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.

National PTA Celebrates Look Within Reflections Artists

For over fifty years, the National PTA Reflections program has provided opportunities for recognition and access to the arts, which boost student confidence and success in the arts and in life. The arts program honors student creativity through six Reflections categories: Dance Choreography, Film Production, Literature, Music Composition, Photography, and Visual Arts. 

In response to an annual theme, thousands of students across the country and in U.S. schools abroad submit artwork and can be recognized with awards and prizes at the local, county, district, region and then state PTA levels. Just over 200 students are recognized at a national level for their artistic achievements in the arts each year.   

At the national level, students can earn an Award of Merit, Award of Excellence, or Outstanding Interpretation Award. Each year, National PTA typically honors the national winners and their artwork with in-person events—including the Student Arts Showcase at the U.S. Department of Education. This year, due to COVID-19, National PTA hosted its first-ever Virtual Reflections Student Arts Showcase.  

Held January 26, the digital event brought Reflections supporters together to celebrate the national winners from the 2019-2020 Look Within program. The Showcase featured one national winner from each Reflections category and our Special Artist Division.

Representing the Dance Choreography category, Jacob Valadez kicked off the featured student artist performances. Jacob’s dance, “Look Within Yourself Be Unstoppable,” expresses the value of personal strength. Although life can be hard, Jacob demonstrates that everyone can be unstoppable by looking within and never giving up. We are grateful he shared this powerful sentiment with us. 

After Jacob, we enjoyed Matthew Bang’s visual arts piece, “I Realize and Recognize.” As the featured Special Artist, Matthew’s painting depicts his family’s Korean heritage and his own identity as a Korean American. Matthew shared, “Art is a form of expression. It allows me to convey emotions that are too difficult to express in words alone.” His detailed visual arts piece beautifully communicates a vast depth of meaning! 

Jiya Bhavsar wowed us with “Struggling Within Me.” Through her piano performance, Jiya represented the music composition category and showcased the power of perseverance. She explained, “I look within when I feel like ‘I give up’ and then I say, ‘Try again.’” We are all inspired by Jiya’s tenacity. 

As the featured artist for the photography category, Barbara Exilus’s photograph “Look Within” depicts the pressure that many young people feel when trying to achieve unrealistic beauty standards and social norms. Barbara shared, “I want my artwork to speak and touch people in any way it can.” Barbara truly conveyed a compelling message through her photograph. 

Melissa Qiu, the featured artist for the literature category, impressed with her poem, “Breaking the Silence and Filling the Minds.” Her writing details the beauty of the zither, which, Melissa shares is a “a very magical and traditional musical instrument because it has allowed me to look within myself and my Chinese culture.” We appreciate Melissa’s creative use of language to bridge musicmaking and her ancestral heritage.  

As the representative of the Visual Arts category, Katie Ross Nelson shared her wearable sculpture. Meticulously constructed, “The Swan” dress showcases fashion as a means of self-expression. Katie found inspiration from actor Billy Porter, who, by wearing a dress to the 2019 Oscars, “flipped the stereotype and made the dress a symbol of inner strength.” Thank you, Katie, for sharing your compelling work of art with us. 

The last featured artist, Dayton Kress, closed out the show with his film production. Titled “Within Us All,” Dayton demonstrates the power of compassion. He shared, “It is important to understand that we can all lift each other up in times of need. We all go through things, and sometimes we just need a little support along the way.” Dayton’s film shares a timeless message—be kind to one another!  

As our hosts for the evening, Leslie Boggs, National PTA President, and Nathan R. Monell, CAE, Executive Director of National PTA, expressed the value of the arts in a student’s education—especially in the era of COVID-19. Bonnie Carter, the Group Leader of Arts in Education Programs for the U.S. Department of Education, shared a congratulatory message to all Reflections participants. The Department of Education is a valuable supporter of the Reflections program, and we thank Bonnie for joining us virtually!

