From One Parent to Another: How to Support Your Kids’ Learning at Home

Last week was tough. It was Week One of our new normal. For me, that means I was at home trying to juggle my job and my children. As I’m sitting here writing this, my 13-year-old is texting me to get his younger brother to quiet down so he can do his virtual math. I agree with my teen: I also need quiet so that I can work. And yet younger brothers need to be free to make some age-appropriate noise.

None of us are experiencing much peace and quiet in our household. On the contrary, there’s a ton of digital noise and a scramble to connect my kids to their teachers. We’re so busy coordinating their virtual learning — and my virtual working! — that we’re missing out on the best learning we have to offer them as parents: conversation around a book shared between us.

The most important thing a parent can do to support their kids’ reading growth is to ask questions before, during, and after reading. That’s the magic formula. It has always been true, and it is never more important than now.

As parents, we may not deeply understand the science of reading the way that educators do. But we still have something absolutely fundamental to offer our children: We can sit down with our children and a book. We can point out letters and tell them what we know about letter sounds. We can talk with them about the ideas and pictures in the book.  We can ensure they associate books with love and belonging. There is no smaller classroom than a family’s living room, and there is no better way to personalize instruction than through a parent. After all, what could be more personal than a parent and child sharing a book at bedtime?

When you’re reading with your child, it’s helpful to keep in mind a simple view of reading: to read well, children need to be able to figure out the words and they need to be able to understand the story. All of us stuck at home right now with our kids can absolutely help our children figure out the words and understand the story.

I know that any family can succeed at this because I’ve seen it firsthand. Thousands of families from all across the country join Springboard Collaborative every year to learn how to better support their children’s at-home reading. They plan for reading time every day and commit to asking questions before, during, and after reading. These Springboard partners are moms and dads, grandpops and grandmoms, aunts, uncles, siblings, neighbors – with varying degrees of literacy, but all sharing the common distinction of being caring adults committed to supporting their children’s learning. They take their responsibility as at-home reading coaches seriously, and their kids’ literacy development has proven that just as every child can learn to read, every family can learn to coach a young reader.

Never in the modern history of our education system has the importance of family engagement been more apparent than it is right now! ~50 million children are home from school and likely will be for the remainder of the school year. Parents, how can you ensure your kids don’t fall behind in their reading? Springboard is here to help!

Check out Springboard’s new family resource page (linked here). We made you a user-friendly coaching plan with weekly strategy videos, daily lesson plans, and corresponding e-books! Parents are being bombarded with content, which can be more overwhelming than it is helpful. Springboard’s resource portal focuses on “the how”, not just “the what.” We’re also giving parents free access to Springboard Connect, an app with strategies tailored to your child’s current reading needs. Finally, we’re offering parent workshops virtually on Facebook Live (in English and Spanish). Any family can sign up for these supports for free.

Check out the family resource portal, come back often, and follow Springboard on social media for the very latest #ReadFor15. We invite any family to use these resources free of charge. We implore all families to set aside at least 15 minutes every day during the quarantine (and beyond!) to ask questions before, during, and after reading. The simplest action is often the best one, and, by taking this simple action, you’ll be on track to transform these weeks at home from an educational barrier to a springboard for your child. You are your children’s first and best teacher—now is your time to shine!

With gratitude and respect,

Aubrey White
President, Springboard Collaborative

 

National PTA Gives Federal Policy Update

Last night, March 25, the U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion dollar COVID-19 #3 relief package. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote and pass the bill Friday, March 27, and then it will go to the President for his signature, which he has indicated he will sign.

In related news, U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue will participate in the President’s Coronavirus Task Force’s daily briefing to discuss online learning and school meals. There is no set time for the daily briefing. Most 24-7 news networks carry the briefing live.

What’s in Congress’ C-3 package?

Overall, education received $30.9 billion in aid to provide short term relief for students and schools impacted by the coronavirus.

The bill created an Education Stabilization Fund that provides flexible funding to get out the door quickly and go directly to states, local school districts, and institutions of higher education to help schools, students, teachers, and families with immediate needs related to coronavirus.

