Start Planning for Take Your Family to School Week

National PTA’s Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW) is Feb. 11-17, 2017. The week is timed to honor our Founder’s Day (Feb. 13) and celebrate PTA’s long legacy of family engagement. Although February seems far away, with the holidays coming up it will be here before you know it! Now is a great time to start planning your Take Your Family to School Week celebrations.

Take Your Family to School Week is a great time to:

  • Engage the whole family in reading activities to support children’s literacy skills and help foster a love of reading.
  • Empower families with tools to adopt more active, healthy lifestyles.
  • Showcase how students use technology in the classroom, help close the homework gap by increasing technology access and digital learning at home and support families in creating safe digital environments through the Smart Talk.

This year, in partnership with Chrysler Pacifica and Google Chromebooks, National PTA will provide 55 local PTAs with $1000 to host a Take Your Family to School Week event. All grant recipients must be in good-standing with their State PTA and be a 501(c)(3) organization. Below are four quick steps to take advantage of this opportunity:

  1. Visit to download the grant requirements and a practice grant application.
  2. Use the practice application to design your Take Your Family to School Week event and to save your great ideas.
  • The grant application page will automatically refresh if it is left open. Please use the word document to craft your event and then copy and paste when you are ready to submit.
  1. Complete the grant application by Friday, Nov. 17 to be considered for a $1,000 Take Your Family to School Week Grant.
  2. Celebrate Take Your Family to School Week with hundreds of other PTAs across the country Feb. 11-17, 2017.

A Take Your Family to School Week toolkit will be made available to all PTAs hosting an event during the week. This digital toolkit will include documents that help you plan, promote and report the success of your event. Be on the lookout for helpful resources around your Winter Holiday Break.

National PTA encourages all PTAs to participate in this opportunity and to begin planning for Take Your Family to School Week!

Not Your Momma’s PTA

This is my first year in any kind of Parent Teacher Association (PTA). In years past I would see the slips come home to sign up for the PTA and they would get tossed in the trash. In my head I had this idea of what the PTA was and I definitely didn’t fit into that mold: I’m not a stay at home mom and able to go to every function. I’m BUSY!

As I went to register my son for 3rd grade this year as with the previous years I tried to avoid eye contact with the moms manning the PTA table. They, however, had a different idea. They were raffling off prizes for the people who signed up at registration, which caught my son’s eye. As he dragged me over to the PTA table, there was a woman sitting there with a huge smile on her face who greeted us and started talking about the “new” direction of Florence Community PTA. I listened and was interested but didn’t sign up. I knew that I wanted to help the kids of our community because I could see that not every child was as fortunate as my child.  Fast forward to the first PTA meeting of the year, on of my mom friends convinced me to attend my first PTA meeting…and I knew I had to go because she was much busier than me!  I walked into the meeting expecting the stereotypical PTA with the home baked cookies and 50s styled dresses, but what I got was the polar opposite.

That woman from the PTA table at registration was bouncing around the room greeting people as they walked in with that same huge smile she had during the raffle. As the meeting was called to order I quickly realized that that woman was the PTA president. She shared her passion to make the PTA a champion for the kids. There was something about her passion that helped inspire the group – myself included. There were a few topics being discussed that I chimed in on and after the meeting our president came and talked to me for a few minutes about a couple of projects. In those few minutes I learned more about what the PTA was really about than I could have ever have imagined. This group of individuals were some of the most genuine people I had ever met and were nothing like I had previously imagined the PTA to be. During that meeting, the changed how I saw the PTA. It was clear that they were kind, loving and supportive of one another.

As time went on I became more and more involved with PTA projects. Due to a situation that had happened with my son coming home without his coat several times, I organized a coat drive through my employer to donate all the coats through the PTA. A couple of weeks prior to the meeting where the coats would be presented to the PTA, the president and I ran into each other while volunteering at the school. She told me that there was a need for a new secretary as the current one would be resigning. She told me that she loved my passion for the kids and my desire to make sure no child went without care and attention. She also told me to think about throwing my hat in the ring. I went home and thought about how the PTA could change the lives of kids in our community and came to that next meeting with an overwhelming since of belonging. I knew that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.

