8 Steps to Becoming a School of Excellence

Are you looking to step up your PTA’s involvement in school improvement efforts? Are you already doing something meaningful in your school community, and want that hard work to be recognized?

In either case, National PTA’s School of Excellence program offers customized tools to help you to make a substantial, positive impact on school and student success, and earn recognition for your PTA and school.

By enrolling in this program, your PTA and school administrators are making a year-long commitment to identify and implement an action plan for school improvement based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and best practices in Transformative Family Engagement.

Throughout the school year, you will work with a committed team of PTA leaders you choose to bring positive change in family engagement based off feedback from your school community. National PTA will offer support every step of the way.

In the final stage of the program, your work be evaluated and if you’ve created a stronger family-school partnership, you will receive the two-year National PTA School of Excellence distinction, plus the national recognition that comes with an honor of this caliber!

The steps in the program are as follows:

Step #1: Enroll and Gain Support (Enroll by Oct. 1)

Enroll at PTA.org/Excellence and start to build your Excellence Team to improve family-school partnerships through the school year.

Step #2: Deploy Baseline Survey (September-November)

Use National PTA’s Baseline Survey to gain feedback on current family-school partnerships at your school.

Step #3: Set a Shared Objective (September-November)

After you’ve compiled your survey feedback, work with your Excellence Team and school administrators to identify and prioritizing your shared goals for the school year.

Step #4: Complete Initial Application (Submit by Nov. 1)

With one, main focus area and objective in mind, you will complete an online Initial Application with your survey results and plan ahead.

Step #5: Follow Roadmap to Excellence (Throughout School Year)

Using recommendations on the Roadmap to Excellence and in collaboration with your Excellence Team, you will implement actions to address barriers and expand methods for effective family and community engagement throughout the school year.

Step #6: Deploy Final Survey (March-June)

Towards the end of the school year, you will conduct a second survey to gather feedback from your school community to evaluate your progress over the school year.

Step #7: Complete Final Application (Submit by June 1)

With the Final Survey results, you will complete a Final Application that includes a narrative for you to share how you made gains and put theory into practice.

Step #8: Celebrate Your Excellence (August)

In August, Schools of Excellence will be named and honored with this two-year designation. If awarded, you will receive information on how to plan your school and community celebrations as well as a banner to hang prominently at your school. You will also automatically be considered for our Phoebe Apperson Hearst Award, given to our top three Schools of Excellence each year.

Join the ranks of select PTAs who have earned this prestigious distinction. You too can achieve excellence and be known as leading the nation in effective family-school partnerships.

Enrollment for the 2019-2020 School of Excellence program is open through Oct. 1. To learn more and to enroll, visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence. Contact Excellence@PTA.org for more information.


Amy Weinberg, MA is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA.

 

Why Do PTA’s Need Insurance?

Sponsored Post:

Being part of your local PTA is a great way to be involved and bettering the community is a very noble cause. What most people outside this network don’t know is, its hard work!! And there are an endless amount unseen details required for every field trip, every fundraiser and nearly every decision a PTA has to make. In the end, your PTA is run like a small business and takes on liability for all these decisions.

So why does your PTA need insurance? Did you know that you as an individual member of the PTA or officer of the PTA could be help personally liable for an accident that occurs at one of your events? Your board, your members and your volunteers work hard for every dollar and every event, so protecting your money, your people and your property is not something to be overlooked.

Your Events

Event Insurance (General Liability)
Fact: if a child is injured at an event put on by your PTA, you could be held personally liable, along with your PTA, for the accident and legally sued. School insurance typically does not extend to the PTA and even when it does many activities of the PTA are NOT covered.

In addition to injuries, PTA’s have liability for property damage sustained during PTA events which is also covered by General Liability. Most PTA’s don’t have the time or money to support a lawsuit, so its HIGHLY advisable to seek coverage which can be obtained for less than the cost of 1 hour with an attorney!

Your Money

Embezzlement Insurance (Fidelity Bond)
Embezzlement. Most PTA members believe that no one would ever steal from their PTA but sadly, embezzlement is overtaking General Liability as one of the most common claims. It usually happens over a period of time and by the time the PTA becomes aware, what started as $50 here and there, turns into thousands of missing dollars.

Fidelity Bond coverage protects your money. Make sure you secure coverage that offers protection for theft by anyone in your organization, not just theft by a treasurer.