The fund provides:

  • $13.5 billion in formula funding directly to states, to help elementary and secondary (K-12) schools respond to coronavirus and related school closures, meet the immediate needs of students and teachers, improve the use of education technology, support distance education, and make up for lost learning time.
  • $14.25 billion in funding to institutions of higher education to directly support students facing urgent needs related to coronavirus, and to support institutions as they cope with the immediate effects of coronavirus and school closures. This provides targeted formula funding to institutions of higher education, as well as funding for minority serving institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
  • $3 billion in flexible state funding to be allocated by formula based on the needs of their elementary and secondary schools and their institutions of higher education.

There is also $100 million in targeted funding for Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV) which provides resources to help elementary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education recover from a traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted.

The legislation also includes almost $25 billion for food assistance programs, including nearly $16 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and nearly $9 billion for child nutrition. These resources are in addition to what was included in The Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The relief package also provides small business loans to non-profits, with under 500 employees, however the bill did not provide $25 billion in emergency aid for associations that face major financial loss due to event cancellations as a result of COVID-19. The National Council of Nonprofits has an initial analysis on What’s In the Bill Nonprofits? and ASAE: The Center for Association Nonprofits, of which National PTA is a member, has a one-pager on provisions in the bill relevant to associations and nonprofit groups. Additionally, National PTA has sent the following letters to Speaker Pelosi  and Congress  urging them to provide relief to non-profits who are hurting alongside business as result of this public health emergency.

Unfortunately, the bill does not include dedicated funding for remote and distance learning which National PTA strongly advocated for . Our association, along with many others, asked Congress to provide $2 billion to schools and libraries for Wi-Fi hotspots, connected devices and mobile broadband Internet service to ensure all students could continue their education online for the duration of this national emergency. National PTA will continue its advocacy efforts in this area to address this digital divide.

What is National PTA doing next?

National PTA is focused on ensuring that the needs of students, families and schools are adequately addressed during this global pandemic. Our association is committed to:

  • Ensuring that schools and students have the resources they need to be connected and continue their learning online.
  • Supporting students with disabilities in online learning as well as ensure they receive the services and supports they need under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). We also recognize that they may need to be temporary and targeted flexibilities for states and school districts provided within IDEA, however any flexibilities MUST protect student rights and ensure their access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
  • Securing immediate and long-term investments in family engagement. As homes have become the classroom and parents have become surrogate teachers, responsible for their children’s learning, it is essential that families are provided educational support as they rise to this unprecedented occasion.
  • Making sure students have access to school meal benefits during school closures related to COVID-19.

Our Government Affairs team is already preparing plans to take action on a likely COVID-19 #4 legislative package. The COVID-19 #3 bill is as a short-term relief package. There will be continued needs for students, schools and families related to this public health emergency. National PTA will continue to engage with PTAs and members to understand the local needs and work with policymakers to make sure the federal government responses to those needs.

For more on PTA’s advocacy and policy actions related to COVID-19, please visit www.PTA.org/COVID-19 and click on “PTA Advocacy.”

 

The Top 3 COVID-19 Legislative Packages You Need To Know

National PTA is engaged in, and closely monitoring the details of the third legislative package. Specifically, we are focused on ensuring that federal resources are able to quickly get to states and school districts, including dedicated resources to support distance learning, and that there are appropriate flexibilities provided, however we are opposed to broad waivers that raise significant equity and civil rights concerns.

Right now, negotiations are ongoing many provisions in the bill including those related to distance learning in the third package.  More details to come as we learn them.

COVID-19 Relief Package #3
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

PLEASE NOTE: The contents of this bill are fluid.  As we receive more concrete information, we will share it with you.

Latest Action: Procedural vote in Senate on 3/22 failed. Negotiations are ongoing.

Summary: The most recent plan would provide $20 billion to the Education Department to help states, schools and colleges with unprecedented disruption of every level of education across the country.

The grants to states would be determined by population and controlled by governors, who would have to allocate money to school districts or colleges that have been “most significantly impacted by coronavirus.”

The Education Department would also provide some funding directly to school districts based on the share of low-income students. That money could be used for a wide range of purposes, including training and professional development, distance learning, purchasing supplies to sanitize schools and planning for long-term school closures.

There is $25 million for “Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program” in the current proposal.  National PTA is pushing for a much larger amount of funding for K-12 distance learning.

A previous iteration of the bill would have provided broad wavier authority to Secretary DeVos to waive any provision of the main federal laws governing higher education, K-12 education and career and technical education. However, under the new proposal, the Education Department would be allowed to waive only certain provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including those dealing with required assessments, state education plans and the allocation of funding. There is a provision in the bill that would allow the Education Department to make legislative recommendations on any additional waivers that need to be enacted into law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Again, please note that the contents of this bill are fluid.  As we receive more concrete information, we will share it with you.