I have now coined the phrase that Florence Community PTA is “Not your Momma’s PTA”. We do so much more than sit around, talk and bake cookies despite the stereotypes that exist. This group of men and women have done so much to bring the families and community together to rally around our children. I am now proud to say I am a member of Florence Community PTA.

This blog was submitted by Sarah Nunez, a local leader at Florence Community PTA.

The Rewards of Spring: Fundraising

(Sponsored Post)  For many PTAs, Spring is a time of finishing the school year strong by continuing to support the school and its students so the students are well prepared for the next grade.  PTA plays such a critical role in that by helping to provide programs, curriculum and other opportunities that would not otherwise be available to many students.  With school budgets continuing to tighten across the country, the question is typically not “what programs should we provide our students”, but rather “how will we fund them?”

Schools earn funding from a number of sources throughout the year.  Once source that can make an even larger impact beyond the funding the school may expect is fundraising.  Now, you may be thinking to yourself “Our families are burnt out on fundraising and cannot support another one”.  This is where Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. can step in and help.

Back in 2012, Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. set out find an effective way to further give back to communities.  What they built is a cutting edge fundraising program call Schwan’s Cares that is revolutionizing the way schools raise funds and reinventing the perception volunteers have about fundraising.

A school in Illinois had this to say:

“The Schwan’s Cares™ fundraising program was a huge success for our school.  As a small-town school, it can often be difficult to raise money to keep the curriculum current.  Through the generosity of our school families and community, we were able to raise over $7700 this past year.  Schwan’s, along with other fundraisers, allowed us to purchase a new English/Language Arts curriculum for our students.”

The Schwan’s Cares program is an online fundraising program in which your PTA supporters shop from the over 300 delicious foods from Schwan’s Home Service, Inc with up to 40% of each purchase going back to the group.  Schwan’s takes fundraising a step further by also taking the orders, delivering the orders to each supporter and handling the cash.  The foundation this program was built on was to give back to communities by providing a seamless, effective program that eliminates the hassles associated with more traditional forms of fundraising. As a result, the Schwan’s Cares program has hosted over 14,000 campaigns and have helped give back over $11M to communities.

You know your PTA and school families better than anyone. If now is not the appropriate time to run a new fundraising campaign then there is no need to push it.  However, if your PTA or school could still use funding for end of year celebrations, additional program or curriculum – the Schwan’s Cares program might just be the perfect solution at this point in the year.

To learn more about the Schwan’s Cares program – please visit

Robb Kaufenberg is the Manager of Fundraising Operations for the Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. fundraising program Schwan’s Cares.



Why I Volunteer


Even at 40 years old, I still get scared. Driving out of town to a place I have never been before, going to exercise class for the first time, even flying on airplanes can give me a little anxiety. I say things to myself like:

  • You’re going to get lost.
  • You’re going to look stupid.
  • This plane could go down and there are still wet clothes in the washing machine.

But when my kids are scared I hear myself say things like:

  • This is an adventure!
  • You’ll make new friends!
  • Flying is safer than driving!

I know the right things to say to help them be brave, but I don’t say those things to myself.

The first time I volunteered to help with a PTA function, I was nervous. I had offered to help mount artwork for the Reflections program, only to find out the other volunteers were getting together at 11 a.m. at the school (But I work fulltime downtown?!).

I felt I couldn’t back out so I used vacation time. I got my orange “Volunteer” sticker at the office and met the other volunteers for the first time. They showed me where the PTA room was and we worked together for a couple of hours marveling at the little masterpieces. I remember finding my daughter’s painting in a pile with other kindergarten pieces and taping it to black paper. It was a fun day.

A few months later, I decided I would give volunteering another try. I showed up at the spring Carnival (not knowing anyone) and I was assigned to the cash register at the concessions table. I had worked the cash register one time as an employee at Bed, Bath & Beyond and I was a disaster (they kept me in the bedding department after that).

