Advocacy Spotlight: Gun Violence Prevention

Gun violence is such an overwhelming issue in our nation, it can be paralyzing to think about. How can you as one parent, or even as one PTA unit, make a difference? Thankfully, there are PTAs who have been paving the way, and we had the chance to talk with three representatives from Mercer Island PTA Council, Lori Cohen-Sanford, Erin Gurney, and Gwen Loosmore.

Mercer Island PTA Council has been advocating for gun violence prevention since 2018. They shared with us their lessons learned and advice for like-minded groups.

What do families need to know about gun violence and gun violence prevention?

Gun violence is the second leading cause of death for youth in our country. Over half of those gun deaths are suicides. Everyone has a role in gun violence prevention. If families do own guns, they need to make sure they are safely stored. Families need to feel comfortable asking if there are guns in the home, when their children go for a playdate– just like they would share about any allergies or ask about pets or swimming pool safety.

What strategies have you found most effective when advocating for gun violence prevention?

It’s crucial to know your platform. Familiarize yourself with National PTA’s position statement. Mercer Island PTA Council has made a habit of laminating them and bringing them everywhere!

Don’t forget that PTA is an advocacy association. We speak on behalf of all children ESPECIALLY on behalf of children’s safety. We have the authority as PTA members to advocate for these positions. It’s helpful to have or establish a state platform, as well. We have found that parents want to act, so it’s helpful to give them something to do – specific bills to support, newsletters to read, encouragement to ask about guns in the home at playdates, etc. We really say that we are doing the advocacy work one conversation at a time. It’s also important to remember that every parent wants the violence to stop. There is a lot of common ground and we need to normalize the conversation around firearms in our society.

What advice do you have for PTAs who want to make gun violence prevention a higher priority in their school, district or state?

Talking about gun violence can make a lot of people nervous because it’s become a political issue in our country and we don’t want our schools to become split by political divides. The challenge here is to remind people that PTA is an advocacy organization and we’re advocating for student safety. What we are trying to do is change the culture in how we talk about gun violence prevention. Even gun owners are supportive of a lot of these measures.

Find like-minded parents and get organized. Consider going to non-PTA gun violence prevention organizations, like the Brady Campaign or Moms Demand, to find other local parents who share your passion.

Overcommunicate. If your leadership is concerned keep them informed of everything you’re doing, before you do it, share why, and how it falls into National PTA’s mission. National PTA already has a position statement on gun violence, and a website on family resources for school safety and questions you can start with that you KNOW falls within what PTA has authorized – start there!

Every community, every PTA, every individual has a specific set of experiences and what works for Mercer Island PTA Council might not everywhere. However, what is absolutely universal is people need to feel empowered and they need to know that they have the power to create change if they bring themselves together around this issue.

Curious how you can talk to your kids about these issues? Tune in to our podcast, Notes from the Backpack, to hear Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez share tips on talking to your children about gun violence in developmentally appropriate ways!

 

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.

 

Making Drinking Water Fun! With a Healthy Hydration Event

SPOTLIGHT: Pope PTA (Puyallup, Wash.)

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.

“Try new things ‘cuz they might taste good!” was the jingle I sang from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood as the masses of students taking their water breaks approached the water coolers. The signs on the water coolers piqued their interest as they realized they had a decision to make: Which flavored water recipe would they try first?

Being able to host the Healthy Hydration event was a much-needed boost to our school’s morale, as the beginning of the school year has proven to be a challenge. Our school building is being renovated and expanded this school year, so we are currently displaced to an aging building elsewhere in the district that has led to a host of changes for the students, staff and school community. The announcement of the event generated a lot of positive buzz around the school and the administration was very supportive.

National PTA selected our PTA to receive the grant funding in October, so we had to hit the ground running immediately to plan and execute the event to make sure it happened in November, which is Healthy Lifestyles Month. We attended an online training webinar and scoured National PTA’s website to use their online toolkit.

We also took advantage of our Washington State PTA membership benefit at FedEx to print off any and all materials. We wanted to be sure to reach ALL of our families, so we made sure to translate any customized letters we wrote into Spanish with the help of a Spanish-speaking PTA volunteer.