Your Property

Property Insurance
Oftentimes it’s a group’s own personal property that, while at an event or in storage, becomes damaged. Popcorn machines, cotton candy machines, fundraising merchandise, spirit wear, game prizes, silent auction items… PTA’s often take responsibility for thousands of dollars in personal property. What most PTA’s don’t consider is how they would recoup these costs in the event of theft or damage.

Fortunately, Property Insurance can be obtained very affordably for a little as $10,000 in limit.

Your Directors & Officers

Directors and Officers Liability
The Directors & Officers of your PTA are tasked with making big decisions in addition to keeping the peace in times of differing opinions. PTA’s often wonder whether they can be sued for these decisions as a whole or individually and the answer is both.

If someone decides to sue an officer or director of a PTA for mismanagement, misrepresentation, dissemination of false or misleading information or inappropriate actions, Directors and Officers Liability coverage will pay to defend them personally, in addition to the PTA as a whole.

AIM Insurance has been helping PTA’s for over 30 years and hopes to spread awareness on the importance of protecting your PTA. To learn more click here.


Any reference in this website to any person, or organization, or activities, products, or services related to such person or organization, or any linkages from this web site to the web site of another party, do not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring.

 

Building Character at a STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night

SPOTLIGHT: Pumpkin Delight School (Milford, Connecticut)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event, including lessons learned and practical advice.

Curiosity. Engaging. Problem Solving. Results. Creativity. – All important words that help to build character, scholarship and learning in our elementary students. In today’s society, we are limited to common core, state standards, and standardize testing. What can a PTA do to engage students? Utilize all their senses? Build a sense a curiosity? And allow students to problem solve on their own in order to find results? The answer is invention!

Our PTA applied for the Invention Night grant from littleBits and National PTA for two reasons. First, we had a science fair, but we were looking for a (FREE!) way to have more students participate. Second, we wanted a new way to get our students engaged in creativity. Our budget was tight, and we had no way to allocate dollars towards this event, so we looked to National PTA’s grant to help us with our mission. The application process was not difficult and the answers to the application came easily as I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish.

Our Invention Night consisted of the littleBits Kits, science projects from about 25 students, teacher interaction and support from our local Milford Public Library. We set it up in our gym, which is the largest space in our school, also across the hall from bathrooms. Our school used our Facebook page as well as flyers sent home in backpacks to help advertise the event. While we knew the students who did projects would be attending the event, we welcomed our event to the entire school and community.

The biggest driver that brought traffic to our event was the littleBits Invention Kits. We informed the community of our grant win and promoted heavily. We also provided information on the app that needed to be downloaded prior to attending the event. While the communication was clear on our end, we knew parents are busy and this step could be easily forgotten. littleBits also has a YouTube page that walks you through the steps. This helps with those parents that did not download the app beforehand. While we live in an electronic age, I would say this was the biggest roadblock of the event. I would advise other PTA’s to prepare for this when hosting similar events in the future.

Overall what made this event such a success was the students and families working together on the littleBits Kits. It was inspiring and emotional to see the successes when focused minds come together to solve a problem. We had parents working with their children and saw their faces light up when they made progress along the way. I also noticed quite a bit of peers working together on the kits. When one student was able to work through a level, they were then able to help their friends around them be able to achieve the same success.

It was a privilege to be able to host an Invention Night at our school. The event helped boost the support the PTA received from the community. We can’t wait to do it again next year!

Take Action: Learn more about how your PTA can host a STEM + Families Invention Night


About the Guest Contributor: Kristyn Liebelt is the PTA President at Pumpkin Delight School PTA in Milford, Connecticut.

Disclosure: littleBits is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2018-2019 STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

Things To Do in Columbus While at #PTACon19

The 2019 National PTA Convention & Expo will be hosted in Columbus June 20-23. Ohio’s capital city has a large and diverse community with many things that you and your family can do. Maybe you want to get hands-on with science or eat some of the Midwest’s best food. Either way, both options (and many more) are possible. When you are not at #PTACon19, consider going to some of these places to explore the city and all that it has to offer.

 

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is home to thousands of animals from all over the world, ranging from things like fish and stingrays in the aquarium, to lions, tigers and bears (oh my!) in the zoo. Along with animals, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium has an 18-hole golf course called Safari Park and an expansive water park called Zoombezi Bay as well. Admission to the water park includes admission to the zoo but admission for golf is separate from the rest of the facilities.

 

COSI

The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) is a science museum and research center filled with hands-on exhibits and displays that are fun for kids and adults. Some current exhibits include the Dinosaur Gallery, the Planetarium, Jim Henson: Imagination Unlimited and the Giant Screen Theater which currently features movies about Apollo 11 and D-Day.

