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.

Transforming Family Engagement in High School

Even during a “normal” school year, engaging parents and caregivers of high school students can be challenging. As kids get older and more capable of organizing their own school and extracurricular lives, families often wonder what role they should play in their teen’s education.

Research demonstrates a clear drop off in participation: 92% of parents of K-2 students attended a parent-teacher conference, compared to only 58% of parents of high school students. Similarly, while more than half of parents of K-5 students volunteered at school, only 32% of parents of high school students did the same.

But… participation is only part of the story of what family engagement looks like during the high school years, when families’ roles shift to coach their teen and support them to be responsible young people who drive their own learning and success.   

So what actually works when it comes to engaging families of teenagers? How can we ensure that family engagement embodies the 4 I’s of transformative family engagement—inclusive, integrated, individualized and impactful—even amidst the challenges brought on by COVID-19? We spoke to two high school principals to find out.

Dr. Samuel Rontez-Williams, principal of Rayville High School (Louisiana) talked about making family engagement more inclusive and integrated

It’s important to make genuine efforts to check in on students and families and see how they’re coping right now.

Due to Rayville’s hybrid learning schedule, students don’t have classes on Fridays, which makes it a perfect opportunity for teachers to reach out to them and their families. Teachers at Rayville High focus on intentional relationship building by reaching out to families about when something positive happens in class, sending birthday messages, and doing small things that remind students and their families that they care about them as people. In addition to these check in calls, teachers also utilize these flexible Fridays to offer one on one tutoring and other supports.

By high school, students can play a role in encouraging family engagement.

Dr. Rontez-Williams relies on his students to help get their families excited about participating. The most successful events are ones where students are engaged, involved and showcased. For example, rather than offering a curriculum night, where teachers run through what students are learning, Rayville High School hosts an academic game night where teens enjoy competing and families can cheer them on. Academic game nights are a great example of family events that link to learning in school.

But what if you don’t even have reliable ways to reach parents? Immokalee High School (Florida) has more than 1,900 students, and the community is comprised of 41% migrant populations. With families moving around so much, principal Ms. Clara Calderon has developed strategies to make sure they’re doing their best to reach everyone. She emphasized that it is essential to focus on strategies that are individualized and impactful.

Offer personalized assistance. 

Immokalee High School is fortunate to have a 1:1 device program which ensures each family has a device and internet that they can use to communicate with the school. However, even if a family has a device and internet access, Ms. Calderon noted that it is not unusual for families to need help establishing an email address. A great deal of information comes out via email, so she makes it a priority to get families connected. If a family doesn’t have an email account on file, non-instructional staff will offer personalized support that is tailored to the needs of the family, instead of sending out impersonal instructions in the mail or hosting a webinar.

Establish a regular touchpoint and track who is engaging (and who isn’t).

As a way of staying connected with the community, every week Ms. Calderon sends out an e-newsletter in English, Spanish and Creole. But she doesn’t just hit the send button and hope for the best.Instead, she measures her success by running reports and identifying families who are not receiving emails. Her routine data collection informs her which families are getting the information they need and which families she needs to find other ways to connect with.

Ultimately, at the high school level, parents, teachers, administrators and students need to work together. Ms. Calderon summed it up nicely, saying “The more we see ourselves as part of the same team, the better off the child will be.”

As families and schools continue to work together, PTA is here to support. Get more tips on family engagement at the high school level in our new podcast episode, Surviving Quarantine with Your Teen.

Lifetouch Memory Mission 2020: The Spirit of Giving

Giving back is at the very heart of Lifetouch. The Memory Mission has been the cornerstone of Lifetouch’s Give Back efforts since 2000. Most recently, in January 2020, 50 volunteers returned to Rio Grande, Dominican Republic to add on to a school that was built in 2016-2018. The team worked side-by-side with local construction workers to build the walls of a two-story building that will be the school library, a computer lab and a community infirmary. View highlights of the 2020 Lifetouch Memory Mission recap video with President-Elect Anna King and the other volunteers.

During the 2019 National PTA Convention & Expo, Colleen Hervey, president of Ninth District PTA in San Diego, Calif. was selected through a drawing to participate in the 2020 trip.

“Working with fellow volunteers to build an addition to the Cecaini school was so rewarding. However, building relationships with the children and families there was the real prize. Although they have very little worldly possessions, they were willing to share so much love and generosity. We were supposed to be the givers, but it turned out that we received so much more than we gave. I left a piece of my heart in Rio Grande!” Harvey said.