We ran the Healthy Hydration event in conjunction with our already planned fun-run fundraiser. We decided that a two-day event would work best for our school to limit classroom distraction.

On Day 1, we set up the sugar-beverage education table, a table to hand out free Nestlé water bottles to all students, and a recycling station with recycling infographics. We used the customized banner that came with our grantee kit to have students sign their names as a pledge to drink water. This event ran during the students’ lunch recess.

On Day 2, we ran the fruit-infused water stations during the fun-run event. We used the three recommended recipes: Strawberry & Basil, Cucumber & Mint, and Blueberry & Orange. While the students took their mandatory water breaks, we encouraged each student to try a new recipe each time, as they got to vote on their favorite with the conclusion of the run (Spoiler Alert: the winner was Strawberry & Basil!). At the end of the day, each student took home the recipes they tried to encourage our school families to lead healthier lifestyles.

Take Action


Authored by Victoria Treffry, Pope PTA Co-President in Puyallup, Wash.

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.

 

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.

Excellence in Action: 2019’s Top 3 National PTA Schools of Excellence

Each year, the top three National PTA Schools of Excellence are selected to receive the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awards for demonstrating outstanding success in engaging families in student success and school improvements. These awards are selected by a team of Past National PTA Presidents and are the highest honor National PTA offers for success in family engagement.

The 2019 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst recipients are: Mark Twain Elementary PTA (California) who received the top Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award, Norman Rockwell PTA (Washington) who received a Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit and Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA (Florida) who also received a Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit.

In addition to national recognition, thanks to the generous support of the Hearst Foundation, the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Awardee receives a $2,000 grant for their school and the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Merit Awardees each receive $500 grants for their schools.

We are so pleased to share with you just a snapshot of the fantastic work our 2019 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst recipients put into building and growing family-school partnerships in their communities.

Mark Twain Elementary PTA, California

We were so impressed by the efforts of our 2019 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award winner. Mark Twain Elementary School PTA began their School of Excellence journey with a vision to become a stable organization that leads in engaging with and meeting the needs of all families. The PTA focused on several goals early in their planning process and used these goals to build an organized approach to family-school engagement.

  • Improve leadership and member training, planning and organization
  • Refresh traditional PTA programs and add new ideas
  • Expand funding sources and eliminate inefficient activities
  • Increase school and community engagement

With these in mind, the PTA created an Excellence Team including PTA members, the principal, student support services staff, district communications staff and bilingual speakers. With their team set, the Excellence Team planned to combine refreshed traditions and new activities to best serve their current families.

One example of this combination was Mark Twain Elementary School PTA’s re-themed tradition: JOG-A-THON 2019: Run Toward Your Future. Students wore college gear or a shirt expressing their desired career path. Students were invited to help create a muraled billboard with miniature squares depicting their future career plans.

Mark Twain Elementary School PTA also launched several new events and programs, including their first-ever PTA College and Career Readiness Month in March with a combined Read Across America/Career Day. During the latter, the PTA invited parents to both read books and speak about their careers. In the usually female-heavy volunteer base, four new dads showed up and declared they would return next year.

The survey results Mark Twain Elementary School PTA eventually collected reflect just how much work went into achieving excellence. 100% of the year-end survey questions reflected an increase in the ‘always’ rating and 95% of questions showed ‘always’ selected greater than 50% of the time. The PTA even saw an 11% increase in the number of surveys submitted at year-end!

Norman Rockwell PTA, Washington

Norman Rockwell PTA, one of our two 2019 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit winners, highlighted communication as the key to their success in the School of Excellence program.

The PTA’s emphasis on communication provided a deeper understanding of school programs, educated parents on transitioning students between grade levels and created more consistent communication to reach families where they were.

After a positive response to new, multi-lingual ‘Welcome’ signs, the Norman Rockwell PTA knew they needed to capitalize on their momentum towards consistent communication. To do so, the PTA decided to foster their partnership with the principal’s ‘Coffee with Mr. Clark’, a monthly meeting for families to discuss important topics with the principal in an open, casual Q & A format.