COVID-19 Relief Package #2
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Latest Action: Signed into law on March 18, 2020.

Summary: The second COVID-19 relief package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201), would provide $1 billion in nutritional aid, expand access to COVID-19 testing and expand sick leave benefits. Relevant education- and workforce-related provisions include:

  • $500 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
  • $400 million for the Commodity Assistance program.
  • Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistant Program (SNAP) benefits for families with at least one child who would be receiving free and reduced-price meals and whose school has been closed for at least 5 consecutive days.
  • $160 million for home delivered meals.
  • $80 million for the Congregate Nutrition Services program under the Older Americans Act.
  • Providing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) with authority to grant waivers (until September 30, 2020):
    • Of statutory and regulatory provisions under the Child Nutrition and School Lunch Acts in order to provide meals and meal supplements in the event of school closures due to COVID-19;
    • Of provisions in the School Lunch Act which prevent increased Federal costs when implementing summer food service programs;
    • To States for the purposes of providing meals and meal supplements in a manner that provides appropriate safety measures. These waivers would be automatically applied to States that seek them without further application by the State;
    • To provide non-congregate feeding under the Child and Adult Care Food program, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19;
    • Of requirements regarding the nutritional content of meals, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19;
    • Of administrative requirements under WIC for States, if the waivers are connected to COVID-19; and
    • Of the physical presence requirement at the time of WIC certification (current law requires WIC recipients to be physically present when they are certified for benefits). Anthropometric and bloodwork requirements would also be allowed to be waived.
  • Providing an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide:
    • Paid leave, connected to a public health emergency related to COVID-19, to employees at organizations with fewer than 500 total employees to care for a child if childcare is unavailable. Employees would have to be employed for at least 30 days by their employer and the U.S. Secretary of Labor would be empowered to grant hardship exemptions for certain businesses with fewer than 50 employees and to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders.
      • The first 10 days of such leave may consist of unpaid leave, with employees being able to substitute vacation, paid leave or sick leave for unpaid leave. Employers are required to provide paid leave for leave days after such initial 10-day period. The amount of pay is required to be at least 2/3rds of the pay an employee would receive based on an employee’s normally scheduled hours of work. Paid leave would not have to exceed $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate.
  • Providing an Employer provided paid sick leave benefit:
    • The benefit would be provided to employees of private businesses with fewer than 500 employees and employees of public entities for illness or quarantine related to COVID-19 or the care of someone who is quarantined due to or ill because of COVID-19. Employers may exempt health care providers or emergency responders from this benefit
    • Full-time employees can receive up to 80 hours, with part-time employees receiving up to the number of hours they would normally work over a 2-week period.
    • The paid sick leave benefit would only be in effect through the end of 2020.Limits exist on daily and aggregate paid sick leave amounts provided to employees.
    • The U.S. Secretary of Labor would be empowered to grant hardship exemptions for certain businesses with fewer than 50 employees and to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders from the benefit

COVID-19 Relief Package #1
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act

Latest Action: Signed into law on March 6, 2020.

Summary: The first COVID-19 relief package, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R.6074), included $8.3 billion in emergency funding and was signed into law on Friday, March 6. The bill was focused on vaccine development, research and equipment stockpiles, and supporting State and local health budgets. The bill did not contain any education- or workforce-related provisions.

Partnering for Good: Spotlighting Survivors at the Super Bowl

Each year, the NFL seeks to improve the surrounding communities of the Super Bowl host city through their Super Bowl Legacy Grant Program. As the Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA President, I knew we had to take advantage of this opportunity and help one of our local PTAs become a recipient of the grant coinciding with the Miami Super Bowl 2020.

We had a PTSA high school, Miami Beach Senior High, whose field was deemed a hazard—preventing their 2,400 students from accessing a valuable outdoor space. We knew we had to correct this situation.

Given the fact the overhaul would cost $1.2 million dollars to upgrade the existing grass field to artificial turf, we knew the PTSA could not do this alone.

So, over the course of two years, we worked extremely diligently to advocate on behalf of the school and form a collaboration with the NFL Host Committee, Steven Ross and the Miami Dolphins, the City of Miami Beach, Miami Dade County Public School (MDCPS) and of course the PTSA. We were thrilled to hear our hard work had paid off when Miami Beach Senior High was awarded the grant.

