Back to School and Back to PTA means Engaging Families and Growing Membership!

by Linda Johnson and Kirthana Krishnathasan

A new school year means new opportunities to grow your PTA. This past year was tough for so many PTAs, families and communities. As you prepare for back to school, you may be wondering how you can grow your PTA membership this year. Would you be surprised to learn that even during the pandemic, there were PTAs across the country that were able to grow their membership last year?!

We talked to some of these PTAs and here’s what they shared about what helped them engage families in their communities and grow their membership.

  • Start as early as you can, but it’s never too late to make the effort!
  • Make joining as easy as possible. Contact your state PTA to find out if there is an online membership platform available. If you use a paper form, make sure they are available everywhere. Make sure all PTA board members and the school(s) have a supply on hand. Provide a link to your join PTA page or form in every communication.
  • Ask everyone who was a member last year to support the PTA/PTSA again this year. Send out email renewal notices to everyone who was a member last year.
  • Use a QR code that links to your online membership join platform and put it everywhere! Have it on signs at all your PTA and school events, put it on your social media, on any flyers that are sent home, on signs around the school or even on business cards for your board. Check out this video on How to Create a QR code in less than a minute.
  • Ask your principal to share the value your PTA brings to your school and encourage families and teachers to support PTA.
  • Use all communication channels—in person, direct emails, newsletters, flyers, banners, school marquis, social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok.
  • Ask for people to join PTA all year at every virtual, in person or drive thru event. Check out these sample Join PTA/PTSA emails.
  • Ask everyone to join your PTA. Membership is open to anyone who supports the PTA mission: families, teachers, staff, students (if allowed), community members, public officials, etc.
  • Add a Join PTA button to all your online event(s) or volunteer sign ups.
  • PTA in a virtual way to attract more families who can’t always attend in person.
  • Focus on issues important to the families in your community. DIY Kit for Membership Growth helps you determine the needs of your community and how to align your PTA priorities.
  • Provide special benefits/perks to your PTA members: family membership, free popcorn at movie night, discount to a local business, etc.
  • Toot your PTA horn! Make sure your whole community (not just members) knows all the ways your PTA is supporting students and families. Brand everything you do so your community knows it is the PTA doing the work or providing the financial support. It takes just a few minutes to Customize PTA logos or you can use graphics from the Membership Campaign to share the value of your PTA.
  • Translate materials in the languages that are spoken by families in your community to be inclusive.

Check out the new 125 Ways to Grow Membership, 10 Myths/Truths and many other membership recruitment tools available to help you grow your PTA.

Have questions or need support, reach out to us at membership@pta.org.

Enhance the PTA Membership Experience: Ask Everyone to Join

By Linda Johnson and Ivelisse Castro, National PTA, Membership and Field Service Team

Nearly 20,000 local PTAs/PTSAs are getting ready to get Back to School, Back to PTA. So much to be done and so little time to prepare for a successful PTA/PTSA year. National PTA wants to make things easy for local PTA leaders and help support a positive PTA membership experience. Since the number one reason why people do not join PTA is that they are never asked, we’ve developed a suite of customizable templates to help local PTAs ask their community to join PTA using the PTA Membership Campaign.

Templates to:

  1. Invite everyone to PTA/PTSA for Your Child as we get Back to School, Back to PTA by joining, supporting, or investing in your PTA/PTSA. This letter/email is to be used at the beginning of the PTA membership year as families get ready to get back to school. If printed as a letter, you can add your PTA membership registration form on the back or create a QR code for people to scan.
  2. Invite existing and past PTA/PTSA members to continue supporting your PTA/PTSA by renewing their membership. This letter/email is to be used as soon as your PTA membership year starts and anytime to target past members who haven’t renewed their PTA membership this year.
  3. Invite PTA/PTSA event attendees to join your PTA/PTSA to support programs and events like the one they attended. Use this letter/email throughout the year after every PTA/PTSA event/program to invite attendees who are not yet members to join your PTA/PTSA.
  4. Welcome members to PTA/PTSA and thank them for joining, let them know the benefits of PTA membership and let them know how much their membership means to your PTA and to you as a PTA leader.

Remember since the number one reason why people don’t join PTA is because they are not asked, make sure to ask this year! Sometimes you must ask more than once.  People love it when PTAs/PTSAs take the time to invite them to join or renew their membership. They love receiving a Welcome to PTA/Thank you for Joining message even more. An invitation to join makes them feel like they can make a difference just by becoming a member. A welcome/thank you message makes them feel included, valued, appreciated; it makes them feel their membership does matter.

Use these resources to Market your PTA to make it easier for your PTA/PTSA to provide a meaningful membership experience so that when it’s time to ask them to renew next year, everyone will say “Yes” again, and again, and again. For more ideas to grow your membership, you can check out 125 Ways to Increase Membership and the 10 PTA Membership Myths & Truths

Increasing membership is vital for our PTA voice to be stronger and more powerful or influential.

