October is Fire Safety Month

Fire Prevention Week is scheduled for October 8-14, with Home Fire Drill Day on October 14.

While no school is immune from the risk of a fire, the chances of it happening can be reduced or, if it does occur, losses can be kept to a minimum by following a few tips:

  • Conduct fire drills regularly
  • Ensure all exits are properly marked and nothing blocking the exit
  • On the day of a drill, sound the alarm so students and staff get familiar with the sound
  • Each classroom should have a map displayed showing the closest exits. Staff should review on a monthly basis with students.
  • Predetermine an exterior location where everyone meets until an all clear signal has been given to reenter.

How can PTAs be involved with promoting fire safety?

  • Ask local administrators to speak at a future meeting to discuss fire safety plans for the building.
  • Partner with local fire departments to bring in speakers, host smoke detector inspections, or give away smoke detectors.
  • Ask Administration to include PTA members on safety committees.
  • Share fire safety tips with families and school personnel via newsletters, bulletin boards, emails, and social media.
  • Encourage families to practice fire drills at home.

ESSA, Family Engagement, and Your PTA

Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues to make progress, with the US Department of Education approving Illinois’s ESSA plan. In Congress, the House of Representatives has included funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) in its appropriations bill. With the approval of the Illinois ESSA plan, attention now turns to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), or school districts in non-legalese, who must create their own ESSA implementation plans using the guidance of the state plan.

PTA’s Role in Planning

During the development of the state ESSA plan, Illinois PTA represented families in many of the committees and working groups that were developing various parts of the plan. Now that school districts are developing their plans, PTA councils and local PTA units have a role to play as well. ESSA requires that all stakeholders, including families, be included in the planning process, and PTAs are uniquely able to fill that role.

PTA councils and units should start the process by letting their school superintendent and school board know that they are interested in being involved in developing the district’s ESSA plan. Your school district should be supportive, as family and community engagement is one of the core elements of the Illinois Balanced Accountability Measure (IBAM) that will measure how schools are doing overall. IBAM replaces the test-score-only approach of measuring a school’s success under No Child Left Behind.

For those who serve on school district committees for PTA, it is important to remember that they are representing PTA and families, not their personal opinion. The National PTA Federal Public Policy Agenda, ESSA advocacy tools, and ESSA Local Roadmap can help support your efforts. From Illinois PTA, our legislative platform provides information on our positions, and Education Issues Director Kelli Denard can help with questions you might have. Finally, Partners for Each and Every Child and the Council of Chief State School Officers jointly developed a handbook to help school districts and school leaders cooperate to effectively implement ESSA at the local level.

PTA’s Role in Family Engagement

Illinois has its Family Engagement Framework to help local districts implement effective family engagement practices. The four principles of the framework parallel the six National Standards for Family-School Partnerships developed by National PTA. National PTA has additional resources in its Family Engagement Toolbox.

Even if your PTA is not interested in getting involved with your school district’s ESSA plan development, you can be involved in improving family engagement in your school. The National PTA School of Excellence program has a proven track record of improving family engagement. Illinois PTA has highlighted the success that Kreitner Elementary PTA had in becoming a School of Excellence in 2016.

If you’re interested in making your school a School of Excellence this year, the signup deadline is October 1, 2017. Don’t delay, sign up today.

 

Planning and Running Your First PTA Meeting

Photo © 2015 by Costa Constantinides under Creative Commons license.

If you’re a new PTA president, you probably have your first meeting of the year coming up soon. Here are some tips to get you ready to run that first meeting.

Planning the Meeting

  • Make sure your meeting date doesn’t conflict with other events.
  • Get announcements of the meeting out early. Remember that not everyone communicates in the same ways, so use multiple ways to get your message out.
  • Consult with your principal and teacher representative to find out if they have anything to share.
  • Contact your board members to see if they have agenda items.
  • Make sure any extra arrangements (e.g., babysitting, outside speaker, refreshments, etc.) are confirmed in advance.
  • Create your agenda. Make sure you have copies of the agenda and any information or action item handouts ready before the meeting.
  • For your first meeting, your audit report for last year and budget for this year need to be adopted in that order. You will also need to approve the minutes from the last meeting of last year.

Before the Meeting Starts

  • Have all your tools (e.g., gavel, Robert’s Rules of Order, bylaws, policy and procedure, etc.) readily at hand.
  • If you’re using any equipment (e.g., projector, microphone, SmartBoard, etc.), be sure it’s working properly.
  • Have someone welcome people as they come in the door.
  • Have some drinking water with you.
  • Take a deep breath and relax.

Running the Meeting

  • Start on time.
  • Stick to your agenda.
  • Be sure to have people wait to be recognized by you before speaking, and have them speak to the chair, not each other.
  • Remember to conduct a vote on motions. It’s easy to forget to do that when the discussion seems to come to a consensus.
  • Make sure everyone knows when the next meeting will be.
  • Thank everyone for attending before adjourning.

After the Meeting

  • Take another deep breath and relax.
  • Have a quick conversation with your board members about how the meeting went. Focus on three things: what worked, what didn’t work, and what sort of worked and needs improving.
  • Make a note of all the actions that were decided and who will be doing them. Follow up with those people to make sure they are on the same page.

Questions?

Do you have a leadership question? Looking for training for your PTA officers? If so, contact Illinois PTA Leadership Development Director Brenda Diehl at bdiehl@illinoispta.org.

 

 

New Resource for School Projects

Whether you’re a teacher looking for a class project or a PTA leader looking for an activity station at an event, Instructables has a new resource to help. Instructables has long been a website full of do-it-yourself projects of all sorts, and now with Instructables Education, projects suitable for students are grouped by appropriate ages or subject area.

The collection offers projects for elementary, middle school, and high school students. Categories include:

  • Math
  • Art
  • Science
  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Arduino (a tiny pre-built programmable computer)
  • Robotics
  • 3D Printing
  • Workshop (classes to develop various skills)

Instructables is also offering free one-year premium memberships to students and teachers that allow PDF downloading of projects and less advertising. The offer states that it is not just for traditional classroom teachers, but also includes anyone whose job is explicitly educational, which might mean a PTA leader planning an activity night or after school club is eligible as well. The process involves applying for a free premium membership code.

Instructables robot logo used with permission.