The cash register should have been the worst assignment at the PTA event. Except it wasn’t. Instead, I stood around and chatted with other moms and we all laughed every time I had to do math in my head and tried to count change. I made a lot of mistakes. But no one said I was stupid and they didn’t audit my register. People even thanked me for volunteering. After that, I knew I could do anything.

Fast forward five years and I still volunteer at most PTA events. And now that my kids are older, they always come with me. I still work full time, but I look forward to volunteering in the evening and on the weekends because I know I can bring my kids with me. I don’t have to sacrifice time with them in order to be involved at their school. And they can help too! (Or they can at least run around the cafeteria with their friends while the moms and dads are working.) Most importantly, I have made a lot of friends and my kids are friends with their kids.

If you have never volunteered for PTA, know this: It’s an adventure and you’ll make new friends! The wet clothes in the washing machine can wait.

Heather Zirke is the president of Grindstone PTA and mom to Aurelia, a fourth grader, and Kip, a second grader.

Summer Tips for Incoming PTA Leaders


Summer vacation is here! While these months can be filled with road trips to the beach, summer camps, long nights and lots of “R&R” time—summer is also an opportunity to plan a smooth transition into the upcoming school year. Just as teachers must plan the next school year’s curriculum, PTA leaders have an assignment of their own, too.

At the end of their term, outgoing leaders transfer their procedures books to the incoming leaders. Even if an outgoing leader thinks the information is of no value, with these books you will have a better idea of what was done in the past and how the PTA went about doing it. Outgoing leaders can also offer valuable insight on things yet to be done, what they would do better and suggestions on how to be more effective and efficient in the performance of your new duties. Take notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Start planning now for your own smooth transition into office. Here are a few tips for incoming local leaders to consider:

Share contact information with outgoing leaders and set up a directory to be and remain connected. With previous leaders’ contact information, you’ll be able to reach out for additional support throughout the year or to ask for insight as problems arise.

Review procedures books given to you from outgoing leaders. If there are none, do not worry; start one by getting and reading your local unit bylaws. The PTA unit’s secretary should have a copy. If you can’t find it, call your state/congress office; they’ll be happy to mail or email you one.

Visit and review the sections that may apply to your new position.  If you don’t see your position listed, the information this website contains is of value to the entire PTA board.  Even if you’re an experienced PTA leader, it is worth reviewing every year as it is updated with the most current information and trends to help you and your unit to be successful.

Check out your state PTA’s website.  They may have information that can start you off on the right foot for the year. For example, templates, training opportunities, resources, program materials, newsletters, etc. You might find ways to connect with your state through Facebook, Instagram, Legislative Alerts, Twitter, etc.

Take advantage of the e-learning courses. National PTA offers online training courses to help you grow as a leader at Although you may want to start with what you’ll need for your own PTA position, please take all courses. As a board member, it’s important to know the role of each position and what to expect.

Meet with your school principal to learn about school goals and objectives for the incoming year. Share with the principal the programs the PTA would like to hold (Reflections, Family Reading Experience Powered by Kindle, Healthy Lifestyles, Fire Up Your Feet, Take Your Family to School Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, Connect for Respect, etc.) and how these programs will support the goals and objectives of the school. Think about becoming a School of Excellence in the process!

Set up a communications plan. Newsletters and social media keep everyone informed, engaged and proud of what the PTA is doing. Go through your PTA’s goals, identify specific strategies your PTA or committee will use to achieve each goal and then create a step-by-step plan for each strategy. This is key to growing membership and gaining members and community support.

Have a successful PTA year and thank you so much for your dedication and commitment to the mission of PTA!

Ivelisse Castro is a national service representative at National PTA.







Take Your Family to School Week 2016: Rock Out with PTA

2016 TYFTSW Poster_FINAL-1Schools across the nation took part in our Rock n’ Roll theme as they participated in this year’s Take Your Family to School Week (TYFTSW). From Feb.15-19, 2016 National PTA invited families and schools to “Rock Out with PTA” and celebrate your student rock stars.

We love providing you with ideas for themed events to host. The PTA programs are to help enhance the engagement between parents, students and teachers. A few popular events during TYFTSW that resonated with you were Connect for Respect (C4R), student safety and supporting student success.