Have a successful PTA membership year.

P.S.: We would love to know if these resources were helpful or if you need additional tools. Please let us know by emailing us at Membership@PTA.org.

Meet the 2021 Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awardees!

Each year, National PTA honors the top three National PTA Schools of Excellence with the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awards for demonstrating outstanding success in engaging families in student success and school improvement. The awardees are selected by a team of Past National PTA Presidents and are the highest honor our association offers for success in family engagement. 

The 2021 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst recipients are:  

Helen Keller Jr. High School PTA in Illinois, who received the top Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Award. Miami Beach Senior High PTSA in Florida and Hembree Springs Elementary School PTA in Georgia both received the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Award of Merit.  

Thanks to the generous support of the Hearst Foundation, the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Outstanding Family-School Partnership Awardee receives a $2,000 grant for their school and the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Family-School Partnership Merit Awardees each receive $500 grants for their schools. We are pleased to share with you just a snapshot of the amazing work the 2021 National PTA Phoebe Apperson Hearst recipients put into building and growing family-school partnerships in their communities. To learn more about the accomplishments of these top-ranked PTAs, visit PTA.org/Hearst.  

Helen Keller Jr High School PTA   

Helen Keller Jr High School is a Title 1 school in Shaumburg, Illinois. Their PTA serves a diverse student body of nearly 600 students. Through the School of Excellence program, the PTA used feedback from their school community to address families’ concerns about the mental health and well-being of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Program leader Trisha Anderson said the PTA decided to enroll in the School of Excellence program because, “The COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted our physical health—our mental health has also been greatly impacted. Our goal is to help our school community become aware of the importance of mental health. We hope the investment in doing this work will change the school by providing them with mental health awareness and with strategies to improve mental health.” 

The PTA worked collaboratively with school leadership and staff to implement a program to educate students and raise awareness about the importance of mental health. They provided mental health resources for families through new and revamped communication vehicles and created a forum for families to share additional tips and tools to communicate more effectively. The PTA also worked hard to connect and align the Mental Health program within the framework of existing social and emotional learning (SEL) lessons. Teachers reviewed the existing material and re-worked their SEL lesson plans to include specific mental health lessons. Physical Education teachers worked with in-person students to “chalk the walk” in order to raise awareness about mental health and hosted a mental health event during PE classes.  

The school improvement goal Helen Keller Jr High School PTA identified as part of their School of Excellence journey was finding new ways to keep families informed and to communicate effectively in an atypical, frequently changing, majority virtual school year. There were no in person events, handouts or volunteers on campus, so they updated existing channels of communications and created new channels to reach our school community. By creating new forums for informing families and encouraging two-way communication, they laid the groundwork for ongoing communication with families and put relevant Mental Health programming in place that will be used in future school years.  

Helen Keller’s Principal stated, “Working with the Keller PTA on the National PTA School of Excellence work has been a tremendous partnership.  One of the most significant takeaways came from how we communicate with our families.  From my perspective, this work has been so beneficial because it can be layered into our existing work as a building, and absolutely assists with strengthening our connections with families to ensure whole child student success.” 

We think it’s safe to say that this outstanding PTA created impactful, ongoing programming to address families’ concerns about students’ mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as a direct result of their increased integration with school leadership and staff, the PTA saw an increase in both parent and staff membership. Congratulations, Helen Keller Jr. High School PTA! We are so proud of the work you’ve been able to achieve to help all students achieve excellence. 

Miami Beach Senior High PTSA  

Miami Beach Senior High PTSA in Florida serves over 2,000 students, the majority of whom are Hispanic. Their greatest accomplishment through the School of Excellence program was increasing communication and collaboration among families, teachers, administrators and staff. Their school improvement and student success goals focused on college- and career-readiness standards.  

First, the PTSA helped the college counselor and the career and technical education department spread their messages to students and parents, increasing awareness of opportunities through emails, social media and zoom sessions. To help students and parents better understand how to navigate the college application process, they scheduled a series of zoom meetings by grade level and group chats through social media to capture students’ attention. 

Next, Miami Beach Senior High PTSA worked with teachers and administration to create a chart to help everyone understand the steps to take when students need additional academic support. To help families better understand how to support their child’s learning, they created a weekly email with a “tip of the week,” covering a range of educational topics. They also worked with school staff to provide grants where needed to enhance educational programming by making it more inclusive and individualized. 

Since Miami Beach Senior High PTSA started the School of Excellence program in 2019, prior to the pandemic, 90% of seniors who graduated in 2020 reported they were planning to attend either a two- or four-year university, 5% planned to either enter the military, trade school or work force and over 300 students earned industry certifications! 

