Making Digital Citizenship a PTA Priority

By Mary Perry, California State PTA Communications Commission

How do we help families use technology responsibly for learning, creating, and participating in the larger community? That is the central question that educators, parents, and students are asked to think about during Digital Citizenship Week, which takes place from October 18-22 this year. 

Why is Digital Citizenship important?

We live in a digital age and so do our kids. Parents share both positive attitudes about technology and a lot of concerns as well, according to a 2016 national survey conducted by Common Sense Media. This video captures that ambivalence and helps underscore the valuable contribution PTAs can make by 

Digital Citizenship Topics to Share with Families

The focused attention to this issue only lasts a week, but your PTA and school can address Digital Citizenship any time. You can easily share specific tips and ideas with families throughout the school year, thanks to Common Sense Education. They have created a wealth of resources for families that are organized based on student grade levels, can be printed out, and are meant to be shared. You can use them as hand-outs at a meeting or provide them (with credit to Common Sense Education) in newsletters and social media. These were created to align with a classroom curriculum, but two of the categories are ideal for PTAs to share, independent of what your school is doing. 

SEL [Social-Emotional Learning] in Digital Life Family Conversations – available in both English and Spanish, these are brief ideas for family conversations related to social-emotional learning (SEL) and technology. They’re grouped into grade spans (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) and are framed around the predominant themes used in educators’ growing interest and instruction around social-emotional learning:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Responsible decision making
  • Relationship skills 
  • Social awareness

Family Tips – available in multiple languages (including English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Russian, Tagalog, Urdu, and Vietnamese), these printer friendly pages are made for sharing. Versions for grades K-5 and 6-12 provide parenting tips related to the following topics:

  • Media Balance & Well-Being  
  • Privacy & Security 
  • Digital Footprint & Identity  
  • Relationships & Communication  
  • Cyberbullying, Digital Drama, & Hate Speech  
  • News & Media Literacy  

PTA and School Leaders Can Work Together

Creating a Digital Citizenship Campaign that is thoroughly planned and done in coordination with your school and/or school district is a bigger undertaking, but one that you may want to consider. As a PTA leader, you’ll do well to understand the needs and interests of both the families and educators at your school to decide whether a campaign around digital citizenship makes sense, what topics you might want to cover, and if this is an independent PTA activity or a school wide interest.

Plentiful resources are available, including an implementation guide that will walk you and your education leaders through how to make the campaign a success. Common Sense Education has also developed a toolkit that includes articles, videos, hand-outs, and ready-made presentations covering a range of Digital Citizenship topics. 

Let us know how your PTA or school is sharing ideas about Digital Citizenship by sending a link or short note to communications@capta.org.

Learn How To Put Arts Education Into Your District Budget

LEARN HOW TO PUT ARTS EDUCATION INTO YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGET

Parents, students, and community advocates can help assure that arts education is part of their school district’s annual funding discussion. The state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is the key and you’re invited to a virtual workshop to learn more.

Join California State PTA, along with our partners Create CA, Arts for LA, and the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area, for Part 1 of a three-part series focused on the LCFF and how to be an informed arts education advocate. You’ll walk away knowing how to read and understand your school district’s Local Control & Accountability Plan (LCAP). You’ll learn about the tools you need to let your school leaders know that the arts are not optional. You’ll hear directly from a school board member and student representatives about promising practices for creating change in your district.

This free workshop takes place on Thursday, October 28, at 3:30 p.m. (Pacific Time). Click HERE to register.

Celebrating Partners in Education: School Administrators

By California State PTA Education Commission

Our kids’ education is a team effort! A collaborative partnership between families, teachers and school administrators who are dedicated to the well-being of all children and youth can strengthen family life and improve education outcomes for all students. 

California State PTA takes pride in celebrating October 10-16, 2021, as the “Week of the School Administrator”. Serving as role models in this new era of learning, school administrators are outstanding advocates who work together with families and the community to develop new visions for our schools and programs, spark innovation and inspiration for change, and support teachers in efforts to actively engage students in their own learning. 

Help Celebrate Administrators at Your School

We encourage unit PTA’s to celebrate the Week of the School Administrator by publicly recognizing the contributions that school principals and vice-principals make in creating quality educational opportunities and enhancing academic achievement for all. Here are a few ways to recognize your school administrators this week:

  • Create and display posters and fliers on campus to celebrate school leaders.
  • Provide a nutritious treat to your school site principal and administrators.
  • Give school leaders positive feedback by sending a thank-you note.
  • Give public comment in your next school board meeting thanking school administrators for the work they do.
  • Request that your school board adopt the Week of the School Administrator Resolution.

