The Voice - Back to School 2017

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a conference I attended recently, the keynote speaker, Randy Mascorella, said “organizational success has a great deal to do with a collective decision from each person on the team to reach for something greater than any one individual could accomplish alone. Having a vision is one thing - doing what it takes to get there is yet another.” These two sentences embody the drive or engine that runs Local and Council PTAs and our association on a state level.

Our vision is to make every child’s potential reality. How we do that is by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children. But what is more important, and what will truly motivate individuals, is not the how, but the why. Why do we do this? I offer up the reason that we do this, is to make our commYOUnities better places to live. We acknowledge this cannot happen if our children are hungry, struggling in school, suffering from abuse, in need of clothing, or fighting other challenges. We all joined this association to be part of the solution, to work on and with programs to help our students be successful in school so that one day they too can be productive, contributing members of our commYOUnities. Let’s return for a minute to the how. In July during LAUNCH, I emphasized that a business has to advance and grow its assets in order to be healthy and sound. In PTA, members are our greatest asset. They matter. Why, you might ask? They matter because it means we reach as many families as possible when we offer programs and services that benefit our students. It means we make an impact when we go to Austin to advocate for increased funding for public education, safer schools, and an emphasis on the benefits of educating the whole child - academically, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It also means that we grow our leadership, as individuals travel a pathway; first as a member, for some then a volunteer, and still others assume a role of helming the ship. We won’t achieve any of these initiatives without a solid and growing membership. Some of our Gulf Coast commYOUnities were recently impacted by Hurricane Harvey. And in those CommYOUnities, the solutions to problems will take a little longer to implement. Be proud of what you are and what you do. All of you make PTA an extraordinary association and a cornerstone in our commYOUnities. Lisa Holbrook President 2

Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

What’s the Difference Between the Letter A and the Letter Between N and P? This school year I had the privilege of volunteering once a week as a reading buddy in my local school district. I was assigned to two first grade boys. Both were reading below grade level and were experiencing challenges. In other words, these students are not only overcoming academic hurdles, they are dealing with the impact of life situations beyond their control. I am proud to say both students’ reading improved dramatically by the end of the school year, which pleases me greatly. However, the biggest smile on my face has to do with one student’s noticeable change toward me. By the end of the year, he was smiling and talking to me more, a contrast to how withdrawn he was at the beginning of the school year. I know I made a difference not only with reading, but also by being a person he could count on and as someone rooting for him every week. That reminds me of PTA. Think how many students across Texas receive the benefits of knowing PTA is there rooting for them. PTA volunteers across The Lone Star State are making a difference in the lives of students, and most of you will never know how deep or how significant an impact the work you do makes. So, for every child our mission touches, there are countless more you may not see or hear from who are better, stronger and healthier because of PTA and you. It’s a wrap for the 2016 – 2017 school year, but the lasting impression your PTA made in the life of a child does not have an ending. While I will never know how my reading buddies do in high school or college and what careers they someday pursue, they will remember someone cared enough to help them learn to read better, just as you, our PTA leaders, do for every child day in and day out. The “A” in PTA makes all the difference. There’s a reason A is first in the alphabet and the letter between N and P is not. Kyle Ward, CAE Executive Director 3

THE VOICE Back to School 2017 • Vol. 109 408 West 11th Austin, TX 78701 • EDITORIAL TEAM Executive Director Kyle Ward, CAE Associate Executive Director Darren Grissom Creative Design Specialist Rolando Sepulveda Digital Media Specialist Kristin McCasland TEXAS PTA BOARD OF DIRECTORS President Lisa Holbrook President-Elect Sheri Doss Secretary LaDorshe Damron Treasurer Lisa Johns Vice President Programs & Resources Sylvia R. Reyna, Ph.D. Vice President Membership Larriann Curtis Vice President Leadership Heather Ashwell-Hair Vice President Field Service Suzi Kennon Directors-at-Large Lee Guerra Choni Hajibashi Fred Henley, J.D. Neil Shelby Lizeth LoCicero Ralph Rodriguez Tim Greenwell The Voice, the official publication of the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers, is published four times a year in fall, winter, spring and summer. Call 1-800-TALK-PTA or visit us on the web for more information. Disclaimer: Articles and advertisements in The Voice do not necessarily represent the viewpoints or policies of Texas PTA. Texas PTA does not endorse non-PTA products or services mentioned in this publication. Reprint permission: Unless otherwise noted, PTAs may reproduce and distribute the materials from The Voice without express written permission. Texas PTA materials may not be duplicated by any other organization or person without written permission from the editor.