The main goal of National PTA’s Connect for Respect (C4R) Program is to prevent bullying both inside and outside of schools. C4R events connect parent and teachers and facilitates their working together to achieve that goal. Our student safety program can be conducted by using National PTA’s Safety Toolkit, which provides overall physical safety tips for children. Last but not least, let’s not forget supporting student success! Showcasing student accomplishments and marking any progress they have made can really boost children’s self-esteem and make them want to continue achieving great things. Hopefully, with the help of our great themed events, we can increase awareness of the importance of education, health and wellness and safety.

During this year’s #TYFTSW16, PTAs took our event ideas and made them their own. All throughout the week, schools engaged in various fun activities, from talent shows to lively science nights. All of the PTAs really out-did themselves this year!

A theme can add a creative twist to your event. It can help boost the engagement of your students and their parents. And that’s what made the events very creative. Barry Pathfinder PTA, located in Kansas City, Mo., had a Star Wars themed roller skating night and a 50s sock hop family drive-in movie night. Wow! In Raleigh, N.C., Centennial Campus Middle School PTSA had a pretty far-out week with their groovy-themed book fair. Now that’s neat!

These schools were able to address serious topics with their amazing, welcoming themes. Barry Pathfinder PTA’s focus was increasing parental engagement. To do so, in addition to their Star Wars and 50s sock hop events, they served a delicious breakfast to students and their parents and informed them of their children’s daily scholastic routine. Centennial Campus Middle School PTSA focused on anti-bullying, test taking and anxiety and online safety alongside their “groovy” book fair. With the assistance of N.C. House Representative Rosa Gill and NCPTA President Kelly Langston, their message came across loud and clear to both parents and students.

Nothing brings a community together better than dancing, food and music. Grafenwoehr Elementary School PTA, located in Grafenwoehr, Germany, had the right idea by having a Just Dance family dance-a-thon! Their main focus was health and wellness. With that much moving around, by end of the night everyone enjoyed themselves and felt energized. A jamboree will do the job as well. That was Racine, Wis. Jerstad-Agerholm Middle School PTSA’s idea. They took the all-inclusive party route and joined the elementary and middle schoolers together, along with their parents, to have a fun-filled day with arts and crafts, food, games and raffles.

TYFTSW events help to get your students and their parents on the same page. It’s better for everyone—students, parents, teachers and schools—when parents understand what their child is learning, especially when a student needs help with their homework. A night filled with math and literacy activities, a student art gallery and science learning are all great ways to get parents involved and up-to-date. Marigny Elementary PTA did just that! They welcomed parents to a night of fun learning to give parents ideas they can use to keep learning going at home for their kids.

Ultimately, the goal of PTA programs is team work. After all, they say it takes a village to raise a child. Parents and teachers have to make a unified effort in order to develop a better learning environment for the children. Participating in your school’s Take Your Family to School Week can get the ball rolling in the right direction! We can’t wait to see what great themes you come up with next year!

Ebony Scott is the communications intern at National PTA.

Middle School Fundraising: Lessons Learned


Northhampton Area Middle School 2 (002)Northampton Middle School, in Lehigh Valley, Pa., is fortunate to have a dedicated group of PTA volunteers and a modern, new facility. With only one middle school serving the entire borough, it’s a tight-knit community. However, with tightening visitor regulations for the security of students and faculty, the PTA experienced an unintended consequence—a significant barrier to getting volunteers into the building.

Joan Begliomini with Northampton’s PTA said it is a huge hurdle. While everyone wants the school community to be protected, their security process complicates fundraising and program efforts.

“All volunteers now face the same level of scrutiny as school employees,” Joan says. “They must go through a state police check, they must have had a documented negative Tuberculosis test and they either must have lived here for longer than 10 years or they must be cleared by the FBI.”

Northampton PTA has a legacy of providing countless programs and services that support student success, help the teachers and enrich their community. Fundraising helps to make these programs possible.

