Celebrating Arts & Humanities through the School of Excellence

National PTA and the School of Excellence program recognize that schools and PTAs can take an active role in supporting of arts education. Throughout the country, arts education programming is being slashed, leaving all students, artists or not, without a creative outlet to explore their own experiences and identities.

Understanding this, some of our School of Excellence participants take up the mantle of supporting the arts in their school communities no matter how difficult. In honor of their hard work and Arts & Humanities month, let us explore how some of the 2019-2021 School of Excellence designees used the arts to enhance their family-school partnerships.

Centerville Elementary PTA, Utah           

Centerville Elementary PTA’s School of Excellence team, in collaboration with a group of parent advocates, chose to focus on increasing student access to the arts. Centerville Elementary PTA’s work demonstrates not only a dedication to the arts, but a dedication to their community. Their work in supporting the arts was in direct response to several parents who advocated for students to have an art program at Centerville Elementary.

The Excellence Team set to work early in the year, meeting to share ideas, set priorities, and discuss available resources. Their first task was to create a choir program. The Excellence team sent out an interest survey and received a huge response in favor of the choir program.  Close to 100 students joined the choir program (approximately ¼ of the student population) and had a phenomenal experience. The program truly brought to life the idea of family-engagement, with several parents volunteering with the program including the choir teacher, a parent who is also a highly qualified choral instructor. The choir put on a very well attended concert at the end of the school year that brought many parents and families that typically did not attend school events.

 

In truth, family engagement was incorporated into all the work Centerville Elementary PTA did. The PTA relied on their parent volunteers to weave arts education throughout the school. For example, one volunteer recognized the waste of a classroom set of ukuleles that had been left sitting in a storage room at the school. The parent coordinated Monday morning ukulele classes. The classes held an array of participants from the principal to the custodian to a technology specialist. The parent volunteer taught these school leaders to play the ukulele in hopes that they would then be able to bring the instrument to students in the school. And they did just that during the school talent show on the last day of school.

Grafton Village Elementary School PTA, Virginia

Grafton Village Elementary School PTA also focused on supporting the arts in their school community. Their work, in fact, likely could not have been as successful if it were not for their work with community members. Recognizing a lack of art supplies, the Excellence Team and PTA partnered with a local organization to run a successful art fundraiser. With assistance from the school art teacher, students created visual art pieces that could be transformed into a variety of keepsake items that parents could purchase. The funds raised through this went directly to the art teacher at Grafton Village Elementary School which allowed her to purchase more art supplies like clay, paint, and markers for her classroom. Recognizing that not all parents could choose to purchase the keepsakes, the art teacher allowed all students to take their original pieces home so all students could feel a part of the fundraiser.

In another example of community engagement, the PTA partnered with a local boy scout troop and had an Eagle Scout candidate build shelves in the art room for his Eagle Scout project.  The PTA paid for all shelving supplies, while the Eagle Scout candidate provided all the labor and construction. The end result was a beautiful set of shelves to display and dry student’s artwork.

Finally, the Grafton Village Excellence Team partnered with middle and high school students and parents to host a very successful talent show. Student and parent volunteers came to the after-school rehearsals and helped prepare talent show participants so they could shine in the final performance. During the night of the show, volunteers helped to welcome families, hand out programs, serve refreshments, and take photos so participants could remember the night. The final talent show, and all the support from volunteers, highlighted the deep commitment Grafton Village Elementary had not only for supporting the arts, but also further integrating their PTA into the school and local community.

Four Corners PTA, WI   

Four Corners PTA’s greatest accomplishment in strengthening family-school partnerships was the creation of a series of unique art focused activities that helped deepen the PTA and community’s connection to the arts. Four Corners PTA began by hosting a Create Art Night, a new activity for school, with the goal of inviting students and their families to school to create holiday gifts. The event was free to attend and included dinner which severed well over 100 people from the school community.

Four Corners PTA and the school music teacher also partnered with Little Opera of the North to give students the opportunity to perform in an opera. All of the students in the school, Pre-K through fifth grade, watched the final afternoon performance. Parents, families and community members were invited and enjoyed watching the students perform as well. The opera show was a first for many and provided the community with a new way to experience the arts. This was not the only event Four Corners PTA hosted that brought together their community through the arts. One of the art teachers at Four Corners volunteered to lead a Cookies and Canvas night at school for students and family members. Moms, Dads, Aunts and Grandmas followed step-by-step instructions provided by the teachers to create beautiful take home paintings.

