representative McCarthy by his side, in May of 2011. During committee efforts to reauthorize and improve the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known as No Child Left Behind (ESEA-NCLB) Congressman Platts has been a vocal advocate for family engagement, offering  and successfully securing adoption of an amendment to save Parent Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs). Most recently, he worked to ensure inclusion of key family engagement provisions in Chairman Kline’s (R-MN/06) draft reauthorization language.

In recognition of his ongoing commitment to children and families, Representative Platts was honored with the 2011 PTA Congressional Voice for Children Award.Thank You!

At the 2011 PTA Legislative Conference, the Congressman spoke of his family as inspiration for his public service, accepting the award in honor of his mother, who he credits with being an active participant in the education of him and his four siblings.

Our PTA tagline is every child. one voice. Upon learning that Congressman Platts will be taking a bow at the close of 2012 to spend more time with his own children, we wish to sincerely thank you, Congressman Platts, for being a true voice for every child over the course of your 12 years on Capitol Hill.

National Title I Conference Keynote: Reality is Broken

In her engaging, forward-thinking session Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal makes the case that the gamer spirit — an attitude of fun, dedicated, collective problem-solving — is our greatest asset as we face the social, economic, and environmental problems of the 21st century. She argues that game designers are effectively happiness engineers, experts in making difficult tasks engaging, and that we should draw on their smarts as we frame the challenges of our time. According to world-renowned game designer Jane McGonigal, the reason for this mass exodus to virtual worlds is that videogames are increasingly fulfilling genuine human needs. In this groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming, McGonigal reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world.

Click Here

National Endowment for the Arts Task Force

Somewhere inside each of us, especially when we are young, lies a budding artist. Fostering that creativity–nurturing that spirit to let our imaginations fly–is the very essence of educating a child.

This past Wednesday (November 30th) the National Endowment of the Arts announced that it will lead a new federal level task force that will emphasize research on the arts and well-being at all stages of life. Chief among the departments involved is the Department of Health and Human Services. In an era of tightening school budgets that see funding for arts programs and classes eliminated or cut altogether, this is a much needed step forward in recognizing the importance of arts in education. Studies continue to endorse the well-known fact that when children express themselves through the arts, they are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, more likely to participate in a math or science fair and more likely to be elected to a school office.

Something PTAs nationwide understand well! That is why each year, hundreds of thousands of student participants in National PTA’s Reflections arts program can attest to how the arts impact their lives and their ability to express themselves.

No child should be denied the chance to develop their talent or be denied an outlet for their artistic expression because of budget cuts. Thousands of PTAs across the country and in our military based schools overseas make it possible each year for our children to be involved in the arts through Reflections. Sadly for many, they may not have had the opportunity otherwise.

As parents, PTA leaders, and members Urgent Blog Request, we commend the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Health and Human Services, along with the other federal departments that are working on this important research on the arts. We stand ready to assist them in any way possible!

Every child in this nation deserves the chance to have a well-rounded education and to have the tools to reach their full potential as they grow into adulthood. The arts are a vital ingredient!

Visit PTA.org/Reflections for more information about National PTA’s Reflections program and to find out how your PTA can participate in next school year’s program.

Proposed Family Engagement Bill Will Strengthen Education

Earlier this week, the Family Engagement in Education Act was introduced in the Unites States Congress by Representative Todd Platts (R-PA), Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE). Known as S.941/H.R.1821, this legislation will help increase parent and family engagement throughout our country and lead to student success. See news release here: http://tiny.cc/2niwy.

Simply put: parent engagement equals student achievement. Parents, grand-parents, other family members and all adult role models can bring the needed dedication and experience to the table to help make student success a reality.

For years, school districts and local schools have lacked the resources to implement research-based practices that meaningfully engage parents. This legislation can help provide the resources that take increased engagement to the level we all agree is needed.

The bill would provide incentives to districts and schools to implement best practices, such as parent leadership academies, placing family engagement coordinators in schools, and professional development for educators on how to partner with families.

The Family Engagement in Education Act would also strengthen the sole federal program dedicated to parent engagement, the Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs), to scale-up research-based strategies for engaging families. PIRCs currently serve more than 16 million parents in all 50 states.

As policymakers in Washington work to fix No Child Left Behind, this bill puts forth a framework for true partnership with parents and families in education reform efforts – and it does all of this without authorizing any new federal spending.

We know that partnership is pivotal in ensuring reforms passed on Capitol Hill are sustainable in our districts and schools. There is a lot going on in our nation’s capital and we know Congress has a full plate, but PTA leaders, members and all families should share their support for this legislation and contact their Representatives and Senators to urge them to do the same. For information on how to do this, visit http://capwiz.com/npta2/home/.

For 115 years PTA has worked to better the health and educational experience for every child. Now is the time to add your voice to this very important conversation. Get involved and support S.941 and H.R.1821, helping make every child’s potential a reality!

National PTA rolls out Parents’ Guide to Student Success

Advocacy can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Many say they don’t have the time, some just do not understand why. Then there is the PTA; an Association of parents, teachers, administrators and communities working to improve the educational experience of our students. Common Core State Standards has been an initiative of the PTA for more than a year now and it has taken our advocacy efforts to a new level.

For example, this week National PTA rolled out the Parents’ Guide to Student Success. Individual guides have been created for parents, in both English and Spanish, for grades K-8 and two for grades 9-12; one for English language arts/literacy and one for mathematics. Eleven Guides in all.