Our celebration of the arts continues with a virtual exhibit featuring the 200+ national Reflections winners from the 2019-2020 program. Take a moment to view the remarkable creative achievements of our program participants, ranging from detailed paintings in the visual arts category to graceful dance choreography movements. The artwork may encourage you to Look Within!  

Visit PTA.org/Reflections to learn more about Reflections and share your artwork with @NationalPTA using #PTAReflections. Missed the Showcase? Find the full program on National PTA’s YouTube channel


Sarah Scalet is the National PTA arts in education fellow. 

Collection: 2019-2020 Look Within National PTA Reflections Award Recipients (flickr.com)

You’re Invited! Join us for the 2021 Virtual Legislative Conference

Happy New Year! It seems like just yesterday that we were all gathered at the Westin in Old Towne Alexandria for the 2020 Legislative Conference. PTA Advocates were on Capitol Hill the last day it was opened to the public before the pandemic. So much has happened since then.

PTA has been busy advocating for COVID relief and a safe reopening of schools, as well as for funding and support for remote learning, child nutrition, social and emotional learning and broadband access for all. We have been affected deeply by the escalated racism and echoed the calls for social justice. Our political climate has been tumultuous and uncertain. PTA has been at the forefront of these issues.

2021 is a new year with new beginnings. In March, we will build on our advocacy efforts over the last year by hosting National PTA’s first-ever Virtual Legislative Conference, March 9-11. Our annual Legislative Conference (known fondly as LegCon) has always been my favorite event because it is PTA’s opportunity to use our voices to improve the lives of children and families. Advocacy is at the core of our association’s mission and vision. Our legacy in advocacy started almost 125 years ago, when our founders organized over 2,000 parents to speak on behalf of children and continued to lead the way in improving their lives. Through our members’ resilience and persistent commitment to advocacy, National PTA has played an integral role in landmark federal education legislation and policies.

At this year’s Virtual Legislative Conference, we will continue to empower the voices of our members towards making every child’s potential a reality. This year our theme is “PTA Takes Action Together for Every Child” and we will do just that when our members all across the nation meet virtually with their Federal Representatives and Senators to do more to support, advance and protect our nation’s youth.

We are thrilled to be able to offer a Virtual Hill Day to our LegCon attendees Wednesday, March 10. Meetings with Members of Congress may look and feel different this year, but Hill meetings remain an enormously important advocacy tool. In fact, during COVID we have seen a 45% increase in offices that are willing to participate in video-webinars, and a 35% increase in Members of Congress who are participating in virtual meetings themselves. National PTA has partnered with Soapbox Consulting to help ensure that your experience meeting with members and staff is seamless. To that end, if you register for LegCon 2021 by Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, you will be automatically signed up to participate in Hill day.

As a constituent in your home states, your grassroots perspective is extremely valuable to elected officials and their staff. During our Virtual Hill Day, you will be able to inform lawmakers about which federal programs are serving our children well and which ones are failing them. Federal policymakers work to improve the lives of children and families and they want to hear directly from the people they represent.  Never underestimate the power of your voice!

We all want to improve education! LegCon will be the time to call upon the newly elected 117th Congress to take action and let them know how they can make a difference in the lives of all children. Several resources will be provided to our PTA Advocates to guide them through their meetings with Members of Congress. The Legislative Committee is particularly excited about the National PTA Public Priorities for the 117th Congress, which you can preview on the PTA website.

In addition to the Virtual Hill Day, the 2021 National PTA Virtual Legislative Conference will also include world-class virtual advocacy training, including wonderful workshops and PTA Advocacy Spotlights, which highlight PTA advocacy success stories from across the nation. Attendees will also enjoy prominent keynote speakers, a mental health panel, and our annual PTA Advocacy Award Ceremony. There will also be an opportunity for all Federal Legislative Chairs (FLC) to collaborate and share with fellow FLCs in a live networking session.