The PTA also sponsored events just for the student community. The Spring Fever Family Dance Party was hosted by volunteer parents, including a local DJ and a dance instructor. Between the DJ and the instructor, students learned dances and were helped to feel more comfortable on the dance floor. The PTA also sponsored a weeklong Artist in Residency program as part of their interactive learning initiative. Working with two puppet artists from ArtStart, all grade levels made puppets and participated in a puppet performance piece. The event concluded with an evening puppet show for families that included a free dinner.

The Excellence Team at Four Corners PTA truly saw the benefits of their investment. Their focus in family engagement changed the school community by increasing student, teacher, family and community participation in the family-oriented art events that we held. The PTA saw an increase in membership, volunteers and attendance at school events. Through their focus on community and the arts, more people in the community know and understand the PTA’s mission “to make every child’s potential a reality.”

These are just a few of the School of Excellence designees who made huge strides in embedding arts education into their school communities. If you’re interested in advancing the arts in your community check out all the available resources from the hosts of Arts & Humanities and our partners at Americans for the Arts here. You can also read and download our ArtsEd Guide which provides useful ways for PTAs to explore the arts and incorporate them into their school programming.

And don’t forget to get involved with the School of Excellence program! You can use your work to advance the arts to become a School of Excellence and gain recognition for the work your PTA does to bring transformative family engagement and the arts to your school! Enroll here by October 15 and support the arts in your community!


By: Ellie Miller, Reflections Specialist

 

How to Get the Technology Your Local PTA Needs

The first question we often hear at National PTA is … are PTAs allowed to spend PTA dollars on technology? The answer is a resounding YES. Your local PTA is a membership association and a non-profit business. PTAs can budget for, and spend money on, any technology that will be used by the PTA. This year, PTAs across the country must pivot to the new reality of the business world during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means figuring out how to run your PTA either partially, or fully, virtual. This pivot will benefit your PTA well beyond the pandemic as well.

It is important to note that many of the below items have free and paid versions. You will need to look at your specific PTA needs to decide what product may work for you and if the free version is enough or if one of the paid versions is a better fit.  The items are linked so you can learn more about each, and remember, you can Google or YouTube just about anything online to find how-to videos.

Overall PTA Management Needs

  • G-Suite for Nonprofits— Looking for a little bit of everything? Offered by Google for free to non-profits, this is a suite of cloud computing, productivity and collaboration tools, software and products. You can upgrade for a small monthly fee as well. You can get Gmail accounts for your PTA and board members, online drive to store your PTA documents and photos, centralized calendar, Google Meet and other resources
  • Microsoft Office Online—Offers free online use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note
  • TechSoup—A non-profit international network that provides free or discounts on technological tools and support to non-profits.
  • Notion—An all-in-one workspace where you can share and work on the same content. Individual accounts are free and can be shared with up to five guests.

Virtual Gatherings

Planning on hosting a virtual meeting or event? There are many products out there to suit your needs, and some have free versions. Since this is the way your PTA will be doing business for quite some time, your PTA should invest in this expense. Each platform provides tips for setup for all the features, including screen sharing and login requirements. If you use a free version, you may be limited on the number of attendees and how long the event can run, so do your homework. Some of the platforms to look at are:

  • Zoom Meeting– The free plan allows up to 40 minutes per meeting with up to 100 participants. If you need more time, they have a $149 per year plan for unlimited meetings with up to 100 participants.
  • Facebook Live in a Private Group— Consider using this option for a board meeting! Make sure everyone on your board is on Facebook and in your private group.
  • Go to Meeting – $12 per month for up to 150 participants.
  • Google Meet– Free one-hour meetings up to 100 participants, more features if you have G-Suite
  • Skype Meet Now – Up to 50 people per meeting. Anyone can host or join with no need to download an app.
  • FreeConferenceCall.com– Up to 1,000 participants and up to six hours of conference call time, screen sharing and video.
  • WebEx – Can host one meeting free a month or look to upgrade to another option.

Survey and Poll Tools

Need to find out what your members and other families in your community need? Ask virtually!  See the links below for some online survey options.

  • Facebook Polls– This option offers instant feedback but is limited to people who follow your page or are in your closed group
  • Google Forms– Cloud-based questionnaire and survey software, can create reports of the survey responses.
  • SoGoSurvey– Free to non-profits
  • SurveyMonkey– The basic plan is free for up to 10 questions and 40 responses

Storytelling Tools

Showcase the value your PTA brings to the community by sharing #HowWePTA on social media, in your newsletters and more! These tools can help you create beautiful visuals to help tell your PTA story.

  • National PTA Membership Campaign—Check out the over 50 free graphics in the new PTA campaign that can help you highlight and share the benefits of being a part of your PTA.
  • Canva for Nonprofits—Use this easy graphic design platform to create social media graphics, posters and other visual content.
  • Need some free photos? Check out sites that offer many free photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock and iStock Photo.
  • Need to store and share files? Maybe Dropbox is just what you need. The basic version is free.