“We pay for agenda books for the entire student body,” says Joan. “We support teacher requests on a rolling basis. We provide the rewards tied to the school-wide anti-bullying program. Then there’s the whole Teacher Appreciation Week! It’s a lot, and it’s important, and we need to generate the money to do it all.”

Given the stringent security measures, it may not be surprising that the PTA turned to an online fundraising platform from Schwan’s Cares that requires very little volunteer support.

Joan says it’s an easy, straight-forward fundraiser.

“We absolutely love it,” says Joan. “Everything is delivered directly to people’s homes. We don’t have to take possession of inventory, sort out the orders, hope that people will pick it all up on time.”

Even with an easy fundraiser like Schwan’s Cares, Joan cautions that PTAs should not to forget the other big hurdle that comes with a middle school population—the kids themselves.

Through trial and error, Northampton PTA landed on two essential tactics that have proven effective for promoting the fundraising campaign directly to parents and caregivers:

  1. Take advantage of parent-teacher conferences. At Northampton, schoolwide parent teacher conferences occur in October. The PTA makes sure they have welcoming volunteers to greet parents as they arrive and give each visitor information about the Schwan’s Cares fundraising campaign.
  2. Use social media. Facebook has been critical to the Northampton PTA’s fundraising success. It allows them to update the school community and answer questions in real time. While they have approximately 150 paid members—which includes 100% teacher participation, Joan proudly notes—there are 374 followers on their Facebook page. So they know they can reach more of their school families through social media than they would through their member list.

Northampton PTA still asks the school to remind students about their fundraiser in the morning announcements during the active campaign, as well as the annuity period [with Schwan’s].

“We know it probably goes in one ear and out the other with the kids,” says Joan. “But the teachers do listen closely, and we have had wonderful teacher participation in the fundraiser as a result! The announcement is a little trigger to remind the teachers, so we still do it.”

Joan offers one final piece of advice for all the fellow middle school PTAs out there. “Find a teacher representative who truly embraces your PTA. At our school, it’s Mrs. Transue, the 8th grade science teacher. She advocates for all the other teachers to join the PTA, always attends our PTA meetings and dutifully participates in our fundraisers like the Schwan’s Cares campaign.”

For more info about the fundraising opportunities and discounts available to schools and PTA members through Schwan’s Home Service, visit

Kris Carey Prevatte is the Associate Director of Corporate Alliances for National PTA and a former local PTA president in Maryland.

Schwan’s Cares is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Sch Cares-PRI_Boxed-RedSince 1952, Schwan’s Home Delivery has helped families share delicious, home-style meals. Schwan’s Home Delivery offers home delivery of over 350 foods—all made with premium ingredients and requiring simple prep. With Schwan’s Cares, your PTA supporters enjoy all of Schwan’s delicious foods, and your organization earns up to 40% back on every purchase during your 45-day fundraising campaign, and 5% back for the next 90 days. Schwan’s Cares is hands-free: you manage your fundraiser entirely online, your supporters order online or by phone, and Schwan’s Home Delivery will deliver directly to each supporter’s door. You’ll never need to deliver food or collect money. Start your campaign today by visiting

Small, but Mighty Voice for PTA


(Left to right): Ramstad PTA Officers: President Nancy Tschetter, Treasurer Traci Barker, Secretary Jen Schultz

In towns across America, PTA volunteers are working tirelessly to support their community’s students, faculty and families. National PTA’s Kris Carey Prevatte shares this story of how one small, but mighty PTA in North Dakota—with a highly transient military population—has cracked the code on managing an online fundraiser so their PTA gets the resources they need to do great things.

Nany Tschetter, Traci Barker and Jen Schultz could be mistaken for sisters. They look alike, they have the same cheerful “let’s do this!” demeanor, and they often finish each other’s sentences. Together, they run the Erik Ramstad Middle School PTA.

Though their PTA has more than 100 paid members, a combination of factors have contributed to a common reality facing local PTA leaders—a few must do the work of many.

Still, Ramstad PTA has a reputation for providing excellent and consistent support through its work in serving meals for the entire faculty, running open houses, hosting an annual 8th grade dance, funding grants to teachers, sponsoring after school clubs and Junior Achievement, an annual PTA Founder’s Day luncheon and more.