As we worked with the Superbowl Host Committee, it became clear to us that it was paramount for Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA to offer an impactful programming event to coincide with the Super Bowl for our membership. Given the fact that the Super Bowl is the number one single day/weekend for Human Trafficking, we decided to leverage the relationships we had to bring a top-line panel to our General Meeting.

Using the connections we’d made through the Super Bowl Host Committee (Woman’s Fund), we created a panel comprised of victim advocates, the state attorney’s office, law enforcement and a survivor of human trafficking. Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA procured 100 copies of the book Survivor written by the keynote speaker and survivor, Katariina Rosenblatt, PhD. Every student that attended the event received free copies of the book, which Kat individually autographed for the students. It was truly an awe-inspiring event.

The location of the event was strategically planned as well. We picked the local school which received the SuperBowl Legacy Field, Miami Beach Senior High, as the venue, as that same week we had a press conference unveiling of the Legacy Field SuperBowl Project and knew we could get press coverage. Which we did!

Given the fact the local municipality, the City of Miami Beach, had graciously donated $350K to the field project, I had asked the City of Miami Beach Mayor and Commission to come out to the event to observe the panel and give opening remarks. One of the Commissioners, Commissioner Micky Steinberg, was so blown away by the panel, she called me to say that she wanted to honor those that took part in putting together the informative event.

There were four entities recognized at a special event on Feb. 26 for raising awareness on this important topic.

  1. Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA for organizing the event
  2. Miami Beach Senior High PTSA (Local Unit who received the Superbowl Legacy Field)
  3. Keynote speaker, Survivor Dr. Katariina Rosenblatt, Founder of There is Hope for Me
  4. Law Enforcement-Detective Berni Maher, Head of Human Trafficking Division, Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD)

We’re excited about the success of this event and plan to continue this work. We had a forum debrief with the Women’s Fund at Camillus House (a homeless shelter in Miami) which included law enforcement, and There is Hope for Me. Our long-term goal is to work with the various entities, Camillus House and MDCPS to see how to bring human trafficking awareness forums like the one we hosted and into school sites during school hours to reach more children.

Remember, with time, effort and the right connections, anything is possible. Together We Rise!


Author Bio: Beth Edwards is the Miami-Dade County Council PTA/PTSA president. She is actively involved in the community of Miami Beach, sitting on numerous education executive boards. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a post graduate certificate from Columbia School of Business. She and her husband Robert Hetzler have four children.

 

Customize Health for Your Community! With a Healthy Hydration Event

SPOTLIGHT: Apples PTA (Stamford, Connecticut)

This blog post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received a Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

The Healthy Hydration Program is a great way to promote drinking water and infused water to students and families. The program can be coupled with so many different types of events such as a Healthy Lifestyles Night or a Field Day. Since we at APPLES PTA serve a preschool, our students are three and four-years old, so it was important that we made the event as fun and engaging as we could.

Our kids loved testing the infused water! I think they really enjoyed the novelty of the little cups and pouring out of the large five-gallon infused waters. The fan favorite was Strawberry-Basil (I was surprised since basil is a strong taste).

With the help of our school’s administration, we got the word out for the Healthy Lifestyles Night via a flyer that was sent around to families by print in the student backpacks and electronically through the teacher distribution lists. Our principal was super supportive, as usual. We have a Facebook group where we posted an announcement of the night and reminders as we got closer to the date. We also sent out emails to our PTA Membership distribution list to announce the event and send reminders.

In marketing the event, I would recommend starting two weeks prior. Two weeks gives enough notice while still staying in the forefront for families because, let’s be honest, families are all running around just trying to keep up most of the time. If you do it too early, it can become background noise and compete for families’ attention against other PTA happenings you may have going on.

The biggest obstacle for us was finding volunteers. Our school administration saved the day and got the teachers heavily involved in staying for the event and running stations. We couldn’t have done it without their help!

Now for the event! We wanted to highlight the physical, nutritional and hydration parts of a Healthy Lifestyle. In order to best manage the crowd, we split them up into three groups and held the event in three rooms that rotated. We had a cooler in each room with bottled water for anyone to take from.

