The Journey to Becoming a School of Excellence!

Group of Multiethnic People Studying About Teamwork

When a school and its PTA make a joint decision to become a National PTA School of Excellence, they are making a commitment to work together as a team to build effective family-school partnerships in their school community.

There are three important steps on the journey to becoming a School of Excellence.

Step 1. Enroll

Step 2. Complete the family survey

Step 3. Complete and submit the Family School Partnership Scan

By now, most schools that enrolled are at Step Three. This step, the completion of the Family-School Partnership Scan and the receipt of a customized Roadmap to Excellence specific to local needs, provides a clearer picture of both the successes and opportunities for improvement. This leads to the decision of which path your School of Excellence team will take in the coming months. The possibilities are limited only by imagination and dedication!

After receiving the Roadmap to Excellence, some teams may wonder where to begin. For some schools, the Roadmap may seem extensive. This is the time to assemble the School of Excellence team, focus on specific opportunities for improvement and create an action plan by following these steps.

  1. Share your Roadmap to Excellence. Give your team plenty of time to review The Roadmap to Excellence before meeting. You may want to email a copy of it to your School Leaders and Board members or even set up a shared “School of Excellence” folder on your Google Drive.Organizing your School of Excellence documents (including your surveys and Family-Partnership Scan) on a shared drive—like Google Drive—is a great way to collaborate with your team. 
  1. Meet with your team. You may want to set a designated meeting time just to discuss The Roadmap to Excellence and your next steps. At your meeting, be sure to review the National Standards for Family School Partnerships. Discuss the joint goal you set with your School Leaders as part of your Family-Partnership Scan.Have your team identify two or three Roadmap recommendations per Standard to focus on for this year. You may want to narrow down your focus by identifying those recommendations that align with your School Improvement Plan, accreditation process, or any other big plans your school has for this year.Your focused attention to making substantial progress in a few areas per National Standards will help you be successful.
  1. Create an Action Plan. Now that you have identified your goals, it’s time to determine how you’ll reach them! Brainstorm with your team of parents, students (when age appropriate), teachers, school leaders, and community members, and get their ideas and input on what they can bring to the table to reach your common goal.Maybe you’ll continue or build on programs and activities already in place, or maybe you’ll move off in a new direction. Whichever way that you decide to go, don’t forget to take advantage of the many user-friendly tools and programs that National PTA has to offer—you don’t need to re-create the wheel! 
  1. Share your goals with your school community. This is a great opportunity to engage your families. Be sure to let families know how they can get involved and help by joining a committee, volunteering their time, or attending an event.You can use general membership meetings, your PTA website, newsletter and social media to promote your program, and be sure to highlight the special events and programs that are a part of your School of Excellence journey.
  1. Revisit your Roadmap often. Revisiting your Roadmap and those specific recommendations you have identified to work on this year periodically will help keep your team focused and on task.Set time on your Agenda at each Board meeting, general membership meeting, and principal meeting to discuss your School of Excellence progress, and don’t be afraid to rework and adjust your plan once you’ve see what’s working and where you may have an opportunity for improvement.After all, every journey has its pit stops and minor detours, and sometimes you make the most interesting discoveries along the way! 

Wherever the road to Excellence may lead you in the coming months, please know that you’ve taken an important step toward a better school community. It may not always be an easy trip, but there’s no wrong place to begin your journey.

In the words of tennis great Arthur Ashe,

“To achieve greatness, start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.”

You CAN achieve greatness for your school, your students, and your community! Through teamwork, dedication, and shared goals, you can achieve Excellence.


Kris Garst is a past president of European PTA, and currently serves on the European PTA Board of Directors as vice president for legislation as well as the convention chair

Lauren Van Hemert served as the president of The Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School PTSA for three years. She has also served on the Nominating Committee for the Wake County PTA and has promoted the National PTA School of Excellence on the county level.

Both Kris and Lauren are recipients of the 2016 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award.

Milton High School is All in for our Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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