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


Many of our communities along the Texas Gulf Coast face unprecedented damage from Hurricane Harvey. As we look forward to the days, weeks and months ahead, families will begin the process of rebuilding their homes, returning to work, and our students will head back to school.

Join Lone Star Statewide PTA

The 500,000 members of Texas PTA stand ready to help recover, rebuild, and renew our commitment to making every child’s potential a reality - even when the challenges may seem great.

Make an Online Donation

Texas PTA will be working closely with school districts to provide the important supplies for students and teachers to be ready to learn on the first day in the classroom. To allow us to be responsive to the specific needs of each community, Texas PTA is coordinating efforts for monetary donations.

Make a Donation by Mail

There are multiple ways you can help us Fill the Backpack:

Through September 30, Lone Star Statewide PTA dedicated 100% of local proceeds to assist with the relief effort. This commitment of less than $20 will help provide both supplies and a voice for every child!

100% of all donations will be used to provide direct assistance to students and classrooms impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Visit

For individuals, PTAs or other concerned organizations that prefer to mail a donation, the Texas PTA address may be found at the bottom of this page. Please mark any donations clearly as hurricane relief. *Please note that all contributions are tax-deductible.

Visit 5


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


Harvey Makes Landfall

Late in the evening on Friday, August 25 Hurricane Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor as a Category 4 storm. Over the next several days, Harvey pummeled communities along the Texas Coast causing mass destruction and leaving many families without homes, food and other necessities. Throughout that weekend, and in the days and weeks since, individuals and organizations in the state, and across the country, have stepped up and offered everything from shelter, pet assistance and transportation, to clothes, books and school supplies.


As the storm subsided and the work of rebuilding began, members of Texas PTA stood ready to help recover and renew its commitment to making every child’s potential a reality. Working closely with the affected school districts, the association started its #FillTheBackpack campaign, an effort to secure monetary donations, which would be used to purchase school supplies so students and teachers could return to the classroom. Through donations from Texas PTA, individuals, PTAs across the country, and dues collected through joining Lone Star Statewide PTA, the association received over $54,521.48. Texas PTA used those funds to buy packs of school supplies and backpacks at a discounted rate from Educational Partners International (EPI). In addition, EPI donated additional supply packs and bookbags to assist in the efforts.

Distribution Begins

Once purchased, the supplies were placed on pallets and shipped to distribution areas. On Saturday, September 9 members of Texas PTA’s staff drove to Houston to meet with Local PTA volunteers at distribution points at area H-E-B stores in Missouri City, League City, and Houston’s Gulfgate area to hand out the first round of school supplies. At that time, more than 2,000 supplies were handed out to area residents. The following weekend, Saturday, September 16, members of Texas PTA’s staff met up with Local PTA volunteers in the golden triangle area to hand out over 2,100 school supply packs and 1,100 backpacks. H-E-B stores in Beaumont, Groves and Orange served as distribution points once again.