In one room, we had kid Zumba with a table that had fruit and veggies in the shape of a rainbow with the sign “Eat the Rainbow”. In another room, we had a fun and engaging nutrition workshop where the kids were taught about what should be on their plate. Last but not least, we had a hydration room! This room featured the Sugary Beverage Station and Infused Water Station. We also added a ring toss with bottled waters where the kids could win a variety of healthy prizes.

As a thank you gift for families that attended, we passed out gift bags that included an infuser for water, a bottle of water, and a day pass to a local children’s museum. We also raffled off play balls and little soccer balls to the kids on their way out. All this spring boarded from the Healthy Hydration Program! My advice: You can make it as big or small as works best for your school.

Take Action:


Authored by Valentina Conetta from APPLES PTA in Stamford, Conn.

Disclosure: Nestlé Waters North America is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 2019–2020 Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

 

Fun for the Whole Family! At a Healthy Hydration Event

SPOTLIGHT: Dufief Elementary PTSA (North Potomac, Md.)

This blog post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders who received a Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. They share practical advice and lessons learned from planning and hosting their events.

Incorporating a Healthy Hydration Event into our PTA calendar was so easy! We hosted a Bike Rodeo and simply added the Healthy Hydration Stations at our event. Our school is in the middle of a very suburban walkable and bikeable neighborhood.

Although there are many students who ride their bikes casually, we wanted to provide a forum to spread safety tips about biking safely on neighborhood streets including how to be seen and following the rules of the road when biking on the street. We partnered with Montgomery County Safe Routes to School, who provided several loaner bikes and helmets for the event so the students without their own bikes and helmets could still attend, participate and enjoy the event.

To market our event to both students and parents we used our PTA newsletters, made announcements at our PTA meetings, posted on our website and to our PTA Facebook page. To reach students outside of our PTA members, we made morning announcements at the school and sent home backpack fliers.

We set up our welcome table, along with the Healthy Hydration Sugary Beverage Station, outside the entrances to our all-purpose room and gymnasium. We were a little nervous about attendance since the Rodeo took place during a short week before the Thanksgiving holiday. However, we had so many parents and students show up, that we had to extend the event to the blacktop outside the school, in addition to using the school gymnasium! Next time, we’d love to plan this event at a time of year when we could utilize outdoor space.

Our principal, Mr. Gregg Baron, was incredibly supportive. In addition to including the event in the school morning announcements and his weekly newsletter, he also attended the event, put on a helmet, and jumped on a bike, leading some of the students in the activities. His engagement and enthusiasm were infectious. He really made both students and parents feel welcome and excited to be at the event.

We would definitely consider having a Healthy Hydration event as part of our Back-to-School picnic, spring outdoor Dragon Fest, or other large activities in the future. We had a lot of positive feedback about the fruit-infused water from both parents and students. They were surprised that the only thing added to the water was fruit! In addition to the stations, we plan to incorporate and serve water at all our upcoming events in a more intentional way including our Math Night, Talent Show evening and family Game Night.

We had many parents and students express surprise at how much sugar was in common beverages. Adults were extremely enthusiastic about the fruit-infused water, and several took the recipes home with them. The hands-down favorite was the Lemon/Lime water.

Here are our top recommendations when hosting your Healthy Hydration event, from one PTA leader to another!

  1. Make sure that you leave ample time and space in your event for students and parents to visit the Hydration Station.
  2. Make sure to encourage parents to try the fruit-infused waters as well. We found parents were often the most interested in trying the different types of waters initially, which led to more children wanting to try the recipes.
  3. Consider encouraging parents and students to bring water bottles to the event to fill up on any leftover flavored water after the event!
  4. Think carefully about how to manage sign-ins, photo releases and follow-up surveys. We found it challenging to manage this aspect when so many attendees were eager to participate in activities right away.

Take Action:


Authored by Jamie Pflasterer from Dufief Elementary PTSA in North Potomac, Md.

Disclosure: Nestlé Waters North America is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA and a Founding Sponsor of National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of a 20192020 Healthy Hydration Grant, sponsored by Nestlé Waters North America. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

Arts Enhancement Grant Awards Local PTAs

National PTA’s Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant awards two local PTAs $1,000 in matching funds for student-centered programs that increase access to high quality arts learning experiences and new pathways for students to participate in National PTA’s Reflections program

Last year, through the Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant application, PTAs shared their plans to deliver high-quality arts education activities in the literary, media, visual and/or performing arts.