Like many PTAs, Ramstad has prioritized helping those in need. The PTA officers and the school administration have worked out a discreet way to eliminate barriers.

“If a kid wants to play soccer but can’t afford cleats, we quietly can fill that need,” says Nancy. “We have the blessing of our membership to do this within a certain threshold, and [the members] know that they won’t ever get details on who got what.”

It takes a lot of funds to provide these programs, which means fundraising is critical to help where help is needed. During a recent interview by phone, I asked Nancy, Traci and Jen about their PTA’s fundraising committee and if they could connect me with their fundraising chair. For a moment, there was silence on the line; then gales of laughter.

Nancy caught her breath first and said, “We don’t have committees. We are the committee!” They explained that the three of them meet monthly and stay connected through group texts.

“When something for the PTA comes up, we text each other and figure out which of us can handle it,” said Traci. “With the bigger projects, we try to evenly divide the work.

To keep things simple, the trio is extremely selective about the fundraisers they launch. For the past several years, their top performing fundraiser has been through Schwan’s Cares.

“The first year we did the online fundraiser with Schwan’s, my daughter happened to be president of the student council,” said Nancy. She rallied the other kids to get their parents involved and also got a social media campaign going among her classmates promoting the fundraiser. Having a student-to-student promotional element gave it extra oomph.”

Traci noted, “We have a lot of military families and this kind of online campaign works well because we frequently see kids coming and going within a single school year. So families were comfortable ordering the products knowing they could have them delivered wherever they were going to be. Also, their extended family members and friends spread out across the country could order from Schwan’s and all be contributing to Ramstad’s fundraiser.”

Jen added, “Another thing that’s awesome about the [Schwan’s] fundraiser is that you don’t need to go door to door. You can pull up the fundraising order page from your phone and order easily from anywhere. We love it.”

After doing the same fundraiser for a few years, the group has some tips for running a Schwan’s Cares online fundraiser:

  • Timing matters. “Don’t start this campaign during back to school time!” cautioned Jen. “Between school clothes, supplies and writing all those checks for this fee and that fee, parents are out of money—and they’re emotionally spent, too.” The group favors a pre-holiday November start. “People can load up on great foods to have in the freezer for the holiday hosting season,” added Traci.
  • Incentives can improve results. The first year, the PTA dangled fancy incentives, such as gift cards and speakers as a motivator for families to hit big fundraising goals. The PTA sent home printed information about the fundraiser and the incentives, after piggybacking off a school event to get people excited about how the funds raised would be used in the school. The second year, the PTA didn’t offer incentives and their revenue dropped.
  • School support makes a world of difference. “Our principal Ione Sautner and our librarian Carla Luehe are amazing!” Nancy said. “Carla, for example, carved out time with the students at the start of our campaign to show them the fundraising page on the website and how to navigate the site. We believe it made a huge difference in the participation rate because the students could show their parents at home.” Ione has empowered the PTA to do a few “robo calls” during the school year, and the PTA always does a call to all parents (not just PTA members) at the start of their Schwan’s Cares campaign.”
  • The annuity period is crucial. With this fundraiser, there is an active campaign and then an annuity period where you still earn a percent of all the sales from customers related to your campaign. “If your initial campaign isn’t as successful as you wanted, don’t be too alarmed,” said Nancy. “We raised just as much money during the annuity period and that has been huge for us. Repeat business is what made this fundraiser so successful.”
  • Consider using one main campaign page. “We have done it where each student’s family had their individual fundraising pages,” said Nancy. “It was easier on everyone to do the one main page. The individual ask is done in a call or email and then you have the link, so you can personalize the ask.”

For more info about fundraising opportunities and discounts available to schools and PTA members through Schwan’s Home Service, visit


Kris Carey Prevatte is the associate director of corporate alliances for National PTA and a former local PTA president in Maryland.