These Guides help parents better understand what their children should be learning in English language arts and math in each grade after their state implements the standards. At this writing more than 40 states have already adopted the standards. Although the standards will take some time to be fully implemented in most places (1-3 years), the time to act is now for PTA leaders.

The Guides are a powerful advocacy tool that State and Local PTA Presidents can use to partner with their state departments of education and their school districts to ensure that parents are knowledgeable about the standards and can support their implementation. With this tool, PTAs can stand ready to work with their education administrators to develop a plan to share the Parent Guides with parents in their communities once the standards are in place.

As a parent, I know these guides will be helpful to me once the standards are implemented in my home state. Not only will they help me know what to expect my child to learn, but will help me know what the most important topics my boys will learn about in each grade.

You can find the guides and more information about the Common Core State Standards at PTA.org/parentsguides.

Charles J. “Chuck” Saylors is the President of National PTA.

In my life, I loved you more…

Rosita and Papa

Throughout my childhood my father always told my siblings and I, “When I die, I won’t be leaving you money, because we’re not rich. The only thing I can give you that you will have forever is an education.” My dad was right – when he passed, no lawyer came up to let us know he left millions in inheritance. However, he did keep true to his word and provided us all with the opportunity to pursue higher education.

My parents are extremely intelligent, both with a Masters in Chemistry, and my mother even has a second Masters in Education Administration. The importance of education was always stressed in my home. Even with working full-time jobs and taking classes at night (ESL when they first arrived in this country and later graduate courses), my parents always stayed up to help with homework or projects. And my parents didn’t only strive to educate us, but others as well. After they retired, they both taught ESL classes to bilingual parents in the community. We always knew that education was a big deal to our folks, but my dad was wrong in saying that education is the only thing he would leave us.

This past week was the hardest week of our lives. What got us through it was remembering all the things my dad, or as we called him, “Papá”, left us. We talked as a family about what each of us siblings had inherited from Papá. We decided my brother Carlos, the oldest, inherited Papá’s sense of humor. My dad was always cracking corny jokes and being a goofball. My sister Liz got his love of dancing. At any party they attended, my parents were always the first people on the dance floor, and they were always the last ones to leave. I got his taste in music. On the weekends, Papá and I would sit together in the living room and listen to the Beatles and other oldies music, which I still prefer to listen to over any music that’s playing on a Top-40 station. Gloria, the youngest, inherited his temper and strength. My dad had a pretty scary temper, but to this day he is the strongest person I know and it’s a strength I see in my little sister.

Papá left us so much – memories, funny stories, and words of wisdom. I’ll never forget what he said when I told him I was taking a job with the National PTA and would be moving from our hometown of Joliet, Ill., to Chicago. He said, “Mija, I gave you all wings so that you could fly.”

Papá, we will miss you so much. Thank you so much for giving your children and so many others the gift of education – a gift that is much more valuable than money. You also left a bit of you in each of your children. You will always be in our hearts.

Please join me in supporting PTA’s Million Hours of Power campaign to encourage more men to get involved and support the education of their children. Vote at Pepsi Refresh Project.

– Rosa Vivanco is Programs & Partnerships Coordinator for PTA.  Her mother, Liduvina, resides in Minooka, IL  along with her two sisters and niece, Lily. Minooka is near Rosa’s hometown of Joliet, IL  where her brother and his family live.

The Man Behind the Cloak and Lens

My dad was a magician…. Well so I thought when I was younger.  I would enter my class with a shiny, silver penny almost everyday.  The kids would be in awe,wondering how I got a silver penny.  Everyone knew pennies were copper of course.  However, my answer was simple. “ It’s magic, my daddy made it.”  My dad was not a magician, but a Middle School Science Teacher  (He actually had to leave a PTA meeting because my mom went into labor with me).

Anyway back to the magic….We  (My brother, sister and I) went to school early with him everyday and I am sure he had to find some ways to entertain us before the school bell rang.  So he would mix some “magic potions” and make  smoke, fire and my beloved silver pennies.  Looking back I truly appreciated my father being apart of my home and school life.  Knowing he could pop up at any moment definitely altered my behavior at school.  I saw him at lunch, recess and after school.  To be honest, I didn’t always want him around but was secretly comforted that he was a door or two away.

I also have a vivid memory of my childhood because of my father.  Because of his passion for photography he made sure to capture every moment on film.  Each of my siblings have at least 3 gigantic photo albums  each, starting from day one that chronicles every play, sport, dance recital, cotillion and graduation we were apart of.  Many people may not know what my father looked like because he was in a lab coat (magic cloak) or behind a lens.

Flash forward to about 20 years later.  My dad now retired but has played the same active role in my nephew’s life.  His life is being captured on film and he sets up little science projects for him to discover.  He even wants to be a magician.

But it’s really not about the magic.  The memories are about the time that was shared.  My dad is the same as any other male figure who wants to be apart of a child’s life.  Children want you to be present and active in their lives.  That is why we are so excited about the Million Hours of Power Movement and what it can mean for so many children.  It means the nurturing of the next great scientist, photographer and yes maybe even magician.

You don’t have to be a male to help us in our plight for male involvement.   Simply start with voting.

Vote for PTA’s Million Hours of Power in the Pepsi Refresh project, then encourage everyone you know to vote for PTA.

– LaWanda Amaker is the Marketing/Communications Manager  for National PTA based in Alexandria VA. Her parents  Lin and Carolyn Amaker live in Orangeburg, SC where they raised her and her two siblings – Maurice and Sherrie