The School of Excellence program helped Miami Beach Senior High reach their identified goals. The program leader said, “School of Excellence provided a framework and platform to spark discussions about enhancing communication, college and career readiness, and vertical alignment within our feeder pattern. We used it to gain collaboration and made positive gains in beginning the process of setting up future procedures.”  

The principal agrees, stating, “The School of Excellence Program provided an effective framework to shape our relationship with parents and establish intentional real-life goals for ALL students.”  Congratulations to Miami Beach Senior High PTSA for all of your achievements. We can’t wait to see what you do next! 

Hembree Springs Elementary School PTA  

Hembree Springs Elementary School is a Title 1 school that serves over 500 students in Roswell, Ga. After analyzing feedback from their school community, the PTA chose to focus their School of Excellence journey on improving education by connecting families with advocacy opportunities, increasing awareness of resources and growing family engagement to support student success. 

To achieve their goals, the PTA decided to work closely with school staff to provide a monthly, one-hour forum for semi-structured conversation between parents and school leaders. They used survey results and parent/guardian feedback to prioritize topics, such as literacy, transitions, assessments, principal updates and the “summer slide.” The PTA made sure to increase access to these sessions by offering them in the evening, reserving time for Q&A and providing translators to ensure access for Spanish-speaking families. They also launched an “advocacy newsletter,” to share information and continue to solicit ideas and feedback.  

Parents loved the PTA’s efforts. One parent said, “I think this year the virtual discussions were most timely and relevant and helpful. I found all of the sessions to be very honest conversations between school leadership and parents. I appreciated this opportunity and would like to see them continue.”  

The virtual discussions were a hit with school administrators, too. A.J. Smith, the Hembree Springs Elementary School principal said, “The Hembree Springs Community has grown through the work of PTA and the school. Our parents have gained so much through our Ask PTA! sessions. With our parents being knowledgeable and supported, our students have had better success in academics and socially/emotionally. This has been evident in our behavior data, attendance data, and academic data. Our Hawks have been impacted in such a positive way. This program has forever changed the way we approach advocacy here at Hembree!”  
 

Overall, PTA and administrators found the School of Excellence program to be very effective in helping them reach their collective goals. “The School of Excellence program provided us with valuable information that we leveraged to foster stronger and deeper relationships with our families and community members. It enabled us to be intentional and specific regarding the needs of our community—leading to the creation of programs and initiatives that will generate ongoing improvements for our school community in years to come.”  

Start Your Journey to Excellence 

As you can see from these PTA stories, the National PTA School of Excellence program opens the lines of communication and critical thinking within school communities to make data-driven decisions that yield positive, long-term results. We hope your PTA will enroll in the 2021-2022 National PTA School of Excellence program to take the first step in enriching the educational experience and overall well-being of your students. Enroll by October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence. Feel free to email Excellence@PTA.org with any questions. 

New Tools to Advance Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

National PTA is committed to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) but what does that look like in action? To answer that question, we partnered with 14 local units to test out new DEI strategies which led to the development of three new tools, the Diversity Profile, the Facilitator’s Guide, and the Action Plan Template. If you’ve already reviewed the Local Leader Guidance for DEI and are wondering what next steps you should take, read on to explore our latest tools! 

Diversity Profile 

Who lives in your community? This may seem like a simple question, but answering it well requires an in depth understanding of the families at your school. Our Diversity Profile Template will walk you through important demographic questions about your community. Questions like: what religions are represented? What is the racial demographic breakdown of your community? What is the median household income?  

After finding out that information, challenge yourself to think critically: Does your PTA board and membership reflect your community? 

Facilitator’s Guide 

If you notice that there are voices missing, it is time to figure out why. How can you create a more inviting PTA that offers leadership opportunities that draw in all members of your community? Our Enhancing DEI Facilitator’s Guide offers step by step instructions for hosting a listening session where you can learn more about how families want to engage with the school and the PTA. The guide includes a meeting agenda complete with questions you can ask families to better understand their experiences and reimagine your PTA in ways that better meet everyone’s needs. Most of all, these conversations are opportunities for intentional relationship building with families who you may not typically interact with! 

One of the grantees shared that their use of the facilitator’s guide really made an impact: “Even though we needed to conduct our listening sessions on Zoom in order to be COVID-safe, our virtual introductions to new-to-PTA parents are already starting to blossom into real-life relationships now that our school has reopened.” 

Action Plan 

Listening is an important first step, but you can’t stop there. After you listen to families, the real work begins. How will you address their concerns, answer their questions, implement their ideas?  

Another grantee shared their own DEI goals, “The first thing we want to do is have a workshop for new PTSA leadership and committee chairs (and anyone else interested) on culturally responsive skills. We want to improve outreach and communication and be sure that our meeting agendas speak to issues that are relevant to all families and that our meetings are conducted in ways that are inclusive.” 