National PTA President-Elect Anna King was also a volunteer on the 2020 trip.

“Playing with the children showed me that love has no borders, no limits and no barriers, no matter where we are from. All children need love,” said King.

The 2021 Memory Mission was scheduled to take place in rural Guatemala in January, working with a local community to construct an environmentally responsible schoolhouse made from bottles and inorganic trash. In August 2020, Lifetouch made the tough decision to postpone the January 2021 trip, prioritizing the safety and well-being of all our volunteers and everyone in the rural Guatemalan community.

“Lifetouch has a long legacy of giving back and the Memory Missions exemplifies that spirit of community, giving and shared experiences through photography and a commitment to education. We look forward to continuing our partnership with National PTA in making a difference,” said Johnny Grant, vice president of sales for Lifetouch. 

In addition, we have deep empathy for the many difficult decisions being made right now by superintendents, principals, and education professionals. Lifetouch supports and appreciates the adaptability demonstrated to start the 2020-2021 school year.

The Lifetouch Memory Mission team and National PTA arecommitted to making a difference and giving back. We join all of you in looking forward to the day when we are past this pandemic, and when we can safely bring joy to communities across the world. At this time, Lifetouch is postponing plans to work with the community in Guatemala to January 2022. Details about this decision are available on our website, www.lifetouchmemorymission.com for more information.

We are excited and look forward to continuing our legacy of giving back with National PTA in January 2022.

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

In my last blog, I shared with you the story of what is happening today throughout our country. A story that connects the PTA work of today with the legacy of our founders.

We shared how our unique structure and our long history of serving all children and families made us the only organization perfectly situated to help meet the immediate needs of communities during this time, while also acknowledging and addressing the systemic causes.

Today, I want to share with you in a little more detail about what these PTAs are doing, how these PTAs are doing it and what makes PTA special in overcoming challenges and maximizing the impact.

Tackling COVID-19, Together

Amidst COVID turning our country upside down, PTAs immediately began to tackle this grant work. National PTA asked the PTAs to select one of four priority areas in which to begin this work, knowing that there was a high level of intersectionality between them. PTAs were asked to name a starting priority area only as a way to stay centered when things would inevitably get crazy and the need to pivot would become necessary. The four areas are:

  1. Food insecurity
  2. Remote learning
  3. Device and internet access
  4. Mental health

We learned that the priority areas are even more connected than originally thought and the need was overwhelming in all areas. PTAs began sending home devices, accessories for devices, school supplies, resources for mental health services, wellness and hygiene kits, books and food to students and families. We saw family engagement events online, including chalk walks, food drives and socially distanced spirit nights.  Touchless water fountains, book vending machines, outdoor learning spaces and calming rooms were installed. The creativity was endless.

Because the money quickly advanced from our funder, through our national organization and disseminated across the country, PTAs were able to support families immediately. PTAs pulled together teams to collaborate—families, school administrators, faith-based community organizations, other non-profits, local businesses, school staff and community members. Team building is essential to all community engagement work.

PTAs Change Lives

Collective impact depends on the utilization of all available resources in order to fully maximize them—efforts being coordinated and outcomes being impactful. PTAs are in a unique position to bring together these teams, because highly functioning PTAs already consist of all these folks or have access to these folks. PTAs connected with the right partners to ensure grant dollars went further and impact was maximized. 

Our PTAs received a tremendous amount of support, both before applying for the grant and after being awarded the grant. The support is in the PTA network itself. National PTA was happy to be a facilitator, making our organization the best and most impactful child advocacy organization in existence.  Here is how we are structuring the support.

Step 1: Community Assessment

PTAs are encouraged to engage both families and the community as well as to seamlessly work with school administrators and staff—always. This framework ensured that when PTAs were asked to conduct assessments prior to applying for these grants, there was immediate and meaningful action. Leaders know to listen, engage and empower families.

So, when COVID hit, PTAs were already prepared to quickly assess their community and determine where the greatest need existed, who the best partners might be, and how to pull together additional resources. For the leaders that needed additional help, National PTA conducted mini needs assessment workshops and helped them determine which efforts might have the greatest impact. This also helped leaders pivot—when a planned idea became difficult to implement, they had an understanding of the multitude of needs and could quickly implement another. 