The PTA found this format was especially useful as it made it easy for families to be heard, while also allowing parents and the principal to work towards a common understanding. Their work to foster this partnership paid off and ‘Coffee with Mr. Clark’ reached at least 50 parents. Norman Rockwell PTA hopes to double attendance next year.

Norman Rockwell PTA’s focus on communication did not stop with coffee, however. The PTA also worked to involve parents in planning for students transitioning between grade levels. Using National PTA’s Parent’s Guides to Student Success, the Beagle Bugle, Norman Rockwell PTA’s weekly newsletter, featured one grade level for two weeks and linked parents to an overview of key topics children learn in their English literacy and math classrooms. Each article presented activities for families to do at home to ensure students meet core expectations and support academic standards. The PTA went one step further and, before publishing the content, met with teacher groups to review the content and ensure their grade level met the outlined standards.

The concentrated effort Norman Rockwell PTA placed on communication did not go unnoticed in their state. Due to the PTAs efforts, the Washington PTA awarded Norman Rockwell PTA the Silver Award of Excellence for Outstanding Communication Strategy, an award that recognizes local PTAs for their use of multiple forms of communication.

Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA, Florida

Our second 2019 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit winner, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA in Florida, decided to focus on improving the education of their students by engaging more families during their School of Excellence program year. To accomplish this, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA hosted events and programs that helped families to get to know and relate with one another both in and out of school.

One successful program was Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA involvement in the National PTA Reflections art program. The PTA had a total of 52 entries in visual arts and literature and have two became district level Reflections winners.

To further acknowledge the Reflections participants, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA hosted an awards ceremony and invited parents to attend and recognize their children, as well as other participants. Following the Reflections competition, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA hosted an art show for all second through fifth grade students. Parents were able to walk through a gallery filled with many colorful masterpieces and talk amongst each other.

Additionally, the PTA hosted a family night at the local ice arena for families to come together and socialize, as well as a family night with the Miami Heat basketball team, which included a performance by the Jane S. Roberts K8 Center band students before the game.

The impact of these events was reflected in end of the year survey results, which showed a 26% increase in responses relating to encouraging families to volunteer, showing respect to all families, listening to families concerns and establishing policies to recognize diversity.

Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA also worked to strengthen their school’s presence in the community. The PTA reached out to a few organizations to begin building partnerships. At the first PTSA meeting, the PTA invited a financial planner to give a presentation to families in attendance. Additionally, in the school’s main office, the PTA put together a parent resource center that provided families with valuable information from various organizations in the community. In partnership with the Student Council, the school and PTA also gave back to the local community with a food and toy drive. The PTA’s work to improve community relations was show in end of the year survey data which reflected an average increase of 17% as it relates to community partnerships and resources.

By the end of the School of Excellence program, Jane S. Roberts K8 Center significantly improved their family-school partnerships, made their school community more welcoming and inclusive, increased participation in PTA events and fostered more productive conversations with families. The School of Excellence program allowed Jane S. Roberts K8 Center PTSA to remain aligned with the PTA’s mission to make every student’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering their families and the local community.

Congratulations once again to these amazing PTAs and to all of our 2019-2021 National PTA Schools of Excellence. The work that these PTAs accomplished shows just how much impact a dedicated PTA, school and community can have in just a year’s time.

Take the first step in becoming a nationally-recognized PTA School of Excellence by enrolling now through Oct. 1 at PTA.org/Excellence and visit PTA.org/Hearst for the full narratives our Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awardees.

Email Excellence@PTA.org with any questions.


Ellie Miller, Programs & Partnerships Specialist at National PTA.

Student Data and Privacy: A California PTA Advocacy Story

“What is this, it looks bad?” Is never a text you want to receive, no matter what it’s about, but it’s particularly concerning when it’s about something that will impact your children. But a few savvy PTA leaders sent that exact text to me when I was president of California State PTA in February 2016.

They had been looking on the California Department of Education website for some information for their local legislation conference when they noticed an obscure button at the top of the website which said, “Objection to Student Disclosure.” After reading it, they immediately called and texted me.