We were so excited to select Anderson Mill Elementary PTA in Texas and Reese Road Elementary School PTA in Georgia to receive the award in 2019, and we were even more impressed with the fantastic work the two PTAs did with the grant funding. Check out their stories below!

Reese Road PTA – Columbus, Ga.

In November, Reese Road PTA hosted a Fine Arts Extravaganza, a free event for their whole community. The event was supported visiting artists, high school volunteers and employees from the local library and museum.

It was an incredible success, with over 300 people in attendance! Families were able to explore the arts together throughout the school, with an exhibit displaying student artwork in the gym and a snack station in the school café. At the many stations hosted throughout the evening, attendees were able to make buttons, necklaces, keychains, origami and illuminated sculptures. Attendees were able to work with their families at the stations to experiment with new creative processes and mediums.

Katrina Long, Reese Road Principal said, “All of the smiles made me happy! The students, teachers, parents and grandparents were so excited to play with the different media and see all of the beautiful artwork that the students worked so hard to create!

The event also highlighted STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) programming in the Reese Road’s curriculum. Event participants were able to get hands-on understanding of how students apply art and creativity to their learning process. This gave parents and guardians insight into their student’s school, alongside the students, while also emphasizing the importance of arts in education.

Reese Road PTA leaders also made sure to encourage student participation in the Look Within Reflections program and hope to see some of their submissions win on the state and national level. As a Title I school with a diverse school population, many of whom receive free and reduced lunches, Reese Road Elementary School PTA was able to use the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant to truly bring the arts into education.

Anderson Mill Elementary PTA – Austin, Texas

In order to thoroughly incorporate arts education into their school, Anderson Mill Elementary PTA chose to host several events and activities throughout the school year. Melissa George, Anderson Mill Elementary PTA President explained, “Our activities and events are spread throughout the entire school year in order to cover all of the art categories celebrated in the Reflections program. For many, seeing or hearing the word ‘art’ usually brings to mind the visual arts—people forget that there is so much more, and it has been exciting to have this opportunity to help expand awareness and knowledge in these areas.”

Using the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant as support, the Anderson Mill Elementary PTA partnered with school personnel to develop art education programming that would bring the school’s diverse community together, while exposing students and community members to the arts. Thus far, Anderson Mill PTA has hosted three events that incorporated arts education into the programming—the Multicultural Celebration, the Fall Family Art Night, and the Fall Carnival.

Leadership pointed to the Multicultural Celebration as their most successful event yet. At the celebration, students were exposed to the unique cultures in their community and were able to explore the many artistic sides of those cultures. Families were asked to share cultural dances and artwork from home to display and educate the community. The celebration event also had cultural arts stations that allowed students to make their own take-away artwork. Stations included henna art, Chinese calligraphy, papel picado, Dias de los Muertos masks and more. The event was so well-attended that the PTA plans to host a similar event in the spring.

Anderson Mill PTA believes their work to implement the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant has boosted awareness of the PTA and helped strengthen relationships with diverse communities. With a high percentage of low-income families and English language learners, their work made families more aware of the PTA and the services they provide to their community. Through their hard work and the Mary Lou Anderson Arts Enhancement Grant, Anderson Mill PTA was able to bring families and students together in a unique and impactful way.

Congratulations, once again, to Reese Road PTA and Anderson Mill Elementary PTA! You can learn more about the Mary Lou Anderson Reflections Arts Enhancement Grant at PTA.org/ArtsEd.

 

National PTA Celebrates the Heroes Around Us All

National PTA’s Reflections program has helped students explore their own thoughts, feelings and ideas, develop artistic literacy, increase confidence and find a love for learning that will help them become more successful in school and in life. Each year, over 300,000 students participate in Reflections in response to the annual theme.

On Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education hosted the National PTA Reflections Student Arts Showcase & Exhibit Opening, honoring the over 200 national winners from the 2018-2019 program year.

During the hour-long program, the 2018-2019 theme, Heroes Around Me, was reflected through performances and features in all of our categories: Photography, Visual Arts, Literature, Music Composition, and Film Production. Heroes to these students included parents, siblings, public workers, farmers, teachers, troops and even animals!

Our first featured artist was Beckett Bayan. Beckett composed a piece of music for the violin called “When Blue Butterflies Take Flight Again,” which is about endangered butterflies in his hometown in California. Beckett’s mom says that Beckett composed his first piece of music in the first grade for a Reflections project, and he hasn’t stopped writing music since!