Our Enhancing DEI Action Plan Template provides a structure for you and your board to plan next steps like these. Remember to keep families in the loop as you continue your planning! The action plan is a great way to re-engage the families you listened to. Ask them to weigh in on the draft and make additions or edits. These new strategies and initiatives will be most successful if they are co-created by the PTA board and the rest of your community! 

For more guidance on how your PTA can use these tools, watch our webinar, ”Turning Your Commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion into Action” and keep up with our latest resources at www.pta.org/diversity!  

It’s Not Too Late To PTA!

It’s been a school year like no other. Many schools remain closed, offer hybrid attendance or are open one day and closed the next due to increased cases of COVID-19 in the community. But PTAs don’t need a school building to support their families!

Are you still PTA/PTSA-ing in your school communities? Kids, families, teachers, principals and schools need your PTA more than ever this year. Your PTA can play a key role in helping support your school community in these tough times. It’s not too late to PTA this school year!

If you had a slow start to your PTA year, renew your efforts in 2021. For many, if COVID-19 has meant the needs of your school community have changed, have your PTA refocus on responding to—and supporting—those needs. Everyone has learned so much about how to communicate in a virtual world, so put those new skills to work.

Want a chance to win prizes for your PTA? There are questions embedded throughout this blog. Enter the answers at the end of the blog to be entered in a raffle to win prizes for your PTA.

Supporting Your Community—Virtually

As a PTA leader, determine what is a necessity versus what may need to wait till next school year. Are the event/activities/programs previously hosted by your PTA/PTSA still relevant this year? Can they be revamped to address the new needs of your community or is something new needed that better addresses those needs? It’s never too late to start serving your families and community.

If your PTA has been actively advocating for the children of your community and has been holding virtual or hybrid event(s), programs or community outreach, let your community know your PTA is fighting for all the children and families of your community.

Promote your activities via Facebook, Instagram, newsletters, etc. so people know what your PTA is doing. It’s important to continually ask whether your community knows why your PTA is valuable to them. Check out the new Membership Campaign customizable graphics and messaging that you can use to promote your PTA with an ask to join.

Create a membership campaign that will resonate with your community by highlighting the help you are providing your community and ask people to join, support or invest your PTA so you can continue your work.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how PTA/PTSAs communicate, grow and accomplish the PTA mission within their school communities. PTA members tell us what they value the most about their membership is networking/connection their PTA provides for all families, the way PTA enhances education and the avenue PTA provides for them to have a voice in what is happening in their school and community. There is still time to virtually provide these types of benefits for your PTA members.

How to Run Your PTA/PTSA in the Virtual World

In response to the new needs of PTA/PTSAs, National PTA has developed several resources in the past year to help your PTA be virtual and thrive in this new PTA world.

Question 1: What are 3 of the 5 PTA Values? (hint)

Networking: Learn from your peers virtually

In these times, staying connected is key. Join the PTA Local Leaders Facebook group to instantly share, chat, collaborate, connect and learn from other leaders like you across the country. You should also sign up for National PTA newsletters.

Check with your state, region, district or council PTA to find out if there other networking opportunities in your local community.

Question 2: Do you need a school building to PTA?

Virtual National PTA Programs

National PTA offers several different programs for PTAs. In fact, with the pandemic in mind, we have revamped our programs and launched PTA Programs at Home, which are completely customizable to the needs of your school community. The programs have options for real-time (your PTA will host a virtual event), at your own pace (families will watch recorded videos and follow along), and tech-free.

  • STEM + Families Science Festivals at Home: By hosting a National PTA STEM + Families Science Festival program, your PTA will provide amazing opportunities for families to participate in shared, hands-on science activities. Help all kids and families experience and explore activities and be inspired to pursue careers in STEM!
  • STEM + Families Propelling Our World at Home: By hosting our NEW National PTA STEM + Families Propelling Our World program, your PTA will provide amazing opportunities for families to participate in shared, hands-on activities that will build science, technology, engineering and math skills.
  • PTA Connected Smart Talk Program at Home: As children spend more time online in this COVID world, are parents in your community looking for resources to keep their children safe on the internet? Consider hosting The Smart Talk Conversation.
  • Healthy Hydration Program at Home: Although our day-to-day lives have changed, drinking water is no less important! Check out this program to help families make healthier choices this year.

Don’t reinvent the wheel, just realign the available resources from National PTA to fit the needs of your school community. Check in with your State PTA as well to see if they have additional resources.

Connect with your school community

Staying connected to your PTA members is very important. Without staying connected, how will you know the needs of your community? The needs today might be different than the needs a few months down the road, especially in these times. You do not need to be the experts because your PTA can partner with other non-profits or other community organizers to bring resources to support your families. Send out a survey using Facebook polls, Google forms, etc. to your community to find out what is most important to your PTA community now.

COVID-19 is hitting certain communities more than others. Reflect on the demographics of your school community. Communicate in the languages your families speak. If you are a community of Spanish speakers, National PTA offers many of our resources in Spanish on the National PTA website. How are you communicating with families with limited access to technology and the internet?