Attending #PTALegCon is also about improving and sharpening your advocacy skills! Regardless of your level of advocacy knowledge, we will have something for everyone.  Not only will you have the opportunity to hear from policy experts during our Workshops, you will hear from your peers that are experts in diverse areas of advocacy. This will include relevant topics such as safe and supportive schools, public school funding, diversity and inclusion, coalition building, school data reporting, child nutrition, and climate control. These experts will guide you through the policy landscape and equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to effectively advocate on these issues.

You will leave LegCon better prepared to engage in policy discussions with lawmakers, advocates and members of your community. We are confident you will use this valuable information in your states to feel fully self-reliant and ready to speak for every child with one voice!

My fellow PTA advocates, don’t delay! Come “meet” with policymakers and learn how to shape public policy on Capitol Hill and in your own state. Don’t miss this chance to expand your knowledge and have your voices heard. Join us! Register today at PTA.org/LegCon to attend.


Yvonne Johnson (Delaware) is the National PTA Vice President of Advocacy.

We Have a Winner! The Reflections Program’s Annual Theme Search is Complete

Did you know that students develop the Reflections program’s annual overarching theme? Each year, students from across the country and in U.S. schools abroad submit theme suggestions for a future Reflections program cycle. The Reflections Theme Search Contest’s winning theme goes on to inspire thousands of student artists. 

We are excited to announce that Jason Yevin, a 10th grader from Salk/Macarthur PTSA in New York, is the 2022-2023 Reflections Theme Search Contest winner! The 2022-2023 Reflections program theme will be … [drumroll please] … ‘Show Your Voice!’. Congratulations to Jason! 

To determine the 2022-2023 Reflections program’s theme, students submitted their most inventive ideas to their State PTAs. State PTAs then submitted up to five finalist themes to National PTA. In total, over 80 students from 20 states participated in the 2022-2023 Reflections Theme Search Contest. National PTA volunteer leaders led the judging process, and they faced the challenging task of selecting a winning theme that was unique and inspiring, and that promoted PTA values.  

‘Show Your Voice!’ rose to the top because of its relevance today and continued importance into the future. Jason explained the inspiration for his theme submission as follows:  

“Show Your Voice is a reference to what the year 2020 has become. At the time of writing the phrase, the Black Lives Matter protest was huge, and so was wearing masks during COVID-19. The phrase represents talking over the masks and it represents that the protesters showed their voice in what they believe was right and fair. 

Volunteer leaders from New York State PTA, Nassau Region PTA and Salt/Macarthur PTSA came together (in a socially distant manner), to surprise Jason with the news that he had won the National Reflections Theme Search Contest!  

In honor of Jason’s great accomplishment, he will receive national recognition and $100 from National PTA. During the 2022-2023 Reflections program, we look forward to seeing Reflections participants’ creative work inspired by ‘Show Your Voice!’ With his winning submission, Jason joins the ranks of just 54 students who have shaped the future of the Reflections program by determining the theme that guides an entire program cycle.  

Currently, the theme, ‘I Matter Because…’, is inspiring Reflections participants. In the fall of 2018, Rylee Stier, a first-grader from Burney Elementary School, submitted the theme for the 2020-2021 Reflections program after drawing inspiration from the devastating California wildfires affecting her community. With the call for meaningful steps to dismantle structural racism, ‘I Matter Because…’ has taken on new meaning and an even greater opportunity to engage and elevate the voices of students of color.  

In fact, National PTA has launched a new initiative to invite Reflections artists of color and their allies to share artwork that expresses and affirms their beliefs and identities. Select works will be used to help us celebrate diversity in the arts. Please share this opportunity with young artists in your state and upload artwork to this Google Form by March 1, 2021. National PTA will announce our national winners on May 1, 2021 and celebrate artwork inspired by ‘I Matter Because…’ through July 2021. 

We encourage all Reflections supporters to help shape the future of the Reflections program by participating in the annual Theme Search Contest. Visit your state PTA’s Reflections Program page to learn more about the Reflections program and the complete list of past themes. 