Next we heard from Benjamin Breaux, the featured artist for the Special Artist division. Ben is a non-speaking autistic and uses a letterboard to communicate. Ben wrote a poem inspired by his mom, who he says, “supports others in so very many ways and always makes those she is supporting feel like heroes themselves.” Ben’s message was moving and we’re so grateful that he shared his powerful words.

The featured film producer was Sarah McFeely, whose film is entitled “Part of Something Bigger.” Sarah’s grandmother worked for NASA! She helped to secure funding for the Manned Space Flight mission – truly part of something bigger. Sarah says, “Having the opportunity to submit to competitions like PTA Reflections also encourages me to continue my artwork and find creative outlets throughout the year.” Thank you, Sarah!

Aditi Gokhale, featured literature winner, then shared her poem “The Unseen Heroes.” Her poem is about honeybees and relates the hardworking bees to the unnoticed heroes in our midst! Firefighters, police officers, teachers, inventors and parents are all heroes to Aditi, and she says their work often goes unnoticed. Aditi asks us to appreciate those hard workers and to acknowledge that there is a hero in all of us. Thank you, Aditi, for your empowering message.

Riley Zwiselsberger’s photograph of four firefighters shows us that heroes have fun, too! He says “I realized the day I took this photo that they are also heroes because they love to teach and help people, too. They spent so much time with us and made me laugh, too!”

The featured dance choreography piece was presented by Grace Youn. Grace was inspired by her aunt to create this dance. Her aunt is a veterinarian who also rescues animals. Grace’s dance was a beautiful tribute to those who dedicate their lives to helping animals!

Cleopha Costa presented her winning visual art piece called “There is Always Someone Who Needs You!” She created her painting using acrylic paint, pen, pencil, and watercolor. The painting depicts someone stopping to assist a man experiencing homelessness. Cleopha reminds us that “it is essential to offer a helping hand and pick up someone when they break down. You never know how much of a hero you mean to them.”

After hearing from our featured artists and special guests, it was time to officially open the exhibit with a ribbon-cutting! The print and digital exhibit will be on display at the U.S. Department of Education, by appointment only, through February 2020. Its next destination will be Louisville, Ky. for the 2020 National PTA Convention & Expo.

 


Written by Hope Cagle, Arts in Education Fellow, National PTA Reflections Program.

For more information on the Reflections program, please visit PTA.org/Reflections.

 

 

 

 

 

Back the Future: a New Dedication to a Continued Mission

The PTA mission statement: It’s all about the kids, right? Well yes, and so much more.

The PTA mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.

Now, if you’re not heavily involved in our association, this might not be the first thing you think of when someone mentions PTA. People sometimes praise us for the fundraising that we do for schools, but you’ll notice that our mission doesn’t say anything about fundraising. Of course we do raise funds, but we should spend those funds in ways that support our mission.

So what exactly does the PTA mission statement mean? Let’s break it down.

The beginning of the mission statement is essentially our vision statement: Every child’s potential is a reality. That’s our goal. That’s our purpose.

The remainder of the mission statement is how we achieve our vision. It has the action words of PTA: Engage. Empower. Advocate.

Let’s talk briefly about some of the key words and phrases in our mission statement.

Every Child Our mission statement begins and ends with the kids. This concept bookends our mission statement, and it is part of the tagline on the PTA logo (“Every Child. One Voice.”). When you first joined PTA, it was probably because you wanted to support your child and your school, and you might not have realized you were also joining your state PTA and National PTA and therefore supporting the millions of children across our nation. In PTA, every kid is one of ours, regardless of ethnicity, gender, language and culture, socioeconomic status, and so forth. So when PTA has advocated, throughout its history, for child labor laws, hot and healthy lunch programs, currently for school safety, and any other issue, it is for the benefit of every child. And when local PTAs provide programming, it should benefit every child at the school.

Family Engagement Our carnivals and dances and other events encourage family and community togetherness, and that is certainly important. But when it comes to family engagement, National PTA is challenging us to think even bigger and to truly focus on student success. National PTA now has a Center for Family Engagement to create truly transformative family engagement by using approaches that are inclusive, individualized, integrated and impactful. PTAs can help transform the relationships between families, schools, and community leaders in ways that make a difference for students. So think big!

