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Thursday, May 13, 2010

It's Not All About Fundraising!

What follows is a letter I sent to the PTA membership yesterday. I thought it may be of interest to members of the public who may not be in the PTA and gives a really good description of what PTA is.

As many of you know, we decided in the beginning of this year to create a PTA Advocacy/Public Relations Team. The idea, while a good one, got lost in the shuffle. I recently attended the MA PTA's 100th Anniversary and Convention and have an increasingly developing commitment to this piece of PTA. Advocacy on behalf of children was truly the original focus of PTA when it was created back in 1897,and this commitment has seen a renewed sense of urgency on a national, state and local level.

As an active member of PTA for over five years, I went to the convention with what I thought was a well understood idea of what PTA is about. I had no idea how involved PTA has been in advocacy for children since its founding in 1897. From universal kindergarten to a juvenile justice system to helping develop a TV rating system to writing the parent involvement definition and requirements for NCLB/ESEA —PTA advocates have been at the heart of our nation’s greatest advances for children and youth. Today, PTA speaks up for family engagement language in laws; safe, healthy, and technologically advanced schools; and equal opportunity for all children. Our focus on the local level has always been on raising money and supporting our schools in a variety of different ways such as the book fair, cultural enrichment programs, fund raising and other events. It is clear that these things are of a critical nature, especially during such difficult financial times for our schools. It is equally important that we utilize our power as an association to advocate for the children of this town and beyond.

On the national level, the PTA defines one off its core purposes as promoting the welfare of children and youth in the home, school and community. As a local PTA, we are representatives and members of the national association. Our membership dues fund many of the advocacy efforts being brought forth on both the national and state level (of the $5.00 fee, $1.75 goes to the state PTA and an additional $1.75 goes to the national PTA). Dues also fund things such as E-Learning, the Three For Me Volunteer Program, and the Reflections Program, all programs of the National PTA. I am in the process of putting together a PTA Resource book which will highlight the National And State Programs of which we can participate in and take advantage of. There so many resources to tap in to and who knows, maybe be inspired by.

As the President of the Middleborough Elementary PTA, I also serve as the state liaison to the MA PTA. As a result, I receive, via email, advocacy and legislative alerts on a regular basis. As part of the Middleborough Elementary PTA Advocacy Team, I am looking to start a separate email list for people interested in receiving these advocacy tips and legislative alerts. They are a great way to keep informed about any legislation involving children, including the re-authorization of The ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act, formerly known as The No Child Left Behind Act), The Child Nutrition Act (the major federal legislation that essentially determines school food policy and resources), and the just introduced Bipartisan Family Engagement in Education Act (National PTA has championed this bill along with leading researchers and practitioners, philanthropic groups, and policy experts in the field of family engagement). The alerts generally have information about the advocacy effort or bill being highlighted and provide different ways to get involved (the most common piece is a pre-generated email form that you just add your name and information to which is forwarded to the proper government official).

I am also happy to share that I was recently appointed to the MA PTA Board of Directors as the Advocacy Chair. I will be working with other board members at the state level advocating for children locally, as well as at the state and national level. I will have the opportunity to meet with other concerned citizens, state and possibly federal elected officials and bring a local voice to the table. I am looking forward to this new position.

When PTA was founded, it was organized as a community organization and, today, there are PTA's in churches, community centers, and even in a prison! Anyone can join the PTA - parents, businesses, concerned members of the community-anyone! In an effort to make sure our PTA is a well known asset to our community, in the coming years I plan on submitting news articles, letters to the editor, meeting announcements and other relevant information to our local paper. If there are topics you would like me to cover (or if you have any you would like to submit yourself), please let me know. I truly believe that our presence in the community, as a representative of the oldest and largest child advocacy association in the world, will help make a difference in the lives of our local children. To that end, I am hoping to initiate a new program called, "PTA Partners In The Community." I will be sending a letter to local businesses and other possible community partners that will say in part:

The Middleborough Elementary PTA is happy to extend this invitation to become one of our PTA Partners in the Community. As a member you will receive all PTA communications, including our monthly newsletter which highlights some of the work the PTA is doing, and includes reports from the Superintendent and school administrators. You are also invited to attend our meetings which are held the second Wednesday of every month at 7pm in the Henry B. Burkland School Media Center. Your membership will also include our student art work calendar, put out every September. As a PTA Partner In The Community, we will advertise your business on our PTA Facebook page, as well as in any communications we email or otherwise send to our membership.

The Middleborough Elementary PTA recognizes that involvement of diverse populations enriches PTA activities and, more important, enhances the well being of all children and youth. Establishing partners in the community is and will continue to be a critical part of our success as a PTA. Our PTA has implemented many successful programs that have enriched the educational experience of every student in the Middleborough Elementary Schools including, cultural enrichment performances, the book fair, and the SHARP Summer Enrichment Program. These programs and many others will continue due in large part to our PTA Partners in the Community member’s generous tax deductible donations. The Middleborough Elementary PTA would like to thank all the businesses that support our schools and our children.

I will begin the legwork on this new initiative over the summer.

As you can see, advocating on behalf of children in something I am deeply passionate about. I am hoping to bring some of that passion to our PTA in the coming years, and hope that you will join with me as we work to advocate for and support the educational experience of our children. Thank you.

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