Go Back to School Thinking About Your End Game

It begins again! When’s the first PTA meeting? When is Open House? Do we have enough volunteers? Where’s the budget? Who has the membership forms? It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of preparing PTA for a new school year. Want some advice? Think about the “end game” to help you focus on what matters. It’s so much easier to get to where you want to go if you know where you want to end up!

How many young people will your PTA touch this year? How many will decide to be a writer because of the PTA assembly, shine in a PTA Reflections program, get active in a PTA fun run, or have their futures open wide during a STEM night? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, will your PTA be able to say it positively influenced the lives of 100% of the children in your community? Think about the excitement your PTA can generate as you work toward that goal and think about how great it will feel to achieve it.

How many families will your PTA benefit this year? How many adults will get involved in their child’s education, have fun as a family, advocate on behalf of a child, or create a healthier, safer home environment because PTA provided the opportunity and resources? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t you love to report that your PTA made a positive difference in the lives of 100% of the families of your community? Think about the partners and members you can attract as you work toward that goal and how amazing it will feel to have that type of impact on children and families.

How many community members will your PTA influence this year? What services and programs can be made available through partnerships, how many non-parent adults will be become school supporters, how many resources can become available to families, children and schools because of the relationships your PTA builds? Start planning and counting now. When the school year ends, wouldn’t it be deeply satisfying to report your PTA’s role in improving your community and increasing the support it provides to children, families and schools?

PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that movement as a member, volunteer or leader? PTA is out to change the world. How will your PTA take us all one step closer to our end game?


Deborah Walsh is the National Service Representative Manager for National PTA.

Cobb Middle School – Rise to Excellence Celebration

 

Cobb Middle School PTA in Frisco, Texas had a great deal to celebrate at their Rise to Excellence event as a 2017-2019 National PTA School of Excellence and the 2017 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Award winner. Cobb Middle School is the first school in Frisco ISD to receive the School of Excellence designation and the first school in Texas to receive the Hearst Award, National PTA’s highest honor for effective family engagement. Filling the auditorium in attendance at the celebration event were Cobb Middle School students, staff, administration, the PTA Board of Trustees and past PTA presidents, Texas and National PTA, Deputy Superintendents, the Mayor and his wife. Student performances from band, choir, theater and cheer groups adorned speeches from students in Teen Leadership, administration and PTA leaders.

In his speech, a Cobb Middle School 8th grader, James Kair, extended gratitude to the PTA saying, “They are the people who make Cobb stronger compared to other middle schools. What we have here at Cobb is special. We reflect back what the parents and teachers show us. This is not the case at all middle schools. We take it for granted because we’ve all been so fortunate our whole time here to have such amazing, amazing people running our school…it’s those selfless parents who volunteered their time to make our experience better.” James went on to explain that receiving the award was an enormous honor and show of support stating, “This is a big deal. This is what it’s liked to be loved. This is what it’s like to be cared for. Not many people can say that they have that. Life is a mountain. Taking a tumble down a mountain is not nearly as bad when you have someone behind you picking you up.” Cobb Middle School Principal, Kecia Theodore, started and ended her speech with cheer and applause. The excitement was palpable. She recognized everyone in the room for their efforts in enabling students to thrive. In her words, “PTA is awesome. PTA here at Cobb is woven into the fabric of who we are. I cannot imagine having a day here at school we do not have PTA here to support us. Students, please know this is a special day for us so today, we stand a little taller, we smile a little wider. This is a time to show your pride.”

Heather Ashwell-Hair, Vice President of Leadership at Texas PTA, broke down the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, the process of becoming a nationally-recognized School of Excellence and how Cobb Middle was the top-ranked, #1 School of Excellence to earn the Phoebe Apperson Hearst award saying, “I know how much of a team effort this was.” She went on to  explain that only 143 PTAs were recognized as 2017-2019 National PTA Schools of Excellence and that Texas recognized 18 of these PTAs. Leslie Boggs, National PTA President-Elect, shared the legacy of National PTA’s co-founders, Alice Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst over 121 years ago. She described the Cobb students as fantastic and special, and asked them to bring their voices to make positive change.

Melinda Samberson, PTA President of Frisco ISD PTAs, Immediate Past President and 2016-17 School of Excellence Program Leader at Cobb, spoke about her personal involvement in the school, having three children that span 8 years at Cobb. Regarding the School of Excellence, Melinda said, “The great thing about this award and honor is that it wasn’t just me, or the PTA, or the teachers, or the principal or the families or the students, but It was a unified effort to make Cobb Middle School better; A true family-school partnership. And because of the collaboration, it wasn’t just the PTA or the school that benefitted, but the students and families and the entirety of this campus. This award sparked interest …as we all strive for excellence, our community wins.” In her role as Council President and with 10 years of PTA experience, Melinda is now working to make Frisco ISD Council’s vision come to fruition, to make all schools better, saying, “We can do this together as a team and the students will benefit. That is the power and value of PTA.”