Question 3: Why do you PTA?

Let’s Do This!

Things have been constantly changing but your PTA can, and should, start planning now for the rest of the school year. Remember that saying … it’s better late than never. So don’t wait another minute! Start supporting your PTA families and community today.

Most people don’t join their local PTA for the simplest reason … because they were never asked! Now is the best time to start asking! Include an ask to join your PTA in all your messaging, at every event in person or virtual, social media postings and email communications. Brand everything you do with your PTA logo because if you don’t, how will people know it is your PTA who is bringing these valuable resources or programs? If you don’t have a logo, you can create one here in 30 seconds!

On behalf of National PTA, thank you for all you do to support children and families. We know the times are tough for everyone, but we want you to know that you’re doing an amazing job and we’re so #PTAProud of you! 

Pop Quiz Prize Entry

If you have answered all three questions in this blog, fill out this form.


Kirthana Krishnathasan is theMembership & Field Service Specialist for National PTA.

National PTA Demystifies School Funding

Do you feel intimidated by issues related to school funding and education finance? You are not alone. We surveyed parents and caregivers around the country and many shared that they feel clueless and frustrated by how difficult it is to find basic information.

In fact, less than a third (32%) of participants agreed they have a general understanding of how their child’s school district uses its funding. Even fewer (29%) agreed they know where to find information on school funding in their community.

School funding is too important of a topic for parents to sit on the sidelines. Families’ voices are critical to ensure that school budgets reflect a community’s needs and priorities for our students. With that in mind, National PTA has released several resources to help PTA leaders to learn more about school funding.

Listen to our podcast episodes featuring Dr. Marguerite Roza, Director of the Edunomics Lab.
In Money Talks: School Funding 101, Dr. Roza offered practical guidance on how families can stay informed about their school district’s financial decisions and how they can advocate for the priorities they care most about. In our COVID-19 bonus episode, she shared how the pandemic has impacted school finance and she advises how advocates can adapt during this challenging time.

Read our answers to the most frequently asked questions related to school funding.
Are you curious where the money for your child’s school comes from? Are you wondering who makes the decisions about how dollars get spent? Our guide to Understanding & Advocating for School Funding will provide those answers and more.

Register for our upcoming webinar, Understanding Families’ Perspectives on School Funding.
National PTA partnered with five council PTAs in Florida, Texas and Washington to learn more about families’ perspectives on school funding. After talking with more than 150 parents, we are ready to share our findings with you. Join us Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 8:00 p.m. EST to learn: 

What do families actually know about school funding? What areas do they feel are adequately or inadequately funded? And what are the implications of this for PTA leaders’ work advocating for all children?

Join us for a presentation of these research results and learn directly from a panel of PTA leaders about their own experiences advocating on issues related to school funding. Register now.

Let’s raise our PTA voice for better school funding and education finance! You can find the complete list of tools and resources mentioned here at PTA.org/SchoolFunding. All of these resources, including the upcoming webinar, are also available in Spanish.


Rebecca Bauer is the Family Engagement Specialist for National PTA.

PTA Elections Are Coming Soon! Are You Ready?

How does your state or local PTA prepare for the elections of new officers? You should first look at the bylaws of your PTA to see what they say. Under normal circumstances, there are usually two ways; one that has been used for years at your local PTA (this may be different than what your bylaws state) and the one that is designated through Robert’s Rules of Order that are the standard to use when your organization has not set up a process.

Timing is crucial! Set your date of the scheduled election meeting, based on your bylaws and work backwards to meet any and all requirements found there. If your bylaws establish a nominating process either through a nominating committee or board leadership, that group should assemble a list of diverse, willing and qualified candidates for office.

This can greatly benefit members when the time comes to select their leaders. If the committee does its job well, the membership can enjoy some basic assurance that the candidates nominated have at least expressed interest in the job, have agreed to serve, and are qualified for the offices for which they’re nominated.

For more information on Nominations and Elections see Robert’s Rules of Order Article 11-B, section 66 A. Nominations and section 66 B. Elections. Please contact your state PTA for additional assistance. 

If you’re a state PTA, please see further guidance in the State Resource Bank.

If you’re a local PTA, please check out our blog series with helpful tips on meeting virtually.

The Real PTA Fact Checks Netflix’s The Prom

High School. We’ve all been there. It’s a time when adolescence, education and socialization meet to give teens a preview of adulthood and life. During these years, all teens want to find their tribe, fit in and experience all the traditional activities like prom night. I’m sure you remember your high school prom and all its unforgettable moments—good and maybe not so good. That’s the backdrop of the new Netflix film, The Prom.