Continuing Assistance

Texas PTA will continue distributing school supplies to the coastal areas for the weeks and months to come. Keep an eye on #FillTheBackpack on social media, your inbox and the Texas PTA website. The association wants to back the future by ensuring that all students have what they need to start school. Texas PTA would like to thank all those who donated to #FillTheBackpack, especially H-E-B, Freeman, and EPI who was a strategic partner in providing deeply discounted pre-packaged school supplies, along with School Specialty for their donation of nearly $100,000 in school supplies. The infographic on the previous page shows from where Texas PTA received donations. 7

Protecting Our Children Against a Deadly Disease BY GREG WILLIAMS


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


received a phone call no parent should ever have to endure on February 8, 2011. My 20-year-old son, Nicolis “Nico” Williams, was in the hospital diagnosed with bacterial meningitis. We needed to get to College Station immediately. When we arrived, the doctors told us that within eight minutes of arriving by ambulance, his condition deteriorated to a state of unconsciousness. Several hours later, we were told Nico suffered a series of aneurysms, which no medicine or science could fix – he was brain dead. In our Christian faith, we believe in the healing power of God’s grace so we prayed for a miracle. Prayers and support came pouring in from all around the country. Nico passed away three days later. In a matter of hours, Nico went from being a very healthy and vibrant young college student at Texas A&M University, with a tremendous future ahead of him, to his death. The agony of losing any child is nothing less than excruciating. Though, intolerable guilt was coupled with our broken hearts when we discovered that Nico’s death could have been prevented by a simple vaccination.


“ When it is your child, it does not matter if it’s one or a thousand cases.” Meningitis is contracted by as many as 2,600 people in the United States each year, and 10 to 14 percent of those who are diagnosed will die. Eleven to 19 percent of those infected suffer complications, including the loss of limbs, damage to the nervous system, deafness, brain damage, seizures and strokes. The brutal disease primarily infects those younger than 25 and people who live in close proximity, like college students and military personnel. Meningitis spreads quickly – patients can go from having flu-like symptoms to death in a matter of hours. After my son’s passing, I met many parents whose children were victims of this hideous disease. All of us echoing the same feelings regarding our ignorance about meningitis and doing what we can to prevent other parents from losing their child. Our nation’s vaccine experts and, more importantly, health care workers can help by educating themselves and others about this disease. The small number of meningitis cases each year do not change the fact that lives can be saved. The word ‘low’ or ‘rare’ is a relative term. When it is your child, it does not matter if it’s one or a thousand cases.


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

This disease is preventable with a series of vaccines. However, most parents like myself are under the common misconception that their child is fully protected against bacterial meningitis after receiving the meningitis vaccine, when in fact, that isn’t the case. It is critical parents ask for and physicians offer the meningitis B vaccine. This one shot would have saved my son’s life. Unfortunately, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which publishes recommendations regarding vaccines required for children, has not put the meningitis B vaccine on this list. Thus, at this point, it is up to parents and health care workers to bring awareness to this vital vaccine so that no other family will suffer through the greatest loss of losing a child to meningitis.


“Improving the effectiveness of the home as a learning environment is critical to promoting long-term school success.� - Anonymous


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


tudies show that when parents are more involved,

‘picture to tell the story’ if they didn’t have time to read the

students are more likely to earn higher grades, attend

information,” she said. “We really wanted our families to be better

university, have better social skills, and more easily

informed about what was happening on our campus, especially

navigate some of the challenges of growing up.

The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Award, named for the National PTA cofounder, recognizes and celebrates those PTAs that help build effective family-school partnerships. This year, National PTA named Cobb Middle School in Frisco ISD as a recipient of award – the highest honor presented for effective family engagement.

as it related to PTA.” According to the award application, Cobb MS PTA created a welcoming environment at the school for families by creating new logos and welcome signs, bulletin boards, yard signs, and by hosting Cobb Beautification Day to clean up and improve the look of the campus. Samberson said their representation at Texas PTA’s Rally Day may have been what put them over the top for the award. “We took the bus to Austin for a one-day trip with a few of our PTA members to actively engaged our legislators to advocate for our children,” she said. “This is one of the most impactful things that we did for the students at Cobb.

Melinda Samberson, President of Cobb Middle School PTA,

We also increased our membership to an all-time-high by over 50

learned of the honor after being tagged in a Facebook live video

members with made our voice even louder for our kids!”

by National PTA. “It was very exciting,” she said. “I was emotional watching the video as they turned the certificate over to reveal

Cobb will receive their award at the National PTA convention next

Cobb as the winner!” When the school principal heard the news,

summer in New Orleans. There’s also a financial award that the

she jumped for joy!