It is clear that Cobb Middle School PTA is incredibly honorable and remarkable, working collaboratively with the administration, teachers and staff to make their school a true School of Excellence. To learn more about Cobb Middle School PTA’s journey to become the 2017 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Award winner visit PTA.org/Hearst. To learn more about how your PTA can become key partners in continuous school improvement and to enroll in the School of Excellence program visit PTA.org/Excellence or email Excellence@PTA.org.

 


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

Enroll in the 2018-19 School of Excellence Program

Maybe you are looking to step up your PTA’s involvement in school improvements. Maybe something meaningful is already happening between your PTA and school, and you would like to see that 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 to 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.

Throughout the school year, you will use tools, resources and support provided by National PTA to bring positive change in family engagement. In the final step of the program, your work be evaluated through a Final Application. Those resulting in a stronger family-school partnership will receive the two-year National PTA School of Excellence distinction and 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 administrator to choose one focus area and objective to concentrate on in the coming school year.

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

You will then complete an online Initial Application. Upon receipt, National PTA will provide you with a Roadmap to Excellence guide that contains specific recommendations that respond directly to the survey results and focus area you identified.

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

Using your Roadmap to Excellence, you and your Excellence team will develop an action plan 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 online to receive a new Roadmap to Excellence to continue the momentum you have gained in engaging families the following school year.

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.

Join the ranks of over 600 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 2018-2019 School of Excellence is now open. To learn more and to enroll, visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence. Contact Excellence@PTA.org or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

 


Amy Weinberg, MA is the Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2018-2019 School of Excellence program.

PTA Palooza?! What’s that you say?

We’re bringing New Orleans to you in our Expo Hall at the 2018 National PTA Convention & Expo! Don’t miss this free, family-friendly community event.

So, what the heck is a PTA Palooza?

PTA Palooza (noun).

  1. An exciting, brand-new event during the PTA Convention in New Orleans occurring Saturday, June 23 from 10:15 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  2. Chock-full of fun and local flair, PTA Palooza will feature more than 100 exhibitors in the school and family category offering hands-on activities, roaming entertainment by a stilt walker and magician, and face painting for everyone!
  3. New Orleans-style gumbo and even alligator sausage will be available for purchase to really get you in the local spirit.
  4. If the spicy local flavors aren’t enough, a Second Line band and Mardi Gras Indian will be on stage as well as Make Music NOLA, to keep our toes tapping throughout the event.
  5. And while you there, come and make a Mardi Gras mask, get a signed autograph from Aidan Anderson and check out the swag at the PTA Store!

Example of use: We hope to see you at PTA Palooza for a day of family fun!

PTA Palooza is a free event open to everyone! Register now (for Palooza only) at PTA.org/Palooza. Register for the entire 2018 National PTA Convention & Expo at PTA.org/Convention.


Jennifer Bradley is the manager of corporate alliances for National PTA.

Reading Under the Stars

As part of Take Your Family to School Week, Wilson Elementary School PTA in Norman, Oklahoma invited their school community to participate in a Family Reading Experience in partnership with Reading Is Fundamental (RIF). The Wilson Elementary School PTA coined this event “Reading Under the Stars” where families took part in a read-aloud of Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca and visited four literacy-based activity stations which included craft-making and the creation of space-themed stories.

Upon completion of their ‘Astronaut Checklists’, students earned a free space book. Wilson Elementary School PTA was met with wonderful support from school staff who ran the activity stations and helped prepare dinner for the families. The PTA Board, Principal, school counselor and cafeteria staff were all there to lend helping hands towards the success of the event. The community also lent great support with the local library leading the read-alouds and the nearby High School bringing a giant, blow-up solar system that enabled students and families to learn about the stars and constellations.

With over 130 people in attendance, this Family Reading Experience was a true success. PTA President, Annette Price said, “Many of the students loved creating stories about planets and a rocket craft that allowed students to spell out words on their rocket.  The whole event was a lot of fun for all involved!” You too can host a Family Reading Experience at your elementary school to celebrate literacy. Visit PTA.org/Reading to access tips and resources for hosting your event and RIFs PTA Portal for book lists and accompanying activities.

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

It Takes a Village: Lessons on Developing the Whole Child

I know you’ve got a lot more on your plate than your next work deadline. You have to pick your kids up from swim practice; you are worried about that cough your dad had over the holidays; you are daydreaming about writing that novel. The same is true of your children—they also have more to worry about, and way more to contribute, than taking the next test.

As adults, we are able (most of the time) to strive for balance in our lives. But our children don’t have enough experience to be able to do that yet. In order for them to be successful, we have to be able to show them how to manage the stress that daily life brings.

