By Colleen Hervey, Family Engagement Commission Member and Chair of Scholarship and Grants Committee
This week, we’re highlighting Dunsmore Elementary School PTA which received a $2,000 Parent Education program grant from California State PTA in fall 2021.
After the racial reckoning in 2020, parents, caregivers, and teachers at Dunsmore Elementary realized that they needed the language to be able to talk to their children about important discrimination issues. PTA helped make it happen.
Dunsmore Elementary, with a student population of more than 500, offers both a traditional track and a Japanese Dual-Immersion program. It is located in the Glendale School District, First District PTA. In an effort to help parents gain more understanding and compassion for others’ perspectives, teachers and families formed an Anti-Racism Committee (ARC) at the school and presented a speaker series. The ARC and the school PTA joined forces and applied to California State PTA for a $2,000 parent engagement program grant to help make their vision possible.
The school’s experiences provide inspiration and practical advice for other PTAs.
Azusa Oda, ARC founding member and chair of the PTA Family Engagement Committee, and Becky French, ARC founding member and PTA VP of Volunteers, described how the program was developed and what they’ve learned in the process. Becky shared the mission statement of the ARC: “to engage and educate our school community to recognize racism and discrimination in all forms (including, but not limited to gender, sexuality, culture, class, religion, and ability) and possess the tools and confidence to confront it productively.” She added, ”If you’re not talking about it, someone else is.”
The committee used the grant money to sponsor its speaker series designed to inform and engage the diverse population at their school. The ARC researched and selected experienced and knowledgeable speakers on the following topics (click to see their flier for each event):
These events have been held over Zoom and the attendance has been high, ranging from 20 to 85 attendees. Holding the series virtually allows Dunsmore Elementary PTA access to speakers outside their geographic location and provides a way for more parents to join the events. The result has been more meaningful and productive conversations, more understanding and compassion, and more tools to help parents and teachers advocate for those who are marginalized.
Valuable tips for other PTAs who would like to follow Dunsmore Elementary’s lead:
- When forming a new committee or program, understand that it takes a while to build trust — even when parents have similar passions and ideas. Don’t expect that the energy and trust will happen right from the start, it needs to be a safe space for everyone.
- Talk to people about their interests (survey).
- Be flexible. Change of plans is inevitable!
- Have a deep pool of speakers to draw from.
- Establish a set of expectations or group norms. (A trained staff member assisted the committee in developing norms for the group as well as for post-presentation discussions and then the group voted on them.)
Dunsmore Elementary Established Norms for their Difficult Discussions
- Value Differences
- Be Honest and Open
- Expect Discomfort
- Assume Good Intentions
- Listen for Understanding
- Respect One Another
- Step Up and Step Back
- Speak Only for Yourself and Your Experiences
- Don’t be afraid to invite difficult conversations.
- Work with school and/or district administration.
- Understand that there will most likely be a need to dive deeper into the topics. It’s unrealistic to cover everything at once. Affinity groups might form with those who share particular needs or interests.
We’d like to thank Dunsmore Elementary PTA for sharing their ideas and feedback with us and congratulate them on a job well done! The fliers from their events a re linked above. For more information or questions contact the Dunsmore ARC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More info on California State PTA Program Grants:
Golden State PTA memberships and the Honorary Service Awards program help fund California State PTA program grants and scholarships. In 2022, with your donations, we were able to award $115,406 to provide amazing PTA programs and help members and volunteers further their education.
If your unit, council, or district PTA has a great idea for a program and you are looking for additional funds to support it, please consider applying for a California State PTA program grant. Grants are available in the areas of Cultural Arts, Healthy Lifestyles, Translation Outreach, and Parent Education and the due date for applications is October 15, 2022. For more information https://capta.org/pta-leaders/programs/grants-awards/