Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Great Adventure

"Discover all the new horizons, just waiting to be explored.
This is what we were created for....
Saddle up your horses, we've got a trail to blaze." **

Giddy-up, cowpokes!  I have just returned home energized and ready to dig in after a weekend at NY State PTA Summer Leadership Conference.  Added to that, it was a whole western theme, so I also have these images of cowboy hats and cowboy boots dancing in my head (so much for visions of sugarplums).

This year, I had my partner in crime with me.  She is the Thelma to my Louise.  In the past, we have travelled to New York City together for an eduction debate, and also attended New York State PTA Convention together.  When we travel together, the two of us will often brainstorm in such a way about PTA and what we can do better to accomplish more, and this trip was no different.  The two of us were in our natural element attending a weekend of leadership development and advocacy training with other like-minded PTA members.

Throughout the weekend, I attended workshops on effective communication and tips to engage your own board members, reviewed a list to keep our PTA unit in compliance and on-track, received training on proper tax document preparation (the numbers-nerd in me was completely intrigued!), and sat in on discussions on the current hot topics in education, as well as strategies to advocate more effectively throughout the year for our students.  To be clear, I've sat in on both of these last two workshops multiple times throughout the past year, but each time the dialogue is different, the ideas are fresh, and the conversation always turns in a new direction than before - which allows us to have these "lightbulb" moments that we can return with to our own school districts and take action on.

A few stand out items from this weekend:

  • If your PTA unit can effectively communicate with one another, you open the door for more creative ideas, and in the process, set your PTA unit on a course for longevity.
  • How are we furthering the mission of making every child's potential a reality and engaging our families in the education of their children if all we do is fundraise and "buy stuff?"  Advocacy takes action! 
  • Filing your unit's 990 for the IRS is not for the faint of heart, but is completely do-able. Stay strong treasurers, you can do it!! 
  • Proper training is absolutely essential.  I came away from this weekend with a multitude of ideas for implementation, and even more "I had no idea about that" moments that made me realize there is always an opportunity to learn something new!
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act is high on my radar right now, and parents still have A LOT of concerns and questions about education needs.  
    • We still want more communication about Common Core and making the standards more appropriate for our children,
    • we want our kids safe in school, 
    • we want all students to have access to technology, and
    • we have no patience for unfunded mandates being passed down to our schools.
There is still much work to be done.  However, after this Summer Leadership weekend, there is now an entire group of advocates who are empowered to move forward and do some really amazing things for every child.

NYS PTA Summer Leadership Conference 2016 -
Photo by Kyle Belokopitsky, Executive Director and PTA Rock Star.


**"Great Adventure", written by Steven Curtis Chapman and Geoff Moore

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Who I Am

A few years ago, I had made the decision to run for a seat on my local school board.   I made the decision. I was not asked to do it by anybody looking for their own end result. I was also not asked to run to counter someone else's decision to seek out one of the available seats. When I made the decision that I was going to pursue this, I thought hard and I prayed even harder. I always wanted to be certain that I was doing this for the right reason. The reason always being that I knew that I had a purpose that I was called for, and fully believing in my own children's public education.

Make no mistake, the loss of that election still stings.

I know that I'm called to advocate on behalf of children and public education.  I know this with every fiber of my being.  Certainly, there have been many times when I have closed up my computer and went to bed at night thinking I couldn't possibly read one more article, send one more email, make one more phone call...and yet the next day I wake up and it's still in me.

That urge to make sure that all children have a voice speaking up on their behalf.

I have many friends who are education advocates in their own communities, and they've won their sought after school board seats, or were appointed to their desired committees.  Sometimes the temptation is overwhelming to slump in a corner and have a little pity party for myself for being the resident loser.

But that's NOT who I am called to be.

You had a purpose BEFORE anyone had an opinion. Remember that. What God anoints you with, man CANNOT take away from you.

My purpose that He's called me to is greater than the opinion of a select few.   Every single day as I connect with one more fellow advocate, or speak to one more New York State Legislator, or help to educate one more parent, I will constantly remind myself...

I am who He says that I am and I can do what He says I can do.

So I begin another year deciphering the sometimes chaotic state of public education within our state, and I will continue to put one foot in front of the other, and move forward.  Some days will be harder than others.  Some days may very will be a "close up the computer and just go to bed" kind-of day.  

Then there will also be those days when for a brief moment in time I can sit back and just grin silently to myself knowing that I helped to do what He knew all along that I could do.