That’s where social, emotional and academic development comes in. The Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development is spending two years talking to parents, teachers and students to explore how schools can develop the whole child. And on a site visit to Tacoma, Wash., last month, commissioners got some powerful answers.

I was there as a parent advisor to the Commission. Here are three strategies we saw in Tacoma that hold exciting potential for communities across the country:

  1. Leverage the Power of the Community

Schools have a pretty single-minded focus: educate our kids. But what leaders in Tacoma realized is that you don’t have to bend other organizations to your priorities in order to build a community effort around supporting students—you just have to let everyone play to their strengths.

Take Tacoma’s Science and Math Institute (SAMI) for example. This high school, set in the middle of Point Defiance Park, uses its working relationship with the city Parks Department to foster experiences that are truly hands on, and sometimes unexpected. My student tour guide at SAMI told me about a calculus test she recently took while seated by the aquarium’s shark tank. She said the dimness and serenity helped her focus. Students manage ongoing research projects, train to be docents at the zoo, and can work on internships that allow them to apply their learning in real-world settings.

  1. Listen to Students and Teachers

We all know teachers wear many hats. That’s why it’s critical to understand that focusing on students’ social, emotional and academic development doesn’t have to be burdensome. In fact, Tacoma teachers say the Whole Child Initiative has made them feel more supported and free to do their jobs. The initiative has slashed tardy arrivals and absences, boosted test scores and reduced discipline referrals across the district. During my visits to Tacoma’s public schools, I witnessed how teachers are valued as front-line experts and are given opportunities for leadership.

Tacoma also actively includes student voices. At each school I visited, it was clear that not only do students feel listened to, they feel empowered: empowered to resolve their own conflicts, to speak with authority and pride about their schools, and be active participants in shaping their schools’ cultures. For example, students at Jason Lee Middle School advise educators on improvements that can be made and are an active part of the rule-making process. The PTA motto of “every child, one voice” was truly on display in Tacoma.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative

Each child, classroom, school and district is different. What’s unique about your community? You may not have Point Defiance Park, but what about a creative partnership with that homeless shelter down the road?

Tacoma’s schools are flourishing under the Whole Child Initiative, but to replicate that success will mean stepping outside of our comfort zones of fall festivals and fun runs. It will mean focusing on how we, as parents and community members, can do that extra little bit to establish meaningful relationships with the world outside of the school walls.

Our children are complex. Let’s help make sure their educations develop all their potential.

Van Overton is the executive director of SpreadLoveABQ (an organization committed to developing creative fundraising solutions for child advocacy groups); the co-founder of Duke City Dream Lab (an organization that works to make the arts accessible to all children); a three-year member of the New Mexico PTA Board of Directors; and an active volunteer in Albuquerque schools. Van is a member of the National Commission’s Parent Advisory Panel.

Celebrate Take Your Family to School Week All Week Long

Take Your Family to School Week (Feb. 11-17) is more than just a one-night event, it is a weeklong celebration of family engagement and the great work PTAs have done to support the school community.

This year we came up with an easy way for every family to participate in celebrating PTA—Daily themes!

Maker Monday: Celebrate the arts in your school community.

  • Showcase the artwork of your 2018 Reflections participants by creating a display in the school entryway. Share pictures of students, teachers and parents enjoying the display using #PTAProud.

Try-It Tuesday: Help create healthy eating habits by encouraging families to try a new food or recipe.

  • Pick a fruit or vegetable to be an honored guest! Set-up tasting stations throughout the cafeteria where students can try your featured ingredient prepared in different ways. Share the recipes that you used with your school community.

Writer Crush Wednesday: Share your love of reading!

  • Set up an area before or after school for students to read classic love poems and to write their own. There is no better valentine then one that comes directly from the heart! Check out this list for some school appropriate poems.

Techie Thursday: Use this day to highlight the “T” in Stem

  • Share an interview with the school technology administrator or robotics coach and ask them what things they wish the greater school community new about the technology opportunities within your school. Even better, set-up an online chat where parents or families can ask the questions live!

Family Celebration Friday: Celebrate all the families in your school community!

  • Use this day to take the time to thank everyone for celebrating with us this year!

With these themes every PTA member and school can participate in Take Your Family to School Week. We cannot wait to celebrate the founding of National PTA with you all week long! Remember to use #PTAProud to show how you are celebrating Take Your Family to School Week on social media! And, Make sure to share your events with us!

Alyssa Montchal is a Programs & Partnerships Program Manager at National PTA.

Enroll in the 2017-18 School of Excellence Program

Maybe you are looking to step up your PTA’s involvement in school improvements. Maybe something meaningful is already happening between your PTA and school, and you would like to see that 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 to 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.