Leader to Leader Community of Practice Calls

These calls, hosted by National PTA, give an overview of the space (mental health, internet and device access, remote learning, food insecurity) in which they are working and then open the time for them to talk with one another, recognizing that National PTA is not the expert—they are. They share ideas, celebrate successes and work through challenges. Being with leaders across the country allows them to think about new and innovative ideas and to hear how leaders in different areas are working around barriers.

Just about every PTA is doing something different with this grant funding. There is no one program being implemented. And, PTAs are having to adjust to unusual circumstances with changing conditions—which look different in every school district across the country.

Networking Let’s Chat Calls

One of my favorite resources that National PTA provides is simply to hold space for leaders to share with each other. We answer their questions and provide updates for the first few minutes and then they take over the call and make it their own.

These calls allow leaders who need to talk with one another a place to do so. To share. To brainstorm. To celebrate. I leave every call with a renewed sense of purpose, a love for our great organization, and humbled by the hard work of our volunteers, especially during an incredibly difficult time.

Story Telling

Lastly, we are working with our PTAs to share their story. To collect it and to tell it. The work they are doing is our legacy—our history. People will look back and say, remember the Global Pandemic of 2020? Remember how PTA came together and supported communities in need and then fought to end the systemic reasons behind the need, like—kids needing to be in school to eat and to have access to mental health services. Remember how quickly PTAs jumped into action? We created worksheets and webinars, support and templates for leaders. We are telling our legacy; we are telling our story.

Our PTA leaders are incredible. They always have been. That’s the reason we’ve survived 120+ years. That’s the reason we’ve accomplished so much. That’s the reason we make a difference. 

It is important to remember that the work PTA leaders are doing now is what connects us to our 120+ year legacy. If people don’t know what we do and who we are—they will not join our cause. I often say, our founders got angry about what was not right in the world and they did something about it. People were so passionate about the work and others joined, attracted by that passion and to the cause.

Put your focus on the work. Build your leaders from the passion.

As a PTA leader, focus on the needs of your community. Listen to your families. Do that work. That is how you connect to a legacy that has lasted for over 120 years. If we are doing the right work, people will follow and they will join your cause and when they believe in your cause, they will join your membership.


Kelly Langston is an independent contractor supporting project management for National PTA’s programs and partnerships.

How Parents Feel About Assessments in a Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the health and safety of students and educators remains at the forefront of every parent and family’s mind this school year. It’s hard to focus on anything else, but when it comes to education, these are not the only concerns.

The effects of the pandemic on our students are much further reaching than simply the way in which they are learning this school year. The pandemic has further illuminated and exacerbated education inequities across the nation.

Since the pandemic began, National PTA has been advocating for dedicated funding for public schools to address COVID-19 related needs, including resources to close the connectivity gap so all students can learn online, support for students with disabilities and low-income families, and access to school meal benefits for students.

Now that the new school year is underway, safety must still be the primary concern for students, educators and other school personnel, but we must also consider and address the potential effects of disrupted in-person and remote learning on our students’ academic progress.

National PTA recently partnered with Edge Research to conduct focus groups with parents across the country to hear their perspectives on their children’s educational experience during the pandemic. We heard loud and clear that parents want and need to know where their children’s starting point is this school year, acknowledging that students had different experiences with remote schooling last spring.

One way to do this is to use a diagnostic or benchmark tests at the beginning of the school year. A benchmark assessment can help teachers tailor instruction and help identify the supports students need from their school, teachers and family. The focus groups revealed that parents across the country are largely in support of diagnostic tests at the beginning of the school year to measure their children’s starting point.

Parents also understand the purpose of giving students an end-of-year test to show their progress and to know whether their child met grade-level expectations for the school year. They also feel that the end-of-year test does not have to be comparable to the test given in the fall. It is more about seeing the progress their child made and having valuable information they can use to better support their learning at home.

It is important than ever for parents and educators to have meaningful data on student learning. There are multiple measures—including benchmark tests, classroom-based tests, standardized assessments, report card grades and teacher observations—that, when combined, help give a clearer picture of where children are academically.

While the current situation is not one any of us predicted or desires to be in, we should take this opportunity to advocate for assessments that provide meaningful information to parents to help support their children’s learning at home, as well as help educators address learning gaps early on and tailor their instruction to students.

This means assessments must be informative and low stake and results must be provided in a timely manner and in ways that are easy to understand for parents.