I took a quick look and contacted the California State PTA’s Executive Director, Sherry Griffith to do some more in-depth research. We discovered something very unsettling. Due to a federal district court ruling, the court could require information including the name, Social Security number, home address and more data on every student who attended public school in California since Jan. 1, 2008—more than 10 million students—be made available to a court-appointed data analyst so that it could be analyzed for a court case.

Protecting the safety of children and their school records online, while ensuring access to high-quality digital educational opportunities, is critical in the 21st century. Meaningful education data can provide an immense array of benefits to students, parents and teachers. Accurate and accessible student data can assist teachers and families in creating more personalized learning plans to meet the needs of every child. However, no system is perfect, and California State PTA recognized the need for policies that ensure children’s identities are protected online, and families and students have reasonable control over the collection, storage and use of relevant personal education information.

California State PTA has been an advocate of our children since our founding and we have always held a special focus on our most vulnerable children including those receiving special education services, foster and homeless youth and those struggling with poverty. With that, California State PTA had a long history of upholding the privacy rights of its state’s students. It was hard to fathom that a judge would allow such an overexposure of children’s private information.

There wasn’t much time to get the word out to parents that their student not be included in this action—an opt out form had to be filled out, mailed and delivered by the April 1 deadline. California State PTA went into action. We got several key state-wide PTA leaders and staff together to come up with a plan. We would put the word out to encourage parents to opt their children out of the ruling.

We sent an email alert, posted on social media, made phone calls, sent out press releases and took advantage of every communication channel directly to units with clear messaging. We knew that if enough parents took action, our message would be heard loud and clear.

Our campaign was a success, with over a 90% email open rate. Fast and swift action by PTA members, leaders and other parents helped to spread the word far and wide as well. By April 1, the judge had received over 400,000 opt out requests, several letters, news and media coverage and pressure from other agencies to forgo the action and search for another alternative. Due to our quick action, communication and advocacy efforts, the judge chose another method for acquiring the information for the case without students’ personal data being used.

California State PTA believes data, when used with student privacy in mind, can be transformational. Data collected for the California State School Dashboard and Support System and data collected for the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) are just two examples of how data helps educators, schools, parents and communities strengthen learning opportunities and promote equity for children in California. When we work to improve our places of learning with meaningful data while ensuring the privacy and safety of student information, students reap the benefits.


Justine Fischer is the immediate past president of California State PTA.

 

Know an Outstanding PTA Advocate? Nominate Them for the 2019 Advocacy Awards!

PTA advocates go to great lengths to take action for kids. From meeting with local, state and federal decisionmakers to hosting school forums to advocating for legislation and ballot initiatives, PTA advocates consistently go above and beyond to advocate for each and every child.

National PTA recognizes the dedication our advocates through our annual Advocacy Awards which are presented to outstanding individual, state PTA and local PTA advocates at our Legislative Conference. We are now accepting applications for our 2019 Advocacy Awards!

If you are or know of an outstanding youth or individual PTA advocate, or a local unit or state PTA that has done great advocacy work, submit a nomination today! Our four award categories are the Shirly Igo Advocate of the Year Award, Outstanding Youth Advocate of the Year Award, Outstanding State PTA Advocacy Award and Outstanding Local PTA Advocacy Award. Advocacy awardees will receive an all expenses paid trip to National PTA’s 2019 Legislative Conference, March 12-14, where they will have the opportunity to meet with policymakers, hear PTA advocacy success stories and learn how to shape public policy in Washington, DC and at home. Awardees will receive their award and be recognized at LegCon during our Advocacy Awards Dinner.

As in previous years, advocates may self-nominate for the Shirly Igo Advocate of the Year Award and the Outstanding Youth Advocate of the Year Award. Nominations for all awards must be for efforts made in the last year and are due by 11:59 PM EST on Dec. 14. For more information about the 2019 Advocacy Awards, visit PTA.org/AdvocacyAwards.

Submit a nomination today to honor the outstanding advocacy work PTA members have done across the country! We look forward to recognizing our outstanding PTA advocates at LegCon!