Family-School Partnership Standard #4: Speaking Up for Every Child

by Heather Ippolito, Vice President Family Engagement Commission

October 2021 Family Engagement

The fourth PTA National Standard for Family-School Partnerships calls for empowering families to speak up and advocate for their child and other children to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.  

Families often need help in this area, as many don’t feel comfortable speaking up in school or district meetings. PTA and school administrators can do so much to help build confidence in our parents and caregivers. Here are a few ways you can help build capacity in this area:

Parents need to understand their rights and responsibilities. The California Department of Education oversees rights that are written into law as part of the California Education Code. Many families are unaware that they have the right to do things like review the curriculum their child is learning, observe their child in their classroom and participate in committees or councils at the school and district levels. School administrators and PTA units can help families understand these rights by doing annual information nights in multiple languages, including these rights in newsletters or on the website, and advertising opportunities for parent engagement in the committees and councils.

As issues arise on your campus, your PTA can host discussions for parents, students, teachers, staff, and administrators to come together and work toward solutions. Having all parties in a room together can spark creative solutions to issues and allow everyone to feel heard and involved.

Provide families with advocacy training. Advocacy is a scary term for many parents, but at the school level, advocacy can be as simple as asking your teacher for a resource your child needs or sharing a concern with the school principal. Show parents that all forms of advocacy small at the school site or larger efforts like speaking to legislators are welcomed and needed for our children to succeed. 

Families need to understand how the school system works. Who do they talk to if they have concerns about their child? When should they involve the principal? What offices at the district office are there to support student learning? California State PTA has the School Smarts Family Engagement Program that, over seven sessions, helps families at your school answer those questions and build capacity for greater advocacy and involvement. You can get more information about this program by emailing programsupport@capta.org 

You can download the comprehensive document PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, or get started with this brief summary. You might also want to share our previous blog posts: 

Introduction to the National Standards

Standard 1- Welcoming All Families

Standard 2- Communicating Effectively

Standard 3- Supporting Student Success

Fall Family Challenge

by Family Engagement Commission

Thank you to all of the families, schools, PTA councils, and districts who joined us in the September walking challenge.  Remember that you can use that  family engagement idea at any time during the year. We’ve done the work for you by creating a newsletter, weekly emails, and all the other handouts you will need for the program.  

As October begins, the focus is on all of the fun things your family can do together in the fall.  This season can be a busy one for families with school back in session, after-school sports and activities abounding, and several holidays, but we want to remind families to slow down and take some intentional time to come together.  To that end, we have created a calendar with 31 activities on it for families to choose from throughout the fall. We also have a list of over 50 activities the California State PTA Family Engagement Commission has brainstormed that you can use to create your own calendar. 

We invite you to join us this fall as we expand our engagement with these fun fall activities.  If you want to join in, fill out this simple google form and we will send you weekly reminders, tips, and tricks. 

RESOURCES

If your PTA wants to use these family engagement ideas with your members, here are the handouts we’ve created: 

September is Attendance Awareness Month

by Heath & Community Concerns and Family Engagement Commissions 

Parents Need to Know Why Attendance is Vital

About forty percent of parents underestimate how many school absences their child has and the impact those lost days have on their child’s success.  

That is just one of the startling facts California State PTA Commissioners heard when we attended a recent webinar,  “Generation Absent : Post-Covid Fall-Out and Long-Term Fixes.” It was a chance for all of us to learn more about Attendance Awareness Month and learn why it is critically important to help families understand the challenges that chronically absent students face.  (Note: the official state definition of chronically absent is missing ten percent or more of school, or about 18 days in the typical 180-day school year.)

During the course of the conversation, the presenters shared some tips and best practices to help schools, local PTAs, and families work together to improve student attendance.  Here are some of our favorites: 

  • Attendance is a process not an event– you must keep a focus on it all year long.
  • Promote attendance facts everywhere– on social media, at Back to School Night, at enrollment events, during campus events and in your PTA meetings.
  • Recognition of kids who are attending as well as students who are improving their attendance is really important.  Mailing home attendance recognitions, such as brightly colored postcards or letters, grab families’ attention and are often a point of pride. 

For more information about student attendance visit our website.