We all know that this school year is unlike any other, however, it is still imperative that parents and families have access to meaningful data, information and transparency on their children’s academic progress.

What can you do to help understand where your child’s starting point is this year?  Here are some questions you can ask your child’s teacher and/or principal:

  • What diagnostic or benchmark test(s) are given to my child?
  • When and how will the results be provided to me?
  • How can I use these results to support my child’s learning?
  • How will you use these results to support my child’s learning?

All of us must work together to make sure we have the best, most accurate information to support our children’s learning and help them reach their full potential.


Author: Leslie Boggs, National PTA President.

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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!

Tips for How to Fundraise in These Times

For most people, it’s hard to even begin to process how different the school experience is for children today, let alone administrators, teachers and staff. It’s simply complicated beyond compare.

And then, as a parent leader, try figuring out how you can still raise those critically needed funds with all of the changes at your school. Can it even be done?

The answer is an encouraging “yes!”

Schools and parent associations still have big financial needs even with remote learning, A/B schedules, and masks making things a bit more challenging. “We’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars from our budget this year,” Catey Nossi, Principal of Wanda Hirsch Elementary in California said. “We needed these funds to support remote learning. Booster is probably the easiest way to raise funds in a short amount of time. This will be our only fundraiser this year.”

The team at Booster has taken their 18 years of school fundraising expertise and coupled that with the learnings from hosting their first 100 fundraisers this Fall (read about how one fall school raised over $40,000 while complete virtual here). Below are their best tips to help you ensure a successful fundraiser is hosted at your school this year, no matter if your students are learning in-person or virtually:

Top Tips for Successful Fundraising in These Times

  1. Clearly State Your Goals
    Even before COVID, people tend to give less when they can’t picture in their mind exactly what they’re giving toward. So, name your goal clearly. Be very specific. If people can easily see what it is they are giving to they are far more likely to show their support.
  2. Fundraise Beyond School Parents
    Part of the reason schools leaders may be unsure about raising funds this Fall is the economic uncertainty they feel for their school community. That’s because most fundraises require parents to give 100% of the funds, but they don’t have to with some fundraising partners.For example, during a Boosterthon fundraiser parents are asked to SHARE about their school’s fundraiser before giving themselves. And, this Fall our Boosterthon fundraisers have seen that on average 70% of donations are from NON-PARENT donors, like friends and extended families! That means less financial burden on school families and more profit overall for schools.
  3. Significantly Pump Up Your Communication
    Effectively communicating your fundraising has always been important, but this school year calls for leveling up your promotion big time. Schools that are the most successful use all their channels early, often, and consistently. From teacher and room parent emails, social media posts, text messaging, video messages from the administration, and more – when parents hear from schools frequently, the message sticks and people act. We recommend you develop a communications timeline for your fundraiser that would begin 2 weeks in advance. This will allow you to ramp-up your communications in advance of the kick-off. Then, keep the momentum going throughout your fundraiser with regular updates on where you are to the goal.  At the end, be sure to say a big thank you and showcase to the school community what it was your purchased when the funds or how you used them at a later date so they can feel that they helped make an impact, too!
  4. Find Opportunities for Corporate Matching
    With schools needing to raise more, but not wanting to put the pressure on their parents, finding ways to profit more through corporate matching is a big win. Ask your fundraising company if they offer a corporate matching program. Schools who partner with fundraisers that have corporate matching capabilities profit more because large organizations across the country are matching donations. Learn more about corporate matching here!
  5. Make Fun and School Pride Center Stage
    If you’re not having fun and building school pride during your fundraiser, you’re missing out on an opportunity to strengthen your school community. With many schools navigating A/B and virtual learning, families can feel less connected with their school. Ramp up the fun and the pride by hosting the right type of fundraiser that can raise funds, spirits, and school pride. Use these three questions to determine if the fundraising you’re selecting is the right one to raise money while having fun and generating increased school pride:
  • Does my fundraiser engage the faculty and staff in the fun?
  • Can all students and school families participate?
  • Will the students think it’s fun?

 

So, despite an unconventional start to the school year, not only is successful fundraising possible, but it can lift school spirit by providing energy, fun, and positivity. Choose the right fundraiser and implement these proven tips to make this year a great one!

Need help choosing the right fundraiser for your school? Download this Fundraiser Selection Checklist to help you make the best decision.

 

 

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

 

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.

 

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.