And don’t forget to share your artwork with @NationalPTA using #PTAReflections! 


Sarah Scalet is the National PTA arts in education fellow. 

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.

2021 Healthy Habit New Year’s Resolutions

Help minimize the spread of germs this new year

Even though the calendar has turned to a new year, COVID-19 is still a presence in our lives, and practicing healthy habits is as important as ever. So, this year, choose New Year’s resolutions that will help minimize the spread of illness-causing germs.

Lysol and National PTA recommend the following 2021 resolutions for the entire family:

  • Wash your hands often.
    Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from getting sick. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and remember to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Always wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
    Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Use the inside of your elbow if you do not have a tissue available. It is also important to wash your hands right after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose.
  • Avoid touching your face.
    Infection occurs when germs enter the body, increase in number, and cause a reaction to the body. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

If your children are learning in-person, encourage your school to use the Lysol Welcome Back Packs, so New Year’s resolution tips are not forgotten at school.

Welcome Back Packs are available for educators nationwide to download and print. They include fun and educational resources such as informative posters, fun activities, useful stickers templates and engaging lesson plans that encourage healthy habits such as handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks.

For more information on healthy habits and to download the Welcome Back Packs, please visit Lysol.com/HERE. Have a healthy new year!


Lysol is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA.

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.

The Holiday Season Online Safety Refresh

Now that all of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been packed away, we’ve entered the final sprint of the year—the holiday gifting season! Historically, the holidays are a time when devices are purchased in families, whether the gifts are first-time devices or upgrades.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is even more likely that holiday wish lists will include devices this year. That means this is an important time for families to begin or do a refresh of key online safety tips.

The hardest part in any conversation is the beginning, which is why National PTA developed The Smart Talk—an interactive resource that walks families through a series of guided questions to help them start a digital safety conversation and help parents and teens navigate the digital world together.

In addition to encouraging families to use The Smart Talk, National PTA has also been working with TikTok, the leading short form video app which is popular among teens, to educate families on the “Three T’s” of online safety: Talk, Try, Teach.

  1. Talk to your teens about the apps they use, what they like, and if they aspire to become creators. National PTA’s The Smart Talk resource helps families navigate things like how to determine who should ‘friend’ or ‘follow’ your account, when to share photos or videos online and how to respond to negative comments or posts.
  2. Try the app together. Quality conversations stem from mutual understanding, so it’s important for parents to know and experience their teens’ favorite apps. For example, we encourage families to review resources like TikTok’s Youth Portal, Top Tips for Parents and Community Guidelines together as they discover how the app works and learn about the code of conduct that is expected for their online behavior.
  3. Teach your teens about the tools available in-app. We encourage families to show their teens how to find an app’s safety center and review the content together. For example, TikTok has several settings to control public presence/discoverability, followers, comments and more. In addition, TikTok’s Family Pairing lets parents link their own account to their teen’s account and directly set certain limits and controls, like the types of videos they can see and who can see their teen’s videos.

This year’s holiday season may look a bit different as social distancing continues. While families may not be able to see each other in person and travel may be more limited, technology has helped people to stay connected. Learning about online safety together and having open, ongoing conversations can help everyone have a positive experience.

For more tips and resources to help your family navigate the digital world and be safe online, visit PTA.org/Connected.


This post is sponsored by PTA Proud National Sponsor TikTok. TikTok is a supporting sponsor of National PTA’s PTA Connected initiative, which strives to help children act safely, responsibly and thoughtfully online. Through the initiative and National PTA and TikTok’s collaboration, National PTA and TikTok are helping parents learn more about how their teens are using TikTok; educating families about safety on the app; and guiding parents in having opening, ongoing conversations with their teens to ensure they are using social media productively and responsibly.  

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement of TikTok is implied.

Alyssa Montchal is manager of programs and partnerships for 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.