About Schwan’s Cares, an official National PTA Member Benefit Provider

Schwan’s Cares is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Since 1952, Schwan’s Home Delivery has helped families share delicious, home-style meals. Schwan’s Home Delivery offers home delivery of over 350 foods—all made with premium ingredients and requiring simple prep. With Schwan’s Cares, your PTA supporters enjoy all of Schwan’s delicious foods, and your organization earns up to 40% back on every purchase during your 45-day fundraising campaign, and 5% back for the next 90 days. Schwan’s Cares is hands-free: you manage your fundraiser entirely online, your supporters order online or by phone, and Schwan’s Home Delivery will deliver directly to each supporter’s door. You’ll never need to deliver food or collect money. Start your campaign today by visiting

Laura’s Corner: Our Children Are Counting on Us

Copyright 2014 Lifetouch National School Studios, IncWelcome to my new corner of the blog!

I am honored to serve as the 54th president of National PTA and am excited about this opportunity to strengthen our mission to make every child’s potential a reality.

I look forward to connecting and working with you—our members—to achieve this goal.

PTA brings together families, educators, business and community leaders to solve the toughest problems and is a powerful voice for all children from schools and local communities to state legislatures and the halls of Congress.

We understand and believe that opportunity starts and ends with access to a great education, and as president, I want to diversify the association’s education platform and strengthen programs that support the whole child.

We can do this together by:

  • Advocating to make sure that all children have a safe place to live, learn and thrive
  • Working to enhance PTA’s STEM and early learning efforts and college and career programs
  • Diving deeper into health issues to meet every child’s physical, social and emotional needs
  • Ensuring that all families are engaged in education and PTA and are at the table to be a voice for their and all children

In Laura’s Corner, I will share my experiences as I visit communities across the country and meet the people who are making a difference every day for our nation’s children and schools.

You can also follow me on Twitter @PTALauraBay and share your questions, concerns, suggestions and activities. I want to know the positive strides you are making in your schools and communities and the challenges you face in advocating for every child.

Thank you for your support and your commitment to PTA! And thank you for all that you do for our children!

Laura Bay is National PTA President.

Why We Need Dads

The following blog post was originally posted on the website for Westchester Magazine. To view the original article, click here.

Elijah-and-David-(1024x681)-(1024x681)Thirteen-year-old Donovan had always been a good student. But when he hit the seventh grade, his grades started slipping, and he began getting detentions. One day, his mother, who was raising her son alone after leaving an abusive marriage, received a call from his principal: Donovan had punched a classmate in the eye and was going to be suspended. Like many children without an actively engaged father or father figure, Donovan had begun tuning out—and acting up.

“Children who are well-bonded and loved and whose fathers are involved tend to have fewer behavioral problems, are more likely to have higher self-esteem, and develop better relationships both with their peers and romantically,” says psychotherapist Alison Varianides, executive director of Westchester Psychotherapy in Sleepy Hollow.

Study after study bears this out, and “when you look at the [academic] achievement measurements, you find in every study that when a male [parent or father figure] is actively engaged, those measuring sticks come out a little higher,” says Lex Kessler, male engagement chair for the Westchester-East Putnam Region (W-EPR) PTA.

According to research from the US Department of Education, children with actively involved fathers are 43 percent more likely to earn A’s in school and 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade than those without engaged dads. Other studies have shown that children with involved fathers graduate at higher rates, score higher on standardized tests, and have a more positive attitude towards school.

They’re also less likely to have problems with drugs or alcohol, and, according to a study published in the UK journal The Lancet in 2003, children of single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to commit suicide. According to the US Census Bureau, 90 percent of homeless children and runaways are from fatherless homes, and, according to the Center for Disease Control, 85 percent of kids who exhibit behavior disorders come from fatherless homes. Studies have also shown that kids with a positive father figure are 80 percent less likely to land in jail and 75 percent less likely to conceive a child outside of marriage. Even when a child is grown, having had an actively involved male figure during childhood continues to pay dividends, leading to higher levels of success in their careers; a better chance of having a strong, lasting marriage; and the ability to handle stress.