Other Online Tools and Resources

  • Another tool in your toolbox to help run your PTA virtually is BAND– PTA’s newest national sponsor. BAND can be a timely, modern, no-cost solution for PTAs that need to virtually coordinate activities and events and share information. BAND helps make it easier for parents, teachers and PTA members to stay connected and organized while embracing distance learning. PTAs can use the BAND app for scheduling, instant messaging, video calling and virtual meetings, conducting polls, managing signups, live streaming events, and other critical two-way communication features.
  • Need volunteers to sign-up to help? Try out SignUpGenius. Free option for nonprofits.
  • Need to randomly pick a winner virtually? Want to play a game virtually? Looking to create a word search? Check out Flippity, which is free, and offers all sorts of fun things you can create quickly and easily virtually.

Learn from Others

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Join the PTA Local Leaders Facebook group. Connect with over 6,000 other PTA leaders across the 54 State PTA Congresses. Click on the search icon to look for ideas on how to hold virtual meetings, virtual events or online fundraisers. Check out our other blogs on How to Make Joining PTA Easy, Ways to Make your PTA Virtual, Grow Spirit from Afar and National Volunteer Week blog which recognizes several local PTAs making things happen virtually.


Linda Johnson is the Manager of Membership Data and Training for National PTA.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

Show Your PTA Value to Sustain and Grow Your Membership

This school year will be a year like no other in PTA history. All of us must look at how we PTA in a different way. You may have heard the phrase “PTA flexible.” This is the year to show PTA flexible in action across everything we do. Just like schools have had to pivot, so do PTAs. You don’t need a building to PTA.

PTA is needed now more than ever. Many parents are feeling disconnected and disengaged from their school and community. PTAs can make those connections and rebuild the school community. To do this, PTAs must show their value and relevance in an all, or mostly, virtual setting. Together, we all must learn how to take in-person activities and adjust them to a virtual setting.

First, you need to have a platform to connect with people in a virtual space. There are many products out there, some have free versions. Since this is the way your PTA will be doing business for quite some time, your PTA should invest in this expense. PTAs can budget for, and spend money on, any technology that will be used by the PTA. Remember to look if any of them have a discount for being a non-profit. Some of the platforms to look at are Zoom, Go To Meeting, Google Meet and WebEx. Check nonprofit tech resources through Tech Soup.

Another tool in your toolbox to help run your PTA virtually is BAND—PTA’s newest national sponsor. BAND can be a timely, modern, no-cost solution for PTAs that need to virtually coordinate activities and events and share information. BAND helps make it easier for parents, teachers and PTA members to stay connected and organized while embracing distance learning. PTAs can use the BAND app for scheduling, instant messaging, video calling and virtual meetings, conducting polls, managing signups, live streaming events, and other critical two-way communication features.

After you determine your preferred platform, you need to find what will make your PTA valuable and relevant throughout the year to your community. Here are a ton of ideas, information and content to use and share with your members: to show your PTAs relevance and value.

Check out these recent blogs

Explore National PTA Resources and Training

  • The National PTA website is available in Spanish therefore many of the resources on the webpages can be translated into Spanish. Share this feature with your PTAs and in outreach to your Spanish-speaking membership.
  • There are some great PTA leader resources on the National PTA COVID webpage. If you scroll down on the page there are three sections of resources—Families, PTA Leaders and Educators. Local PTAs can share the resources with their members to show their relevance during this difficult time.
  • The Center for Family Engagement recently held a webinar called Family Engagement in a Virtual World. Here is a link the recording which is found on CFE
  • On that same page is a link to subscribe to the Notes from the Backpack which is a great resource your PTA can share with your members, parents and teachers.
  • We must move our membership campaigns into the virtual world. We are extremely lucky to have a new Membership Campaign that has incredible graphics and messaging for all PTAs to use in the new virtual world of PTA. Did you know that PTA is now a Verb? Check out all the 50+ social media graphics available. All are also available in Spanish. Based on feedback, we are also in the process of adding some new items pieces soon.
  • Encourage your local leaders to join the National PTA local leader Facebook group. People share all sorts of great things on the page.

Host Your PTA Programs Virtually!

  • Visit National PTA’s Reflections Start Your Program page for resources and ideas on how to run your PTA’s Reflections program remotely. Check with your State PTA for specific state guidelines, rules and deadlines.
  • Enroll in the National PTA School of Excellence program to align your COVID-19 relief efforts in best practice for family engagement while gaining national recognition. Enroll by October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence.

