3 Back-to-School Things Families Need to Know

Illinois students are heading back to school now or in the next few weeks. Here are three key things that parents need to know that your PTA should be educating them about.

  1. Family engagement is critical to student success.Research shows that real family engagement, not just newsletters home or brief parent-teacher conferences twice a year, is a critical to long-term student success. Students with engaged families have better attendance, higher graduation rates, better social skills and behavior, and increased student achievement. Additional research has shown that schools would need to spend an additional $1,000 more per pupilto see the same increases in student achievement that come from a truly engaged family.
  2. Every child deserves a safe and supportive school.When a child feels safe and secure, they can focus on learning both at school and in the home. Every child should have a school and home environment safe from the threat of physical and psychological harm. National PTA recently strengthened our position on this with their position statement on safe and supportive schools.
  3. Learning starts with attendance.Simply put, children need to be in school in order to learn. It seems obvious, but chronic absenteeism is a critical issue for many Illinois schools. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are far less likely than their peers to read proficiently at the end of third grade. Families and schools need to work together as partners to make sure students attend school and to identify and address the barriers to attendance.

Your PTA’s Role

Your PTA is a critical partner in educating families about these issues and working to address them in your school. To increase family engagement, participate in this year’s National PTA School of Excellence program. PTAs in Illinois who have earned this designation have seen dramatic increases in family participation in school events, PTA meetings and volunteers, and school climate. Get your principal on board and sign up before October 1, 2018 (earlier is better, so don’t wait). Illinois PTA has created a School of Excellence Support Group to help PTA’s navigate the program, headed by Southern Region Director (and leader of Kreitner Elementary PTA’s becoming a National School of Excellence) Greg Hobbs. Contact your district or region director for more information about the program.

Address your school’s climate not only through the School of Excellence program, but also through National PTA’s Connect for Respect programto address bullying. Use the program to engage students, families, and educators on a step-by-step process to assess school climate, to discuss and brainstorm ways to overcome weaknesses found in the assessment, and to develop an action plan that educates and empowers your school community to create a safe school environment. Use National PTA’s Diversity and Inclusion Toolkitto ensure you are engaging to all families.

Work with your school principal and use PTA’s many programsto bring families into your school. As part of those programs, include a short kickoff meeting or provide handouts on critical issues to help parents support their child’s education. Use the resources in National PTA’s Local Leader Kitand Illinois PTA’s Leadership Resources(ask your PTA president for this year’s password) to show families why they should be joining your PTA.

 

National PTA’s New Position Statement on Safe and Supportive Schools

As schools across the country are increasingly impacted by violence and natural disasters, National PTA’s board of directors adopted a new position statement on safe and supportive schools during its August board meeting. The statement calls for a multi-faceted approach to address school safety that involves all stakeholders, especially students, parents and families.

“School safety is a critical priority for all parents, families, educators, students and community members that cannot be taken for granted. Every child has a right to learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for each community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

As outlined in the position statement, National PTA promotes the establishment of and support for school safety policies and procedures that emphasize family engagement, adequate funding for student supports and services, and conditions that create and foster positive and welcoming school environments. The association also promotes the implementation of evidence-based policies and best practices articulated in A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which was written and has been endorsed by the nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners.

The position statement further states that National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators—but defers to local, collaborative decision-making regarding the presence of law enforcement for school building security. If the decision is made to have a Student Resource Officer (SRO) or other security agency within a school building, the association believes there must be a clearly defined memorandum of understanding between the law enforcement agency and the school that articulates the role of the SRO.

“National PTA believes teachers and administrators are there to educate our children and should not be acting as armed security in classrooms,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of National PTA. “Families, students, educators, administrators, counselors, law enforcement, community leaders and elected officials must work together to ensure students feel safe and schools and communities have the resources and capacity to provide a positive and healthier environment for all students.”

Is Your PTA Ready with a Budget for This Year?

The budget and finance committee develops a budget to meet the needs of the PTA’s programs and activities. After the PTA has adopted the budget, the budget and finance chairman (usually the treasurer) is responsible for assuring that PTA money is disbursed in accordance with the budget, presenting necessary amendments to the budget at executive board and general meetings, and keeping all expenditures within the line item amounts of the budget. Remember that any changes to the budget must be approved (voted on) by the general membership.

Composition of the Committee

Refer to the bylaws to determine whether the budget and finance committee should be elected or appointed. The committee usually consists of members knowledgeable about the PTA’s needs, proficient in bookkeeping and accounting, and experienced in planning a budget. The treasurer, past treasurer, and standing chairmen should be members of this committee. The president is an ex-officio member.

Budget and Finance Committee Procedures

  1. The budget committee should meet and plan the budget prior to the close of the current fiscal year. If this was not done, do so as soon as possible at the beginning of the school year.
  2. Treasurer’s records and copies of last year’s budget should be available for guidance in planning the new budget. However, do not let past practice limit your planning for the new year’s budget.
  3. The committee should take into consideration the funds needed for approved programs and projects, leadership development, and committee and officers’ expenses.

Adopting the Budget

  1. Present the proposed budget to the executive board meeting for input and approval for presentation to the general membership.
  2. Present the proposed budget at the first general membership meeting (after adoption of audit report) for consideration and adoption by the PTA members. This presentation must be made at a meeting where a quorum is present. A majority vote of the members present and voting is required for adoption. The budget and finance committee chairman says, “I move the adoption of the proposed budget for the _____fiscal year.” [Note: The fiscal year is identified by the calendar year in which it ends, so the budget your PTA adopts this fall is for the 2019 fiscal year.] The chairman then presents the budget line by line for explanation, discussion, and possible amendments. A vote is then taken to adopt the final version of the budget.

Remember, the executive board (officers and chairmen) approve the budget for presentation, but the general membership is the group that adopts and amends the budget. Illinois PTA has created a Local Unit Sample Budget.

 

Photo by Nick Youngsonvia Alpha Stock Imagesunder Creative Commons license.

Help Deciphering What Your Teen is Saying

Just about everyone’s grandmother even understands that LOL is “laugh out loud” and OMG is “Oh my God,” but teen slang continues to grow and change, so here are some places you can go to decipher what you overhear your teen talking about with their squad.

If there’s something new that you can’t find anywhere, the best place to look is the Urban Dictionary. Just keep in mind that like Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary is user-created content, and the language is sometimes coarse or crude when defining a term. And remember, there’s no surer way to look like a lame parent than trying to use teen slang yourself.

Photo © 2013 by duncan cunder Creative Commons license.