Released earlier this month, The Prom is a musical comedy about a group of struggling Broadway stars who go to a small Indiana town to rally behind a teen named Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) who’s been excluded from her prom because she wants to attend with her girlfriend. Adapted from the 2018 Broadway musical, it stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key and Kerry Washington.

I recently watched the film with my family, and it was high energy, glittery and fanciful. However, like with every movie, there’s a protagonist and antagonist. Unfortunately, PTA is cast as the villain in this story. 

The movie opens with the school’s fictional PTA voting to cancel prom to prevent Emma from participating. Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), head of the “PTA” is virtually the only voice and face of parents in the entire movie. She pushes her biased agenda and disregards any opposing thought—even from the principal (Keegan-Michael Key)—to pit the community against one student. Meanwhile, the students also taunt Emma because she’s unapologetically her true self. 

So, while The Prom sings and dances its way through the issue of accepting LGBTQ students in schools, like many other classic high school movies, it ends with a happy resolution. However, it’s important to point out that in reality, PTA is not the bad guy—or the mean girl. And in real life, PTA is there to prevent what happened in The Prom. PTAs help create positive school communities where every student and family feel welcome and included. 

PTA was specifically founded (over 120 years ago!) to advocate for our children and youth who have no voice of their own to help better their lives. That’s because we know that as students learn and grow, their experience and success are shaped by their family life and school community. PTA leaders work collaboratively with families, school administrators and students to cultivate a safe, supportive and respectful environment for all students.

So let’s break down some key fiction vs. facts in the movie:

Fiction: PTA does not support LGBTQ students.

Fact: PTAs believe that every child deserves to go to school excited to learn—without the fear of bullying, violence or discrimination. PTA strongly advocates on behalf of LBGTQ children and youth and is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Fiction: PTA can cancel Prom.

Fact: Proms are generally considered a school sponsored event and are typically run by the junior and senior class of that school. As stated in the movie, the prom is supposed to be a celebration of all students, not PTA.

Fiction: One person can make decisions for the entire school.

Fact: While there is a PTA president who represents the association, that person doesn’t act alone. There are other officers and members who work closely with the families, educators and students in the school to understand and serve the unique needs of the community.

Across the country, students, families and educators experience vastly different education systems that either support or hinder the ability for all children to reach their full potential. This is often due to disparities in opportunities, access and financial resources—and whether parents are respected as equal partners in their child’s education. Our real-life PTAs seek to respect differences, yet acknowledge shared commonalities. This unifies their communities and allows them to support their students, families and school in meaningful ways.

Watch The Prom and use this movie to spark conversation with your preteens, teens and other parents about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. Talk about what issues in your own school communities and how you can be more accepting. And remember to work with your local PTA. We’re not the villain in real life. We’re here to help you be your child’s hero.


Leslie Boggs is the president of National PTA.

Thank Your School Leader for Their Hard Work This Year

You know the old saying, “It’s lonely at the top.”

We all know the larger your constituent audience…

  • the more demands are put on you,
  • the harder it is to please diverse viewpoints and expectations and
  • the greater the understanding that you are there to make sure the needs of others are being met, not your own.

And gratitude is sometimes forgotten in the mix. Parents understand this. Many of our mouths would fall open if our children came forward with a heartfelt thank you just for doing our routine day-to-day jobs. No stressors there—just being a teacher/parent/mental health counselor, juggling family budgets and finding our role in addressing racial inequities. All that and the never-ending political news cycle that is raising everyone’s blood pressure. Some of us are secretly struggling but we carry on because we must.

It is that knowledge that makes me have great sympathy for our education professionals:

  • Superintendents have their bosses (school boards) to keep happy. They face withering scrutiny from their communities who suddenly appreciate public education as not just a learning environment for our children, but a critical piece to the well-being of staff, students and families—and a child-care solution necessary for the economic engines to keep moving. Any move they make will be criticized because no one agrees on the right course of action.
  • Principals are not armed with the resources to open or manage their schools. Those who open schools are spending enormous energy playing “COVID police,” monitoring social distancing and cleanliness practices to keep everyone safe. Those who lead hybrid environments are managing a large, human-scale game of chess. Those who lead distance learning are making sure the tools, methods and outcomes that fit an in-person model morph into meeting the needs at hand.
  • Teachers face their own health and professional development needs while trying to balance keeping a whole school community safe and learning. And if like me, you can hear remote learning outside your office, you know teachers are using new tools and methods to engage students and create lesson plans that meet this new world.

Our education professionals are surrounded by us, the parents (and sometimes critics). While there is always room for improvement—and as advocates, we want our voices to be heard—occasionally, we should stop for a moment to express our gratitude towards our education professionals who may need encouragement to keep doing their best. That’s why I encourage you to thank a school leader and show how much you appreciate their hard work. Because as we head into another wave of the epidemic, it is not going to get easy anytime soon.

Let’s start by telling teachers we have their backs. Some of my NextDoor app neighbors are all-too ready to disparage teachers for their unwillingness to rush back into the classrooms and risk their health, the health of their students or their family members. 