Stay Connected!

  • Sign up for National PTA e-newsletters. As a PTA leader, you can harvest information from the newsletters and share it with your members. Click here to sign up for one or all five e-newsletters.
  • Invite your members to bookmark National PTA’s Our Children Magazine; this a great online resource full of valuable information to help families to better help their children.
  • Check out your state PTA webpage as many of them also provide resources, programs and incentives for local PTAs. Not sure of your state’s PTA website? Here is an interactive map for you to quickly connect.
  • Several state PTAs hold virtual events where local leaders can call in and share what virtual events they are already doing or thinking about doing so people can learn and hear from each other. Check-in with your state PTA to see if they are offering something similar.

Not sure what your PTA members and community need?

  • Ask them. Click here to see a sample survey to get you inspired.
  • PTAs leaders do not need to reinvent the wheel or to be content experts in all areas. If you know the needs of the families in your community, reach out to other non-profits in your area that are already providing these needed services. These other non-profits may already have the funding to provide services in the community and are just waiting to make connections.
  • Show how PTA advocates. Help families in your community have a voice. Make sure to share surveys and links from your school or school district and encourage families to respond so their voice is heard. See if the school district as a spot at the table for a PTA representative so you can be part of the discussion and discussion making for your community.

Coming Soon

  • National PTA is currently working on a series of recordings and live Zoom events, around PTAs being virtual, which will include topics such as: creating a virtual membership campaign, running a virtual meeting, virtual fundraising, Making the Case for PTA, and more.
  • National PTA is currently working on moving several programs into the virtual space.
  • Look for the next round of National PTA grants to roll out in November 2020.
  • Be on the lookout for National PTA’s weekly series celebrating the work PTAs have been doing to support COVID relief in their community. Stories will be shared on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and in our e-newletters.

Suzan Yungner is the Director of Membership and Field Service for National PTA. 

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

Family Safety with Uber

Using Uber With Family? Health & Safety Tips To Keep In Mind

As cities start to recover and reopen and kids go back to school whether in-person or virtually, many families are relying on rideshare and delivery apps like Uber and Uber Eats. Whether it’s going to an appointment, helping your college student move around campus, or ordering lunch or dinner while working from home – we want Uber to continue being a convenient option that makes safety a top priority for parents, caregivers and families.

For the past two years, Uber has been collaborating with the National PTA to deliver important rideshare safety tips and information to families across the country.

When using Uber with family members young and old, we realize that peace of mind is what’s top of mind, especially during a pandemic. So it’s important for parents and families to be aware and understand both the policies and the safety features you can expect when using the app.

The New Rideshare Normal

Since the start of the pandemic, Uber has been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and medical specialists to ensure that our decisions, policies and processes are guided by health experts. We also have a dedicated team available 24-7 that has been collaborating with public health officials across the country.

We launched a redesign of the Uber app experience from start to finish to encourage safety and allocated $50 million to provide free masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray for drivers and delivery people.

Working with the CDC, we developed these health and safety tips when using rideshare:

  • Wash, Wear, Air – As more people are going back to work and school, we’re deploying a comprehensive education campaign to encourage people to follow this 3-step ritual when using Uber:
    • 1) Wash your hands
    • 2) Wear a mask and
    • 3) Air out the car by opening a window during a trip to help keep the air flowing.
  • No Mask, No Ride – Uber requires all riders, drivers and delivery people using the app to wear a mask. We’ve built innovative technology to verify that a mask is being worn by prompting users to take a selfie before starting a trip. If your driver is not wearing a face cover or mask, you can cancel the trip
  • Sit in the Back Seat: To encourage social distancing, we recommend riders always sit in the back seat. And remember, we have limited the number of people in the car to 3 for UberX and Comfort and 5 for UberXL to make sure the front seat stays empty.
  • Handle your own belongings: Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, avoid letting your driver load and unload your personal belongings into the trunk of the car. Handle those items yourself to help reduce the risk of exposure.

Uber With Family Basics

In addition, here are some general rideshare safety tips if you plan to use Uber with family that outline how to use the app appropriately so you can have a safe and reliable experience:

  • Is Your Child Under 18? Keep Tabs in a Positive Way – Remember that riders need to be over 18 years old to have an Uber account and kids under 18 are not allowed to ride unaccompanied or order food on Uber Eats. Make it a habit of checking your trip order history in the top left
  • Track Loved Ones – Set up a Family Profile. When one of your family members takes a trip, you will be automatically notified and can track the trip in real time. For peace of mind, have your college-aged kids and other adults use the Trusted Contacts feature so they can be prompted to share their trip status with friends or family. Riders can choose to share all trips, night-time only trips, or none at all.
  • Check Your Ride – When the car arrives, double check that the driver’s name, photo and license plate information matches what’s in the app. It’s a great reminder for everyone from your college-aged kids to older adults that they can only request a ride with Uber by using the app, and should never accept a ride from someone claiming to be a driver.
  • Call About a Car Seat – Car seats are generally required by law for young children in vehicles. If you are bringing your own car seat with your little one, call the driver in advance to let them know. Drivers may cancel a trip if proper restraints aren’t available for every rider or if they are not comfortable with a rider installing a seat in their car. Here is a resource* that discusses car seat laws by state.
  • Help Your Caregiver Out – Using the Request for a Guest feature, Uber users can order rides for loved ones over 18 who do not have an Uber account – whether it’s arranging a ride for grandparents at the airport or getting a caregiver home.
  • Study Up on Safety – Uber’s Safety Center, which riders can find by pushing the shield icon in the app during a trip, contains key safety information including tips built in partnership with law enforcement, information on driver background screenings, insurance protections and our Community Guidelines.

We know that helping cities recover starts with supporting people who need it most or who may be struggling. So Uber committed to provide 10 million free rides and food deliveries to healthcare workers, first responders, seniors and other underserved groups for transportation and access to meals.

Uber can be a convenient and reliable tool for the ever changing needs of busy families and their loved ones, especially during this challenging time. We know that family members are your most precious cargo so when it comes to safety, we know our work is never done. Wherever you’re traveling, we are committed to helping make every trip and delivery safe for all.

 

Increasing Family Engagement in Diverse Schools

I know first hand what it is like to grow up as an English-language learner and saw what a difference it made to have parents who were able to connect and engage with teachers. On a very personal level I understood what we now know from decades of academic research: That family engagement is the key to greater learning outcomes.

As an adult, I have made it my life’s purpose to remove the barriers to family engagement. In 2015, I founded TalkingPoints, a non-profit whose mission is to drive student success by unlocking  the potential of families to fuel their children’s learning, especially in under-resourced, multilingual communities. We do this through a multilingual platform that helps teachers and families communicate in 100 different languages through two-way translated messages and personalized content.

One in four US children is born to an immigrant or refugee family. Over the course of our work in partnership with teachers, schools, and districts, we have learned a lot about increasing family engagement in diverse schools. These lessons are especially critical now that so many schools have shifted to remote learning. In fact, in our most recent TalkingPoints survey, the vast majority of respondents — 73% of families and 93% of teachers — said regular communications between teachers and families were more important now than ever.  (You can download the report detailing survey findings, Family Engagement and Covid-19 Distance Learning: Data & Insights from the Field,  here.)

Below are practical tips to help build stronger, more meaningful relationships in your school community:

  1. Two-way communications channels are critical. You cannot drive family engagement by relying on one-way communications channels. That’s not how relationships work. Families need to be able to respond, ask questions, express concerns, and provide feedback. They need to feel understood and heard. Encourage families to share information with teachers – 83% of teachers believe that because of their relationships with parents they are better informed about their students’ needs.
  2. Personalization is key. If your school community includes immigrant or refugee families or families from different backgrounds, remember that they are often used to feeling like outsiders in our schools because of the significant cultural, language or even educational barriers. They may assume or feel as if the flyers and messages meant for parents in general are not really meant for them in particular. Any efforts to personalize outreach and make individual families feel as if the message is intended for them, personally, is likely to pay off in spades.
  3. Text is best. If you want to reach all families, SMS texts are the most accessible approach. Older parents or those with white collar jobs might be used to responding to email, but younger families or those with limited devices are far more likely to respond to texts. In the TalkingPoints survey referenced above, we found that almost two-thirds of families preferred text messages when receiving communications from teachers. And while 33% of English-speaking families said that they preferred email, only 22% of Spanish speakers reported a preference for email. Spanish speakers were also more likely to prefer phone calls (9%) or video calls (6%) than English speakers (phone 4%; video 2%).
  4. Don’t let the language barrier (or perfectionism!) get in the way. Any communication is better than none. Families are usually quite grateful for any effort to communicate in their language. They feel heard, seen and cared for. If your school or district doesn’t offer easy communication methods or multilingual resources, encourage your teachers to at least try TalkingPoints when reaching out to parents. It is free for teachers. Check with your principal and district, too. TalkingPoints is already deployed across dozens of districts and schools nationwide and may already be available to your school.