 

Columbus Museum of Art

               The Columbus Museum of Art features late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American and European modern works of art. Some exhibitions that will be open during the convention include Blacklight Magic, which celebrates the role blacklight posters played in artwork during the late 1960s and early 1970s American counterculture, and the works of Jim Hodges, a highly regarded figure in contemporary art.

 

Columbus Commons

Columbus Commons is a six-acre park in downtown Columbus that features different events that are fun for all ages. During the convention, the Commons will host Commons for Kids, which features family friendly activities for you and your kids, and will play Mary Poppins Returns for a free movie night.

 

Here are some Restaurants to Check Out as Well!

Little Eater in the North Market http://littleeater.com/restaurants/north-market/

Max and Erma’s https://www.maxandermas.com/

Paulie G’s https://pauliegee.com/short-north/

Donato’s https://www.donatos.com/locations/downtown-columbus

Condado Tacos http://www.condadotacos.com/

Jeni’s in the North Market http://www.condadotacos.com/

Spark Family Engagement at a STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night

SPOTLIGHT: Bonny Kate PTA (Knox County, Tenn.)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event, including lessons learned and practical advice.

The entire community of Bonny Kate Elementary School was so excited to learn that we had been awarded a PTA STEM + Families Initiative grant for a littleBits Invention Night. Invention Nights are incredible opportunities for family engagement.

Last year, we had our inaugural STEAM Night and the activities were more visual than interactive. This year, as we combined our STEAM Night with Invention Night, and we had a very different experience. Families were working together on activities, talking and laughing, and genuinely enjoying themselves this time around. It was awesome for our small community to have a fun learning time together and great to see all the smiles.

The STEAM Team and our building-level coach worked hard to plan and promote our Invention Night. We advertised the event through emails, parent links, classroom newsletters and fliers that were sent home. We also contacted our local television stations, and one came out and did a short piece on the event!

Our PTA decorated the school for the event with balloons, streamers and posters, and we had a food truck for families who had not eaten dinner. These things helped to ensure a large crowd for the event, even though it was a very cold winter night, and made it very welcoming for our families.

To get families even more engaged in their child’s learning, we used the entire school for the event. We created a map of the school, and the students had passports with places to stamp for each activity. Activities included visiting our local high school’s robotics team, checking out STEAM projects from each grade level, and chatting with the University of Tennessee’s Engineering Club, in addition to the space dedicated to the littleBits kits. Because there were so many activities, the space was well-divided, with lots of room to spread out and work on projects.

The enthusiasm and excitement this event created has inspired us to move forward with plans to have a STEAM lab next year. With STEAM careers being a focus for future jobs, it is so vital that our students—who live in a more rural area—are exposed to STEAM activities. The seeds planted by this event will help us to grow and bloom with STEAM for years to come. Thanks PTA and littleBits!

Take Action: Learn more about how your PTA can host a STEM + Families Invention Night


About the Guest Contributor: Denise Cross is the Assistant Principal at Bonny Kate Elementary School, part of Knox County Schools in Tenn.

Disclosure: littleBits is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2018 – 2019 STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

Have Robotics Fun at a STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night

SPOTLIGHT: Archer Elementary PTA (Archer, Fla.)

This post is part of a series authored by local PTA leaders sharing their stories as STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night winners. These real-world experiences shed light on how an individual PTA planned and hosted their event, including lessons learned and practical advice.

Despite having a robust Robotics program in our curriculum, our elementary school had never held any type of STEM event for families to get a taste of what their children were learning. Thanks to National PTA and littleBits awarding us the grant for 50 Little Bits Invention Kits, we were able to host an Invention Night for the first time.

Both littleBits and National PTA made planning the event very easy by laying out the process for us. We knew we wanted to get our Robotics teacher involved in the planning. She was very enthusiastic about the event and even volunteered to set up her VEX Robots and have the fifth-graders demonstrate their creations the same night. After meeting with our principal and Robotics teacher, we decided to get other teachers involved and have different STEM activities going during the event.

To promote our Invention Night, We sent flyers home in student folders, and our principal sent an email and did a robo-call to families two weeks in advance. A week before the event, we sent parents a reminder email along with the instructions on how to download the littleBits App as well as the guide for each project that you can build with the kit.

We held the event in the cafeteria and set out two kits per table so each family had plenty of space to work out their invention. We gave families the option to partner with another family as well and work together. Each invention took about 20 minutes to build and we gave families the option to build two inventions. We also made sure to provide dinner to all families that night. We had 45 families attend our event, roughly 175 people, which was a great turnout for our school!

