President’s Corner


With Thanksgiving behind us I hope you all had a chance to share some family time and are able to plan for the upcoming Holidays, which are right around the corner.  Even though we all would like to take a time out, there are many things happening across the state that I would like to share with you.

As you know we have been heavily involved with the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act replacement for NCLB no child left behind). I have asked for parents to provide comments and feedback of the good, bad, and things they would like to see different at We have a new deadline for comments, which is Dec 27th, 2016.

What I am very proud of is the work and collaboration between agencies that has taken place. Both the State Board Of Ed and the Governor’s office have been very open and inviting to all stakeholders across the state for their comment and suggestions. Instead of working in the typical silos we are all working together.

However, with that said THIS is our opportunity as parents to establish the next 10 years of our children’s future and get it right. Our voices are important! Your feedback is critical!! Let’s ensure we have been heard because our children deserve a better future and outcome.

I also want to highlight that legislatively enacted was a commission called IBAM (Illinois Balanced Accountability Measure). Their charge is to ensure there is a good accountability system in place throughout the state’s education system. We have been working very hard and the draft of the quality framework can be found also on ISBE’s site at  Standard 6 is Family and Community Engagement which is where we are currently reviewing and making recommendations.

We also have been working on strengthening partnership throughout the state with like-minded agencies. I want to share what the Chicago Public Libraries are doing and if you don’t have something similar in your area maybe we can have those discussions on how to share resources to get these examples around the state instead of re-inventing the wheel.

CPL’s Winter Learning Challenge is coming up shortly and it would be a great program to highlight!

This winter break, Chicago Public Library is excited to present the 2016-2017 Winter Learning Challenge: Mix it Up!  From December 19 through January 9, children are encouraged to explore chemistry as they read, discover and create. Children can visit to find book suggestions special programs and hands-on activities that explore chemistry and the properties of matter. From creating slime to making bubble solution to cooking with an adult, children will get their hands dirty as they learn about the world around them. Log sheets in English and Spanish are available on the website. In order to complete the challenge, children need to read for at 20 minutes a day for at least 5 days and draw or write about an activity they did. Completed logs can be brought to a neighborhood library by January 17 for a special prize.

We all know reading and expanding opportunites is crucial to our children’s success. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to offer something like this to ALL the children across the state?

Hopefully you are also on our Advocacy list and have received our communication on our Call to Action. Lead in the water SB 550, need of passing a budget that is comprehensive and fully funded for our Illinois families and children, as well as, energy drinks not being sold to minors HB 5726 are key issues in our state.

Some PTA’s have an environmental committee and to those chairs I would like to share my experience at Standing Rock in North Dakota. It was a humbling experience to see, hear, and witness a different culture and way of life. You can reach me at for more details if you would like.

Have a blessed, happy, safe, and healthy holiday season.

Here to serve,

Matthew John Rodriguez

IL PTA President




President’s Corner

First and foremost, I wanted to make sure I wish all of you a happy and safe Thanksgiving. This is a time where I feel reflection is really important. Reflection on our country’s history, on our elders, past generation’s challenges, and what their triumphs were. Together we make a better future for our families and children. Let’s keep up the great work! A very sincere THANK YOU to each of you for all the hard work you do every day on behalf of children and families.

Second, I would like to share with you a statement put out by National PTA regarding the next administration just in case you didn’t receive it. This is a document from the National PTA outlining the process to be used in transitioning from the current administration to the in-coming administration.

It is vital to remember that our positions and priorities are based on the adopted Legislation Platform of the Illinois PTA, along with the legislative positions established by the National PTA. Our positions and priorities are not dependent upon who is in office, but in our approach to working with those in office. Our priorities at the state level include, but are not limited to:

  • adoption of an adequate, equitable and sustainable budget that provides for the needs of the most vulnerable citizens of Illinois;
  • passage of SB550 which requires the Dept. of Public Health to adopt rules for identification of and testing of representative samples of potable water sources in all public schools where a health hazard has been identified, and provide for replace of such service lines by the end of 2019;
  • passage of HB5726 which would make the provision of energy drinks to anyone under the age of 18 unlawful. This is based on the amount of caffeine found in said drinks, and correlates to the adoption of the Powdered Caffeine Act.

As you can see from the corresponding document, National PTA has outlined its continuing priorities, and plans to work with the President-Elects “transition team” to keep those priorities at the forefront of our work to make every child’s potential a reality.