Last spring’s distance learning has taught us more about the power of family engagement and strong home-school connections than the mountains of academic research papers written on the subject. Distance learning blurred the lines between teachers and families and increased empathy and understanding. Thrust into a more active role to help with their children’s online learning, parents realized teaching is harder than it looks. Teachers developed more empathy toward parents, too. Some had to wear their professional teacher hat while supporting their own children’s learning at home. Others got a better understanding of their students’ life circumstances after reaching out to ask about device and WiFi accessibility. Teachers learned which families had lost jobs and were struggling to keep kids fed and which were working double shifts and unable to provide supervision. Many teachers forwarded information on food banks; some even dropped off groceries. Remote learning underlined what we suspected all along: When it comes to raising and educating children, we are all in this together. And the “family engagement” muscle we all built this spring is the silver lining that will help us drive better student outcomes this fall and beyond.

Announcing our Newest Proud National PTA Sponsor… BAND!

Just in time for the start of this unusual and challenging school year, BAND has signed on to become National PTA’s newest Proud National Sponsor.

Band is a free app that helps facilitate and improve two-way communication for groups. Over 40 million groups and 8 million coaches, teachers & leaders are already using BAND, including youth sports teams, small businesses, schools, and other groups.

It turns out that BAND may be a perfect match for many PTAs, too—especially now.

“Technology like BAND is helping to make it more convenient for families to be involved in their children’s education and strengthening family-school partnerships. This is more critical than ever as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and many families and schools are continuing with remote learning,” said Leslie Boggs, president of National PTA.

As a PTA leader, you can use BAND to communicate with your officers, parents, teachers and school staff, etc., on one platform through features like group messaging, notifications, calendars, RSVPs, pictures & videos, polls, video calls and more.

At a time when many PTAs are paying monthly or yearly subscriptions for various digital platforms and services, such as to host virtual meetings and livestream events, switching to the BAND app may allow you to reduce or eliminate some of these expenses.

So, you might be wondering, how will BAND specifically be supporting National PTA and what can you expect to see in the years ahead from this collaboration?

On the practical side, there soon will be a PTA BAND for PTA leaders across the country to connect, share tips and resources, and help each other improve how they operate. In addition, PTA and BAND will create educational resources on ways to increase and improve two-way communication between home and school, and how to use the BAND app itself safely and effectively.

On the heartfelt side, BAND especially wants to honor our nation’s hardworking parent volunteer leaders, teachers, and students through the alliance with PTA. BAND has pledged to support Reflections as well as Teacher Appreciation Week, and there are some fun surprises and helpful enhancements in the works as a result of this new sponsorship. (Stay tuned!)

“National PTA is thankful to BAND for helping us celebrate, recognize and honor our nation’s teachers and student artists,” notes President Boggs. “It will be great to see and share all the creative ways that PTAs use BAND to communicate, coordinate and celebrate, even when we can’t come together in person as we normally do.”

BAND is available for free on iOS, Android, and the web.

For more information, visit https://about.band.us.


BAND is a Proud National PTA Sponsor and receives promotional consideration, such as this blog post, as part of their sponsorship benefits. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service. No endorsement of BAND is implied.

Life360 Location Sharing Saved My Injured Son

Our guest blogger David has been a Life360 member for the past two years. Here, he shares how he used the family safety app when their outdoorsy summer vacation took an unexpected turn.

I wanted to take my kids on one last summer adventure before the new school year began. We woke everyone up early in the morning, packed the car, and drove three hours north to a town with a popular ATV park. My wife and I both grew up ATVing, and enjoyed sharing it with our two sons over the years. This particular park was our favorite — an old rock quarry with over 1,000 acres of forested areas and sand dunes.

After we’d ridden for half the day, I stopped to help my youngest son with his dirt bike. That’s when my eldest son decided to take a solo ride.

After 30 minutes passed and he didn’t return, we started to worry. We checked Life360 and saw that he wasn’t moving and we became extremely concerned.

Life360 pinpointed my son’s location in a large green area on the map and I knew he was somewhere in the forest. I jumped back on my ATV and headed towards him using the Life360 map to guide me. After about 2 miles over multiple rivers and through steep valleys, I finally reached him. He had crashed into a tree and been launched into a nearby ravine.

He was disoriented from the crash and his knee was dislocated, so he couldn’t walk. If it hadn’t been for Life360, we would have had to hire a search party and comb through 1,000 acres.

My family downloaded Life360 a couple years ago after my brother suggested it to me — and we’ll never take it off of our phones. Since we live in a rural area, our kids often arrive home before my wife and I are finished commuting. We love the security of knowing that they’ve arrived safely. And in those moments when every second counts, Life360 has always been there for us.

Learn more about Life360 membership and find the plan that fits your family at Life360.com.