Since this was our first-ever STEM event, we wanted to be sure to get feedback. So once families had filled out our survey, we entered them into a raffle. Prizes were donated, including the grand prize—the Droid Kit—donated by littleBits.

Overall, parents and students were really happy with the event. The families enjoyed the experience of learning something new with their kids—there was a lot of collaboration going on. Parents also expressed how happy they were to see what their kids were experiencing at school with the robotics. We will definitely be hosting another Invention Night next year. Thank you to littleBits and National PTA for giving us the opportunity to expose our kids to engineering and invention. Without the grant, this night would not have been possible.

Take Action: Learn more about how your PTA can host a STEM + Families Invention Night

 


About the Author: Pam Korithoski is the Advocacy Chair at Archer Elementary School in Archer, Fla.

Disclosure: littleBits is a Supporting Sponsor of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative. The local PTA spotlighted in this blog was a winner of the 2018 – 2019 STEM + Families littleBits Invention Night. The author was not compensated for this blog post and the author’s opinions are their own.

 

Experience the First-Ever State PTA Leadership Institute at #PTACon19

Are you a State PTA Officer? Do you want to be? If you answered yes, then you will be thrilled with the Convention Education options at #PTACon19 in Columbus, Ohio.

With more advanced workshops than ever, you’ll gain new strategies and hone your nonprofit management skills to strengthen every angle of your State PTA—leadership, membership and mission.

For the first time, State PTA Presidents, Presidents-Elect and Incoming Presidents-Elect will have access to a continuous, shared learning experience called the State PTA Leadership experience.

The kick-off event occurs pre-conference at a day-long training featuring author and well-known communications trainer, Shari Harley, founder of Candid Culture. The Institute continues with a dedicated workshop track covering advanced topics for all State PTA Officers, such as:

  • Nonprofit management and Standards of Affiliation
  • Parliamentary procedures
  • Board development and team-building
  • Using financial data to make strategic decisions
  • Transformative Family Engagement

For other State PTA leaders, workshops include access to our nation’s experts on critical issues—like school safety and mental health—as well as training on skills required for continued leadership growth, like public speaking.

Start making your Convention Education plan now! Take 15 minutes to preview what else is happening at the 2019 National PTA Convention & Expo by taking this quick tour!

New! On-Demand Training Series Launches for State Leaders

National PTA has launched a new state PTA training series: Leadership Drives Membership. This seven-segment video series features a complementary self-reflection and discussion guide for State PTA Boards, Committees and other State PTA Leaders seeking to improve strategies that increase membership. All videos are between 15-30 minutes and can be viewed on-demand in the Membership section of the State Resource Bank.

This comprehensive training was a cross-committee, volunteer-staff collaboration to include members of the National PTA Membership Committee, chaired by Vice President of Membership Anna King, National PTA Field Services Committee, chaired by Darlene Harris, and the National PTA Education & Leadership Development Department.

Committee members were instrumental in guiding content development and served as co-hosts for the following videos:

  1. Why Leadership Drives Membership [5:08] with Anna King (OK) and Darlene Harris (PA)
  2. Lead with Inclusion [23:03] with Sergio Chavez (AZ) and Dorothy Gardner (NC, formerly MO)
  3. Communicate the Value of PTA [22:20] with Dani Carver and Heather Gillette (WA)
  4. Analyze Your State PTA Leadership Data & Membership Trends [14:06] with Anna King (OK) and Darlene Harris (PA)
  5. Develop Your State PTA Priorities & Plan [23:36] with Jesus Holguin (CA) and Eileen Segal (FL)
  6. Improve Your Customer Experience for Local PTAs [17:25] with Kim Henderson (TN) and Michael Morgan (CA)
  7. Train Local PTAs to Make a Membership Growth P.L.A.N. [24:30] with Robert Acerra (NJ) and Lisa Holbrook (TX)

The series repurposes the content designed for and delivered at the Pilot Southeast Regional Training in November 2018, which National PTA’s Board of Directors invested in as part of its expanded commitment to State Leadership Training.

Voices for Wear Orange

In my community, everyone can tell you where they were the day of the Columbine High School shooting. When I hear anything about a mass shooting, people whose faces I know who were hurt, traumatized, or killed at Columbine, pass through my mind… people whose lives changed the instant a gun fired inside a school.