Caught in a political divide that misunderstands their intense commitment to our students, the teacher shortage will only be exacerbated by those who decry our teachers as selfish, while paying them an average starting salary that requires 59% of teachers to supplement their income. Meanwhile, each day remote teachers are doing their best with varying levels of student engagement, often while distracted students keep their cameras off. And they know that parents are listening in and commenting on their classroom delivery. (Guilty as charged.)

This is causing 28% of teachers in a recent National Education Association (NEA) poll to report that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more likely to retire early or leave the profession. Those departures from an already-concerning teacher shortage hit all levels of teachers but grow understandably with the age of the teachers:

  • 20% with less than 10 years of experience
  • 40% with 21 to 30 years’ experience and
  • 55% percent of those with more than 30 years.

While some pillory American Federation of Teachers and NEA as the problem, they are doing all they can to serve, protect and empower a vital but shrinking workforce. While we don’t agree on everything, we should be grateful for their partnership in creating the most sustainable education environment while advancing the profession.

Principals, as the great senior managers of our schools, we support you as well. It was disheartening to learn in a recent National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) survey that:

  • Almost a fourth of our principals have thoughts of leaving sparked for the first time by their working conditions during the pandemic,
  • Nearly a fifth have sped up their plans to leave in one to two years, and
  • Five out of 100 principals plan to leave as soon as possible.

In response to this survey, my friend and colleague NASSP Executive Director and CEO Joann Bartoletti, challenges us with these thoughts, “These new findings on principals’ departure plans should frighten the entire education community. Our schools are already strained by principal turnover, and the school conditions policymakers have created will only intensify that turnover. Couple that reality with a shallowed pool of future principals caused by teacher layoffs and attrition, and we have a full-blown crisis in finding talented educators to lead our schools. We must make it a priority to attend to the needs of current principals and continue efforts to deepen the bench of leadership talent.”

Lastly, superintendents have the unenviable task of finding the way forward with multiple emergent demands—technology, epidemiology, building safety, human resource evolution, the pressure to support a halted economy, transportation and space-sharing concerns, broken links to community supports, conflicted parent groups. We salute your fortitude and your ability to gather expertise to solve the greatest problems ever experienced by a superintendent. But the stress is showing even if we take a positive spin on the events. 

Dan Domenech, longtime superintendent and executive directorat the American Association of School Administrators describes the challenges this way, “Throughout these uncertain times, the intensity has risen to seemingly unconscionable levels. Daily concerns include the health and safety of students and staff, addressing educational inequities, social and emotional learning, collaboration and teamwork among staff, connectivity for all students in the community, and the growing concern about the consequences of change. What’s more, budgets are imploding knowing that the average school district needs to tack on an additional $1.8 million in expenses to resume in-person learning.”

Nevertheless, Domenech has hope. “Perhaps the most striking outcome of the COVID environment is a universal commitment on the part of our school system leaders to use this crisis as a catalyst to transform public education. That’s easier said than done. Even under the best of circumstances, the job of the superintendent is a 24/7, 365-days a year occupation. Despite these challenges, this is the beginning of an extraordinary change in American education. I am confident that our superintendents will stand tall and rise to the occasion as they continue to build a sense of hope in communities large and small so our young learners can succeed in college, career and life.”

As a consumer of public education, I am never ready to silence my voice. The obligation of parents to actively partner with our educational professionals has never been needed more. But there is no discrepancy in being thankful for what we already have while we pursue all that is needed. Being appreciative does not let people off the hook—instead, we know that it causes others to do their best work.

So, this Thanksgiving break, let’s put down the criticisms and recognize the humanity in our leaders that just might need some encouragement. One teacher put it this way: “We’re all human beings. We have to respect and take care of each other.”

You may say, “I already feel grateful.” Good. But did you express it to those who need to hear it? As the late inspirational writer William Arthur Ward exhorted us, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

National PTA invites you to find a way to say thanks. To make that happen, we have created some simple tools to help express your gratitude. You can use our social media graphics to show your appreciation and encourage others to say thanks as well.

So, to all the superintendents, principals, teachers and other school leaders…Thanks for caring about my child. Thanks for taking on the burdens of our community. Thanks for feeding the hungry kids and families. Thanks for bridging the digital divide where you can. Thanks for your sleepless nights. Thanks for putting yourself and those you love at risk. Thanks for taking on a hard job. Thank you.

Thank a school leader today by using National PTA’s ready-to-use toolkit filled with sample social media posts and images: https://www.pta.org/home/About-National-Parent-Teacher-Association/Donate/Giving-Tuesday#thanks


Nathan R. Monell, CAE is the executive director at National PTA.