A Model Dad
Fathers influence their kids’ lives in many ways—first and foremost by being a role model. “The role of a father, especially when it comes to boys, is teaching what it means to be a man and providing a good, healthy model for the child,” says Bob Milich, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Croton-on-Hudson. “Somebody who can be effective at discipline, but not necessarily punishment—setting limits and being consistent in a warm, supportive manner.”

It is well known that a child, especially a son, will emulate and explore his father’s interests in things like sports teams and personal style. But Varianides believes a father’s greatest impact on his son’s life may be in the child’s emotional development. “Boys look to their fathers for how they share their emotions and what they should do in terms of masculinity,” she says.

Dr. Milich agrees. “A father’s role in teaching, especially boys, appropriate emotional expression is very important,” he says.

Likewise, “If you have a father who is not a good role model, then that is what a child will integrate,” says Dr. Milich. “They will follow in those steps.”  Alex Gonzales-Harsha, a Port Chester resident, former Somers High School student, and Cornell graduate who is now in graduate school at Rutgers, says that a father who’s a great role model “leaves no doubt in your mind that you can also become a good man, and also leaves no doubt that he will support you along the way.”

A father can be very involved in his child’s life, even if he doesn’t live under the same roof, as in the case of divorced parents. “As a divorced parent that has a successful co-parenting relationship with my ex-husband, I see how having my son’s father as an active and involved dad truly benefits my son,” says Antoinette Darden-Cintron, W-ERP PTA region director, whose 13-year-old son, Elijah, is a student at Woodlands Middle School in Greenburgh.  “My son is well-rounded, smart, fun, and a great student. Having his father involved in his school life is integral to his development.”

But what about fathers who are abusive or neglectful, or divorced mothers who don’t have such cordial relationships with their ex-husbands? “I would say it is better for a child to not have a father figure at all rather than a negative one,” says Varianides. “While the absence of something leaves you questioning and trying to figure out how you’re supposed to create these relationships and roles, that’s better than growing up in an abusive household or having a father with substance abuse [problems]. Growing up with that can lead to a host of issues.”

Daddys’ Girls
A father’s job as role model for his children is not limited to his son, says Kessler. “A father is just as important in a daughter’s life.”

Girls look to their fathers for protection, and also to see how a man should treat a woman, according to Varianides. “The first relationship they see is Mom and Dad. If a young girl sees her father always being respectful of her mother, always being there and loving her, then she will want that in a relationship as well,” she says. “But if she grows up without a father figure, she’s left to figure it out on her own and may end up in an abusive relationship because she doesn’t know what a good one looks like.”

Kessler concurs: “Even prior to kindergarten, the father is providing that role model of a healthy, loving, respectful relationship that a woman will be searching for later in life.”

What Makes Men Different?
“There is an emotional difference in the way fathers parent,” says Stacey Slater, a child psychologist in Chappaqua. “They often have a more matter-of-fact approach” than mothers. This is why fathers tend to hold children to limits and often play the role of disciplinarian.

“The father’s ability to build character and model character traits [can be] different than the mother’s. In most relationships, the father and mother have complementary character traits,” says Kessler. “Males are generally a little more black-and-white and women are a lot more in the gray.”

Ultimately, it’s the partnership of the mother and father that can have the strongest effect. “When a father is involved in a child’s education, even just to the extent of saying, ‘How’d you do on the test?’ at the dinner table, those children will do better in school,” says Kessler. “This is a scientific fact that’s been proven and re-proven.”

Today’s Dads
According to a 2011 Census Bureau report, only 20 percent of American households were married couples with children, down from approximately 25 percent in 2000 and 43 percent in 1950. These days, kids may have a stay-at-home dad, a single dad, two full-time working parents, or a stepdad. Or a child may have two dads. “American families are changing so much that kids are looking to both of their parents [equally] now for how they should develop and what roles they should have,” says Varianides. “Fathers are becoming as involved and as important a part of everyday family life as mothers.”

It’s a whole different dynamic, according to Kessler. “Now I’ve got two parents both involved. That’s a huge statement, rather than,  ‘one of my parents cares and one doesn’t.’”

David Neilsen is a PTA dad.