Sunday is Gold Star Mother’s Day

by Heather Ippolito, Vice President Family Engagement Commission

Family Engagement for September 2021 Image

This Sunday, September 26th is Gold Star Mother’s Day.  Gold Star Mother’s Day is designated as the last Sunday in September and is designed to honor mothers who have lost a son or daughter during military service.  As we honor their sacrifice and celebrate the lives of their children we want to help our PTA units support military families who may be at their site.  We have created a new page on our website devoted to Military Families that we hope you will visit.  Take a moment on this most special of holidays to recommit your PTA to supporting all of the diverse families on your campus- including our military families. 

 

Disaster Preparedness – Protecting Those We Love

by California State PTA Vice President for Health & Community Concerns, Derby Pattengill

We recently highlighted September’s National Preparedness Month, a great reason to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time. The 2021 theme is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.” 

In California, we certainly have had our share of emergencies this year. In our mission to positively impact the lives of children and youth, the Health and Community Concerns commission of the California State PTA have gathered for you a number of helpful resources to help prepare for a potential wildfire, earthquake, flood or any of the other natural disasters that can take place in our state.  

If you are located in an area of California where earthquakes are prevalent, your school can take part in International ShakeOut Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of October. California schools should know how to protect themselves during an earthquake and the Great ShakeOut is a perfect time to plan a one-minute earthquake drill. Learn more about the Great ShakeOut and how to participate here.

In addition, here are four key steps in preparing for a disaster or emergency:

  1. Learn your risks and responses. Stay informed. Here are two great resources: California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, Ready Campaign
  2. Make a plan.  It is important to make a family emergency plan that can be put into action as soon as disaster strikes.  Make sure to include plans for children, seniors, disabled, and don’t forget pets! Here are some links to plans for wildfires, earthquakes, excessive heat and floods.
  3. Build a supply kit. A supply kit is a must when planning for potential disasters. You need to make sure you and your family have the necessary food and supplies to sustain you until the power returns or help arrives.  It is also important to keep the kit maintained by keeping food/water fresh and supplies working properly.  It is typically best to store the kit, along with any pet supplies, in a closet or the basement. Here is a Recommended Supplies List.

Get involved. Find opportunities to support community preparedness. There are many ways to get involved before disaster strikes.  So, ask yourself, “How can I help?” Well, here are some links.   Citizen Corps, Community Emergency Response Team, Red Cross, Neighborhood Watch, Fire Corps.

Let Everyone Know About PTA Perks

by Membership Services Commission

MEMBERSHIP TIP: Let Everyone Know About PTA Perks

PTA members get more perks than you may have realized! Membership in a Statewide and Nationwide organization comes with a lot of perks and bonuses.

Tell parents and teachers that, “besides being involved in a child’s life, you can get lots of extras from your PTA membership.” 

Our perks provide a great incentive for community members to join your PTA. Grandparents, alumni, and friends will also want to take advantage of these wonderful benefits.

Here are some other tried and true program ideas that can increase membership:

Be an Ambassador for the Arts by:

Hear from our Student Ambassadors & Reflections participants on how this worked in their schools.

Spearhead a virtual or physical spirit days, sponsored by your PTA, that will draw your community. Here’s an example flyer and hashtag a local PTA Council did for their students.

Try an online bingo night, online silent auction, or virtual chats with the Principal and teachers to help your families and communities connect in our new hybrid world.

How to Apply for CA State PTA Scholarships and Grants

by California State PTA Scholarships and Grants Committee

California State PTA is pleased to offer these scholarship and grant opportunities to you and your PTA. The deadline is coming up fast for two: October 15th. Don’t miss out, here’s a quick rundown!

Continuing Education Scholarships:

To help you continue on your educational path, California State PTA is proud to offer several continuing education scholarship programs for school professionals and volunteers.

We have three opportunities available for nurses, teachers and counselors, and PTA volunteers.

All continuing education scholarship applications are due to the state office by October 15, 2021. Follow this link to apply online or download an application to submit by mail or email.

PTA ProgramGrants:

California State PTA grant funds are available for PTAs in good standing to develop and implement programs and projects at the unit, council and district PTA levels.

We offer the following grants: cultural arts, outreach translation, healthy lifestyles and parent education. To get more information on the grants or download the application, click here.  

Applications must be mailed or emailed; faxes will not be accepted

  • Mailed applications must be received in the California State PTA office by the close of business October 15, 2021
  • Emailed applications must be received by 11:59 PM PST on October 15

High School Scholarships:

Tell the high school seniors in your life that California State PTA offers scholarships for them as well. High school senior scholarships are due February 1, 2022. More information can be found here.