 

Meet the 2019 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Winner

This summer, National PTA honored Mark Twain Elementary PTA in Lawndale, California with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Award for Outstanding Family-School Partnership. This award is given to top National PTA School of Excellence designees for demonstrating outstanding success in engaging families in student success and school improvements.

Mark Twain Elementary PTA proved again and again to be incredibly deserving of the designation and this award. Their work throughout the School of Excellence program truly highlighted the positive impacts that can be achieved with hard work and dedication to strengthening family-school partnership.

Mark Twain Elementary PTA began their work in the summer by forming an Excellence Team composed of PTA members, the principal and student support services staff, district communications staff, and bilingual speakers. The PTA was extremely intentional in creating a team that aligned with the school community as well as the district office.

This intentional team-building proved vital in the end. Working with the principal gave the team an important advocate who assisted throughout the School of Excellence program process, while the bilingual speakers, who represented the English language learners (35% of the student population), allowed the Excellence Team to embed Inclusiveness, one of Four I’s of Transformative Family Engagement, into the program planning.

After selecting their Excellence Team and sending out National PTA’s Baseline Survey, Mark Twain Elementary PTA began analyzing the results and setting goals. The team was determined to approach the survey results critically and to use the information gathered to develop a plan that would create tangible change in their community – a critical step to success in the School of Excellence program. While every program participant must survey their community, Mark Twain Elementary PTA made sure to use the survey as a tool to embed one of the Four I’s – Individualized – into their program. By tailoring their program to the survey results, the Excellence Team ensured that their work would benefit their school community thoroughly and intentionally.

The Baseline Survey results indicated that their school community was generally pleased, but that there was a need to focus on improving education and do more with college and career readiness. With generally positive results revealed, Mark Twain Elementary PTA built their action plan around making things better rather than starting from scratch. Using the survey results, they learned what was already working, where families were already showing up and how families were interacting with one another. For example, the Excellence Team noticed that 49% of their survey responses were received by paper. To the team, this showed a community willing to give feedback but one that may benefit from a refreshed and more efficient communication strategy.

As the survey revealed to the Excellence Team that college and career readiness was an area for improvement in their community, Mark Twain Elementary PTA launched their first PTA College and Career Readiness Month. As a first step, the PTA invited parents and caregivers to read books and speak about their careers. With a female-heavy volunteer base, the PTA was pleased that four new dads joined this effort and promised they would return again next year. This increase in male volunteer support was just another example of Mark Twain Elementary PTA embedding inclusion into their School of Excellence program.

The new PTA College and Career Readiness Month also coincided with Spirit Week. Mark Twain Elementary PTA partnered with student support services who helped students write their future career plans on miniature squares. The color-coded squares then created a muraled billboard that aligned current grade levels to a high school graduation year. Many students said this was the first time they thought about their graduation. It was small moments like these – students discussing graduation for the first time or father’s volunteering where they previously had not – that showed the Excellence Team that their work was not falling short. Rather they were, in fact, creating real, positive and long-lasting change.

To close out College and Career Readiness Month, Mark Twain Elementary PTA rebranded one of their biggest traditions to JOG-A-THON 2019: Run Toward Your Future. During the run students wore college gear or clothing that expressed their desired career path. The color-coded mural also made an appearance to remind students about their educational goal and beyond.

While all these events were going on, the PTA made sure to send home bilingual communication about district PSAT workshops, local resources and experiences including STEM Nights and science festivals as well as college scholarships. This ensured that even families and children not present at the events were receiving useful information and resources. They did this purposefully with Inclusion and the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships of “Welcoming all Families” and “Communicating Effectively” in mind. In the end, the thoughtfulness and success led to the declaration that College and Career Readiness Month would be an annual event. Making the event annual allowed Mark Twain Elementary PTA to incorporate another of the vital Four I’s of Transformative Family Engagement – Integration.

At the end of the year, Mark Twain Elementary PTA’s hard work truly paid off. Through the deployment of National PTA’s Final Survey, the PTA saw 11% increase in the number of surveys submitted and a 100% increase in the ‘always’ rating in their survey responses. The PTA also moved the needle in every category and made significant leaps relative to Welcoming All Families (‘always’ up 5%-21%), Supporting Student Success (‘always’ up 5%-18%), Communicating Effectively (‘always’ up 8%-16%), and Speaking Up for Every Child (‘always’ up 6%-17%). Most importantly, the PTA witnessed their highest levels of engagement ever – with more thankful families, increased event attendance, and new volunteers.

Mark Twain Elementary PTA ended the year with much pride in their work and showed they were truly committed to making a positive change in their school community. Before even earning the designation, much less the top honor, the PTA leaders decided that, regardless of their School of Excellence designation, they were going to celebrate their year because they had accomplished so much. The Excellence Team even noted that they accomplished only small portion of all their goals and that they would continue to use the School of Excellence program to drive positive change in their school and community.