Many people who were there that day have gone on to have great lives with little connection to the shooting. Some have not been that lucky. Most can easily be triggered each time a new shooting hits the news in our community, Deer Creek… Platte Canyon… the Aurora theater… Arapahoe High School… now STEM…

As parents, we reach out to the PTA families at schools grieving gun deaths of students in other communities, but when we send cards and make donations, it is already too late, and it is not the whole story.

I work in a program within a public school district for students who have been unsuccessful in traditional schools. In the last two years, I have lost three students to gun violence whose names are not memorialized. One was shot by a friend. One was killed by police (with a gun in his hand). One took his own life. These students also have families, educators, and friends mourning them, whose lives changed the moment a gun shot.   All of them accessed firearms, despite gun safety protections available to keep kids safe. The results show that we have not done enough yet.

As a PTA family we have to do more. As PTA advocates, we must talk to our lawmakers and help them understand our legislative priorities about gun violence and urge them to:

  • Fund federal research on the causes and effects of gun violence on youth and in communities, as well as research on evidence-based strategies to reduce gun violence
  • Prohibit the use of any federal funds to purchase or train school personnel in the use of firearms
  • Require a waiting period and a comprehensive background check for any
  • individual prior to buying a firearm from both licensed and unlicensed dealers
  • Restrict internet gun sales including sales of kits, such as bump stocks, that
  • can be used to make or modify guns
  • Ban the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines

Most of all, join me in Wear Orange movement and get your community involved in finding solutions.

I look forward to the day when I do not come home and see fear in my kids’ eyes asking when a shooter will come to their schools. I look forward to the day I do not have to discuss reacting to a shooter entering our classroom with my students who already suffer from trauma. PTA is our best opportunity to make that day happen, and kids’ lives depend on it.


About the Author:
Ami Prichard
Mother of three
President of Jeffco Council PTA, Colorado PTA Vice President of Marketing and Communication Elect
Teacher, Jeffco Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) and Homebound Programs

The Road Ahead: Federal Education Funding in Fiscal Year 2020

To understand where Congress goes next in this year’s education funding process, it is important to understand the journey up to this point. The U.S. House of Representatives is currently in the thick of its funding process, which is more commonly known as appropriations. They must, along with the U.S. Senate, fund education programs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 by September 30, 2019.

Last month, the House Appropriations Committee approved the House version of the FY 2020 Labor-HHS-Education funding bill. The bill provides crucial funding for education and related programs that serve millions of students across the country, including roughly $76 billion for the Department of Education, which is a 7.2% increase over the amount approved in the previous year.

The bill also provided the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFEC) program with $15 million, which is $5 million over FY 2019 funding. With this funding level, the committee sent a clear message that family engagement is a priority and greater investments must be made to ensure parents are at the decision-making table when it comes to their child’s education. The SFEC program is a critical priority for National PTA, and we applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for their commitment to robust funding for public education. Unfortunately, the road ahead to make the bill law is a long one.

The next step for the Labor-HHS-Education funding bill is the House floor where the full chamber will vote on the bill. However, even if the bill does pass the House, it is unlikely that the Senate will pass it in its current form. Both chambers must agree on the bill for education programs to be funded by the Sept. 30, 2019 deadline.

Unlike the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee has not started work on their education funding bill and does not anticipate doing so until a budget deal is enacted to change the spending caps for discretionary programs. Discretionary programs are programs that must have their funding renewed each year in order to continue operating and includes education programs. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, this year there will be automatic cuts to discretionary programs—translating into a nearly $20 billion reduction to critical education, health and workforce budgets—unless Congress takes action to raise them. If no budget deal is made before the Sept. 30, 2019 deadline, there could be a continuing resolution which would temporarily provide funding until an agreement is made. If no continuing resolution is passed, there will be a government shutdown.

Despite this multistep process, immense gains have already been made for education programs and there is a reason to believe a budget deal could be solidified sooner rather than later. National PTA’s advocates have made their voices heard during the appropriations process thus far. Our advocates helped secure the $5 million increase to SFECs in the House Labor-HHS-Education funding bill and are taking action urging Congress to raise the budget caps to avoid automatic spending cuts to education.

Recent media reports also suggest that both Congressional leadership and the White House are open to a budget deal to raise the caps. While this is a hopeful sign, the education community must stay vigilant until a deal is finalized, so that robust and equitable education investments are made so that all children can reach their full potential. Check out National PTA’s Federal Appropriations 101 resources to learn more about how critical children’s programs are funded.

Take Action—Contact your federal lawmakers and urge them to raise the budget caps to avoid potential automatic spending cuts to education.


About the Author:
Cyrus Huncharek is the Government Affairs Coordinator for National PTA.