Emergency Relief Funding – Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

The National PTA Legacy:  The Past, The Present, The Future – The Work that Connects Us

National PTA was founded over 120 years ago. This is how long PTAs have been doing work in our communities. Let that sink in…

And today, the work continues. PTAs are alive and active in over 21,000 units and in PTAs continue the work our founders started to ensure every child reaches their potential.

I’d like to share a story with you. In this three-part series, we’ll take a look at our 120-year legacy – the past, the present, the future and the work we do that connects us.

Due to a generous donation from TikTok, PTAs across our country are able to support their local communities during a time of need. And nationally, a National PTA Community Action Fund was started. The immediate goal was to address the impact of COVID-19 on families and in under 4 months, $1,270,000 was distributed to 223 local and 11 DCR (council, district, and regional) PTAs. However, true to our PTA legacy – the story is so much greater.

Why this Worked? 

National PTA has a reputation and a history of doing public health work in communities for over 120 years. We’ve been bringing partners together, engaging families and involving communities. PTAs know what needs families have and how best to address them. And, PTA is prepared to then advocate for lasting systemic change.

The PTA structure is uniquely designed for a situation like this, while each PTA is built and situated around their community’s needs and strengths, each PTA member is also a member of their State PTA and the National association. This allows each PTA the ability to zero in on the issues, funding and policies that most effect the families and students in their school communities, while also working collectively on state and national funding and policies – knowing that they all are tied together.

National PTA is the only advocacy organization structured this way. “PT-others” don’t have this ability to mobilize all units, to bring together national funders, disseminate funding and resources across the country and to use collective voices to speak on issues – because there are no state or national collective organizations.

When a large national funder like TikTok came along and offered , well before systems were in place to support children and families – our PTAs were ready.

How this Worked? 

The first cohort, Phase 1, was awarded on June 1st to 110 PTAs and it was open to PTAs enrolled in the National PTA School of Excellence Program (SOE).  Having a group of PTAs that had already assessed their school communities, built partnerships and engaged families was critical.  We needed this money in the communities quickly and these leaders knew exactly what needed to be done and had the systems in place to do it.

After awarding the first cohort of grantees, we began working with the next group of potential grantees.  We were able to provide intense technical support to these leaders as they worked to assess their community, develop their grant idea, write it and submit it – all while the first cohort was well on their way to implementing their grants and meeting their families’ needs.

Phase 2 was highly competitive, and the quality of the grant applications was dynamic. We soon realized that there were so many applications and only a tiny fraction of them could be funded with the available funding. National PTA began looking for additional dollars and due to an amazingly committed staff, additional funding was secured.

The second cohort, Phase 2, was awarded on August 20th to 122 PTAs. However, there are still many PTAs left without funding and this is heartbreaking.

National PTA continues to provide leaders support while learning best practices and developing resources.

Themes to Share…

Theme One –

National PTA remains a connector between necessary resources and the communities most in need. There is a long history of fighting for the most vulnerable. Today, large funders trust us to get funding into our communities even before systems are in place to help our families. And, not only are our PTAs able to do this quickly, each PTA is a 501c3 and has the oversight to properly manage the funds while at the same time unleashing an army of wildly passionate advocates to ensure those in need are cared for and have a voice.

Theme Two –

PTA leaders are worried and concerned about the unknown, but they aren’t giving up. They are fighting to be a voice for the voiceless. There is little certainty, except uncertainty. They are creative and we are seeing the most innovative ideas and stories as these grants are implemented (make sure to read part 2). These leaders are resilient. They are pivoting as plans change, again and yet again. These leaders are making sure they are part of the conversations, that the families’ needs are not overlooked and ultimately that the students’ safety is never dismissed.

Theme Three –

The work must continue. Our structure allowed funding to quickly get from our national organization to our local PTAs and into the communities. It is beautiful, please go join a PTA if you haven’t already. But, we realized that much of the work being done mustn’t stop.

For example.

The fact that kids need schools in order to eat or have access to mental health services, and the reality that so many youth will get behind because they don’t have reliable internet access at home or the devices needed, means our PTAs have advocacy work ahead of them.

COVID-19 was a big highlighter marking what needed to be seen for years. These leaders are ready to tackle the systemic issues now so profoundly highlighted for all.

Theme Four –

The need was underestimated, and overwhelming and National PTA was simply unable to meet the needs of the close to 1000 PTAs requesting funding. National PTA is still looking for additional funding and because we are the greatest organization for children and youth with a long legacy, I have no doubt that it will be found!

Stay in Touch…

If your PTA needs support, reach out to us. Follow us on social media and sign – up for our newsletters- this will guarantee that you see any new opportunities as they become available.

It’s hard to believe our amazing organization has been making a difference for all children for over 120 years and it is overwhelming to think where so many of these kids would be had it not been for our incredible founders. Our PTA volunteers and leaders at every level, backed by a brilliant staff, are some of the hardest working and most loving humans I know.

Together, we make a difference!