You too can see amazing changes in your school community with hard work and support from the School of Excellence program. Learn more about the program at PTA.org/Excellence and make sure to enroll by October 1 to secure your spot on the path to excellence.


Ellie Miller is a programs specialist for National PTA.

Help Protect your Family as Businesses Begin to Reopen

Important tips to follow if your family decides to make an outing

As restaurant, retail businesses and other family-centric locations – like amusement parks – across the country begin to reopen, you may wonder how to best protect yourself and loved ones from getting sick if you decide to dine out or run some extra errands. While there is risk involved with any public outing, following the below guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If your family decides to venture outside the home and into public spaces, Lysol® and National PTA encourage you to follow these simple and easy guidelines:

  • Practice social distancing and wear a cloth face covering: COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with each other for a prolonged period. Practice social distancing by staying at least six feet apart from people who are not members of your immediate household and wear a cloth face covering every time you are out in public where you may end up closer than six feet to others.[i]
  • Research COVID-19 levels in your area: With many states seeing surges in cases, it is important to be aware if your area is seeing an increase in cases and make your best judgement on the safety of going out.[ii]
  • Check restaurants’ COVID-19 prevention policies: If you decide to go out to eat, check the restaurant’s website for updated COVID-19 prevention policies and procedures. Make sure that staff will be wearing face coverings and wear your own face coverings when entering and leaving the restaurant and when not eating. When possible, sit outside at tables spaced six or more feet apart.[iii]
  • Make appointments: Whether booking a spot at the gym, the hair salon or the dentist, make sure to call ahead to reserve your spot, check on policies and ensure that capacity limits will be met. Limit attendance at indoor group activities such as training sessions, and always wash your hands upon returning home.[iv]
  • Avoid public transit if possible: If public transportation is necessary, make sure to avoid touching surfaces, wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Wash your hands before and after taking public transportation. Even in your car, be sure to frequently disinfect commonly touched areas, such as the steering wheel and seats, with a product like Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes[v], or Lysol Disinfecting Spray (both approved by the EPA for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19)[vi].
  • Stick to outdoor activities where possible: Whether dining outdoors, hosting a barbeque or going hiking, outdoor activities pose less risk than indoor activities for transmitting COVID-19, as they allow for more social distancing and air flow.[vii]

To learn more about healthy habits for children, please visit Lysol.com/healthy-classroom/. For more information about COVID-19, please visit CDC.gov.


[i] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/deciding-to-go-out.html
[iii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html
[iv] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html
[v] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/using-transportation.html
[vi] https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/07/health/epa-lysol-disinfectant-covid-19-trnd/index.html
[vii] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/visitors.html

At Home Activities for Summer 2020

Summer may look and feel a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean that you and your family can’t still have fun and make the most of the season. Though some vacations may be postponed and children’s day camps may be closed, there are still plenty of activities to do with your children from home that are sure to keep them entertained and smiling. Now more than ever, it is important to continue practicing and teaching healthy habits to your children. Lysol® and National PTA suggest the following social distancing activities for a fun, and more importantly, safe, summer:

  • Get outside and get active: Your family can still enjoy the nice weather, but the CDC recommends wearing masks in public, staying out of crowded places, and keeping at least 6 feet apart from other people.[1] Whether biking, hiking, walking in your neighborhood or playing t-ball in your backyard, your family can still keep busy and active with outdoor activities.
  • Keep learning: Keep your children’s minds active throughout the summer by continuing education at home. Lysol® created Resources for Teaching at Home materials and lesson plans to help parents teach children about healthy habits and lifestyles in a fun and engaging way.
  • Make a fort: Build a pillow and blanket fort with your kids, then camp out inside with popcorn and blankets for a cozy movie night.
  • Institute a cleaning calendar: What better time to update your chart! Assign everyone in the family a few simple tasks to do each day (like picking up toys or making their beds). It will give everyone something to do, plus take a few chores off mom and dad’s plates, as well.
  • Indulge in a staycation: Just because you can’t go on a physical vacation, doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to a week off! Create a staycation for your family by canceling external work and activities for the week, ordering takeout from a new restaurant and spending time relaxing together at home.
  • Learn a new skill: Take a virtual cooking class with your family or learn a new craft like painting or knitting. This will give everyone a project to focus on, while also spending quality time together.

To learn more about healthy habits for children, please visit lysol.com/healthy-classroom/. For more information about COVID-19, please visit CDC.gov.

[1] CDC.gov. “How to Protect Yourself & Others.”