Throughout the school year, you will use tools, resources and support provided by National PTA to bring positive change in family engagement. In the final step of the program, your work be evaluated through a Final Application. Those resulting in a stronger family-school partnership, will receive the two-year National PTA School of Excellence distinction and 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 administrator to choose one focus area and objective to concentrate on in the coming school year.

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

You will then complete an online Initial Application. Upon receipt, National PTA will provide you with a Roadmap to Excellence guide that contains specific recommendations that respond directly to the survey results and focus area you identified.

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

Using your Roadmap to Excellence, you and your Excellence team will develop an action plan 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 online to receive a new Roadmap to Excellence to continue the momentum you have gained in engaging families the following school year.

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.

Join the ranks of over 500 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 2017-18 School of Excellence is open. To learn more and to enroll, visit our website at PTA.org/Excellence. Contact Excellence@PTA.org or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.

How will you #ThankATeacher?

Teacher Appreciation Week is just around the corner and National PTA is celebrating in a big way!

The #ThankATeacher Contest encourages PTAs to share on social media examples of how their teachers deliver to students by using #ThankATeacher. Entering the contest is easy to do!

  1. Post a photo or video on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram that shows how teachers deliver to students in your school. Use the hashtag #ThankATeacher and make sure the post is public!
  2. Fill out the contest entry form at PTA.org/ThankATeacher.

The contest runs through April 17, 2017, and over $20,000 in prizes will be awarded to teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week in May.

Two grand prize winners will be selected to each receive a Google Express shopping spree worth up to $4,500 to help spruce up their school’s teachers’ lounges. Four first place winners will receive either a snack or wellness delivery worth up to $2,500 each to help stock up their teachers’ break rooms. All winners, including 25 runner up winners, will receive a Google Home for their school.

Three PTAs will also receive a library of 100 “I Can Read” books including characters like Pete the Cat, Amelia Bedelia, and Biscuit delivered at a school event featuring a children’s book author or costume character from HarperCollins Children’s Books. Ten additional PTAs also will receive an “I Can Read” book set for their school.

Teachers deliver so much to students every day and make a profound difference in the long-term success of children. Join us as we gear up for Teacher Appreciation Week by thanking the teachers in your lives and giving back.

Ashley Collier is the associate manager of digital communications at National PTA.

For Food Allergies, a Halloween Appeal: Go Teal!

View More: http://marciaannedesigns.pass.us/fare

From classroom parties and Trunk-or-Treats to ghosts and goblins knocking on your door, Halloween puts snacking front and center. But for youngsters on restricted diets, the holiday’s focus on foods they can’t eat puts a big damper on trick-or-treat fun.

One in 13 U.S. children has a food allergy. That’s about two kids per classroom. For many, just touching the wrong food causes hives and the smallest taste can be life-threatening. Other students have different health needs that require a special diet, including diabetes, celiac disease and many digestive disorders. Like every other child, these children deserve a fun, inclusive Halloween.Print

Join the Teal Pumpkin Project to make Halloween happy and safe for all children—including those who can’t eat a chocolate or candy treat.

Why teal? Teal is the color of food allergy awareness. When you display a teal pumpkin (or a Teal Pumpkin Project sign), you’re letting kids and their families know that you have non-food goodies to share.

View More: http://marciaannedesigns.pass.us/fareLaunched by Food Allergy Research & Education in 2014, the purpose of the Teal Pumpkin Project is inclusion. Here are the benefits:

  • You don’t need to choose between offering either snacks or trinkets, so long as the food and non-food treats are kept in separate bowls.
  • Toys and prizes won’t go to waste, since they’re popular even with kids who love candy.
  • Some of these kid-friendly items are useful as well—such as glow sticks and glow jewelry that make trick-or-treaters easier to see at night or Halloween-themed pencils and erasers that come in handy as spare school supplies.

View More: http://marciaannedesigns.pass.us/fareWhether your pumpkin comes from a farm or a craft store, painting it teal combines creative play with a lesson in empathy. Decorating a teal pumpkin or coloring an activity sheet reminds kids that while some classmates may not be able to eat some candies, we can include them in the fun by offering treats that are safe for them. We can trick-or-treat others the way we would want to be treated.

The 2016 goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is for at least one home on every block to stock up on non-food treats and welcome all trick-or-treaters with a beautiful teal pumpkin. We hope this Halloween,  children with food allergies and other restrictive diets will spot a teal pumpkin on your doorstep or in your school Halloween festivities, and smile.

For more info—including links to free resources to help create a happier, safer Halloween for all—visit TealPumpkinProject.org.


Lois A. Witkop is Chief Advancement Officer for Food Allergy Research & Education. She is proud mom to two teens and is a parent member of the Robinson Secondary School PTSA in Fairfax, Va.