Here to serve,

President’s Corner


I hope all of you were able to join us in Decatur, IL at Millikin University last Saturday for our 3rd Spotlight event. For those who couldn’t we had over 350 families registered for the amazing celebration of the arts. Not only is it a chance to celebrate all of the creativity expressed by our children across the state, but also it provides an opportunity to learn different art techniques led by the Milliken University students. Families were able to share the learning experience, get ideas for home projects, and see their children celebrated. Hope to see you at next year’s celebration with the theme of “what’s your story”

I also wanted to let you know that I presented on behalf of Illinois PTA in Anchorage, Alaska last Friday. Definitely would have earned frequent flier miles. The presentation was on “Engaging Hispanic Families.” We really had a great discussion on diversity in general and cultural competency. It was an honor to meet some of the members from Alaska and discuss their challenges and successes.

As we gather the resources for your next upcoming LUP (Local Unit Packet), please send any suggestions you think would be helpful to I want to make sure every unit gets off to a great start and with SO many resources available for every level of expertise the feedback would be helpful.

Finally I want to note that we will be presenting and exhibiting at the ISBE Statewide Bilingual Conference on May 7th. Armen Alvarez from NPTA will present in Spanish and I will do the English session on building upon leadership skills, titled BPAC to PTA Team Leadership Transition.

Please sign up here for next steps.


Busting 7 Common “I Can’t Volunteer” Myths

We’ve talked about valuing your volunteers as a PTA leader, but how do you get people to volunteer group raising hands against blue sky backgroundvolunteer in the first place? There are all sorts of tips out there on volunteering like breaking jobs down into bite-sized pieces or attaching how much time commitment is required for each volunteer opportunity, but those ideas still don’t actually get people to volunteer. To do that, you have to overcome the reasons why people are saying no to volunteering. Let’s do a little myth-busting regarding volunteering with the PTA.

  1. The PTA is intimidating. For some people, even thinking about joining the PTA causes them to break out in a sweat. They are usually afraid that joining means they’ll be asked to volunteer for every committee, event, and activity. While PTAs certainly need their volunteers to do those jobs, and they do ask everyone about volunteering, it is important that you share with everyone that volunteering is not required or expected, just appreciated. Whether it’s an online sign-up tool like VolunteerSpot, a Google document listing needs for the teacher breakfast, or a sign-up sheet passed around at the PTA meeting, let everyone know that if the volunteer opportunity fits with their schedule and abilities, you appreciate their signing up. If they can’t sign up, perhaps another opportunity will fit for them in the future, but they are always welcome to pass the sheet on.
  1. I don’t know anyone in the PTA. This is an easy argument to overcome—get one of your friends to sign up with you. Alternatively, sign up and meet a new friend. Whenever possible, provide opportunities for people to work together. It makes the busy times more manageable and the slow times more tolerable.
  1. I work full time and can’t come to the school. There are always jobs that need to be done that don’t require coming to the school. Whether it is trimming and counting box tops, tracking orders from a fundraiser, or sorting and cutting things out for a classroom project or a station at a PTA event, there are things to do that don’t require a physical presence at a specific time. Make sure your members know which jobs can be done at home on their own time.
  1. I volunteered a couple of years ago, and it was not a good experience. It happens, and it stinks when it does. But one constant in PTA is that things change—parents move on with their children, classrooms have different kids every year, the PTA elects new leaders, and even teachers and principals turn over every so often. Whatever caused the bad experience in the past, it likely can’t be duplicated now.
  1. None of the opportunities really grab my attention. Find out what interests, hobbies, talents, and passions this person has. Perhaps it is woodworking or a job that children might find interesting, things that could be incorporated into a Family Arts Night showing off woodworking projects or part of a career fair. Everyone has something that they enjoy doing and sharing—find out what that is and consider how those passions can be incorporated into a new or existing PTA activity.
  1. Volunteering is a mom thing. No, it’s also a dad thing. And it’s a grandma or grandpa thing, an aunt or uncle thing, or even an older sibling thing. Anyone willing to offer their time can be utilized in some way. Just make sure you don’t hand a hammer, paint brush, or shovel to every man who steps up to volunteer. Dads are great at reading stories, handing out snacks, and all those other jobs that the moms usually handle, so be sure to give them the opportunity to do them if they want to.
  1. The PTA already has all the help they need. Yes, the PTA is probably getting everything done, and it may look like everything is under control, but like the proverbial duck, the calm above the water has some frantic paddling going on below. Many hands make lighter work, and more people volunteering means that the PTA president or that super-volunteer doesn’t have to spend the entire event filling in where no one volunteered and can spend some time doing things with their child.

Volunteering can be a rewarding experience and an opportunity to meet new people, but it’s not for everyone, and that’s okay. No parent or family member should feel guilty for not wanting to involve themselves in that aspect of their child’s life. Being a parent is a tough enough job without having to meet societal expectations as well. Appreciate your volunteers sincerely, publicly, and often, but be sure to appreciate those who only bring their child to an event as well—without them, all that hard work by your volunteers would be wasted.