Empower Our mission asks us to empower others so we can stand arm-in-arm to help children. We empower other PTA leaders through training and leadership development. We empower families by communicating about issues that affect kids and by suggesting ways to help. We empower our communities by forging partnerships to make our schools stronger. Through our combined efforts and voices, we make an impact on behalf of kids.

Community Here in Texas, our PTAs like to spell the word like this: CommYOUnity. YOU are an important part of your CommYOUnity. But YOU can’t do it alone. We become a powerful force when we work together in unity to achieve our mission. Think beyond the walls of your school, and welcome civic and business leaders, community volunteers, and others who support our mission into your PTA community. Strong schools and strong communities go hand-in-hand.

Advocacy This is such an important part of PTA, and it’s why you see us pushing membership. A robust membership gives us a strong voice as we advocate for issues that are important to make every child’s potential a reality.

When it comes to advocacy, understand that we advocate for or against issues, not candidates. We do not endorse any candidate, for any office, or any political party. We do encourage voting in an informed way.

The tagline in our logo is “Every Child. One Voice.” … and advocacy is the One Voice.

The PTA mission statement is so important because this is what guides us. Our mission should drive any significant PTA decision. Always come back to the mission. We need strong leaders in all PTA positions, and whatever your leadership role, you can help steer your PTA in the right direction by making sure your board’s priorities align with the PTA mission. When your PTA’s leaders understand the PTA mission, and they follow your bylaws and standing rules, and they are trained in the best practices of their roles, your PTA is on the path to success.


Julie Kluthe is communications chair for Flower Mound (Texas) High School PTSA and a member of the Texas PTA Leadership Committee. She has been a leader on the Lewisville ISD Council of PTAs where she created and led the Rising Stars Academy, a program to identify and develop PTA leadership in the Lewisville Independent School District.

PTA Leader Helps School Step Outside Comfort Zone and Into Progress

Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Daphne Callender, Fitness Instructor by day and PTA champion of Springfield Estates Elementary School (SEES) PTA in Springfield, VA, and her extraordinary school community in celebration of their 2019-2021 National PTA School of Excellence designation. The warm celebration with parents, staff and administrators included a delicious dinner, a decorated cake and the unveiling of their School of Excellence banner. As one of 19 PTAs in Virginia to earn the School of Excellence designation this year, Springfield Estates Elementary PTA had a great deal to be proud of. Through their year-long School of Excellence program, SEES PTA chose to focus on the inclusion and access to their ethnically, racially and socio-economically diverse community. As both a Title 1 neighborhood school and Advanced Academic Placement Center that pulls from eight different elementary schools, SEES PTA felt it was imperative to bring all members together to build community and celebrate their rich diversity.

Through their School of Excellence plan, SEES PTA took deliberative steps to make certain that all parents knew that they were invited to attend and participate in all PTA events, translating invitations into their five major languages: Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Urdu, and Arabic.  These invitations were personally distributed to all cars in the Kiss-N-Ride line and sent home in students’ folders. They also asked their Spanish-speaking parent liaison and English as a Second Language teachers to encourage and welcome parent participation at all PTA events. The PTA hosted an international food potluck dinner where families shared dishes from their culture and, to further welcome families with differing socio-economic statuses, they secured scholarships and gift certificates with one of their after-school STEM programs. It is clear that Springfield Estates Elementary celebrates their diverse and culturally rich environment and fervently believes it enhances the educational experience of their students and their families alike. Here is what Daphne shared about her work in the School of Excellence program:

“The National PTA School of Excellence Award program enabled our PTA committee to recognize that although we had a strong PTA, there was room for more family engagement and to make sure that feeling of welcome extended to each and every family at our school. Upon receiving the first email, I gave it a little bit of thought but didn’t know if I wanted to add something else to my already full schedule.  When I received the email that it was the absolute last day to sign up, I decided to go for it.  I then created a team of people who could help me implement and execute a plan for more family engagement. I would highly recommend the National PTA School of Excellence program to other schools because it helps to provide a goal to work towards.  I believe it easy to get stuck in doing what’s always been done. The program gave our PTA a focus and we worked on it together as a team.”

Congratulations SEES PTA and thank you for being a leader in building family-school partnerships!


Amy Weinberg, Manager Programs & Partnerships at National PTA.

Visit PTA.org/Excellence to learn more about the School of Excellence program and how your PTA can earn the designation.