PTA plans to use to help further the partnership between families and schools. “We have an amazing school community - families,

Samberson said the key to family engagement is effective

students, teachers, staff, and administration,” Samberson said.

communication. “We offered a parent workshop on how to

“(They) all took an active part in this award and we are celebrating

effectively communicate with children, and we focused on

as a community!”

improving our communication by creating a blog and adding pictures to our social media and newsletter that allowed the

by Kristin McCasland, Texas PTA Digital Media Specialist



Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice





Ingredients Vanilla Greek Yogurt Berries

Ingredients 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats, although use gluten-free oats if making this GF) 2/3 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes 1/2 cup peanut butter 1/2 cup ground flax seed 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, store-bought or homemade

Directions 1. Slightly mash the berries with a fork — you’ll want some larger fruit pieces in your bites. 2. Combine the raspberries with the yogurt, mixing well. 3. Using a spatula, fill the ice cube molds with the yogurt mixture, then scrape off the excess. 4. Place in the freezer until thoroughly frozen, about 6 hour or overnight. Then pop the bites out of the ice cube molds and enjoy!

Directions 1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least half an hour, to make the mix easier to handle and mold. 2. Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (Mine were about 1″ in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week. 3. Makes about 20-25 balls. *If the mix seems to dry, add in an extra tablespoon or two of honey or peanut butter. If the mix seems too wet (which may happen if you use natural peanut butter), add extra oatmeal.


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice


TURKEY SLIDERS PASTA SKILLET Ingredients 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges 4 teaspoons olive oil Salt and pepper 1 pound ground turkey 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder 3/4 cup shredded cheddar (3 ounces) 8 brioche slider or dinner rolls Bibb lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard, for serving Directions 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with oil and arrange in a single layer. Bake on top rack until tender, about 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Season with salt. 2. Meanwhile, form turkey into 8 small patties and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with chili powder and season with salt and pepper. Bake on bottom rack until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Place cheese on burgers, return to oven, and bake until cheese is melted, 1 minute. Serve sliders on brioche with lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and mustard, alongside potatoes.

Ingredients 1 lb. Pasta Shells 1 bag Frozen Meatballs 1 bag Frozen Broccoli 1 cup Frozen Peas 1 jar Pasta Sauce 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese, shredded 1 cup Spinach, chopped for garnish Directions 1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the pasta. 2. In a small skillet pan, cook the meatballs according to the directions. 3. When both pasta and meatballs are finished, add them together in large cast iron skillet. 4. Cook the broccoli and peas according to the instructions on the bag. 5. Add the vegetables to the pasta and meatballs. 6. Bring to a simmer together on medium heat. 7. Top with sauce and cheese. Enjoy!




Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice





Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice




n my elementary school years, I was badly teased, excluded and ridiculed. Almost every day I would come home from school crying, feeling defeated, crushed and not wanting to

return. Only the constant support and encouragement of my mom and dad got me through it all. The strength that I ultimately gained through the process of overcoming the bullying inspired me to create my own bullying prevention presentation, which combines music and messages of bullying prevention, positivity and encouragement. So far, I have performed my assembly at over 350 schools and 150,000 children nationwide. My newest project, a free Bully Prevention Video Package, is currently being used in over 2,700 schools, representing more than 1.6 million children.

School Culture According to Dr. Kent D. Peterson of the University of WisconsinMadison, school culture is “the set of norms, values and beliefs, rituals and ceremonies, symbols and stories that make up the ‘persona’ of the school.” During my school years, there were some personas that put me in a great mood all day, and some that left me appalled. A toxic school culture is detrimental and leads to an intolerance and unhappiness among all students and administrators. A healthy school culture is what turns a mediocre school into a great school, and a great school into an EXCEPTIONAL school. Here are some characteristics of EXCEPTIONAL SCHOOLS that I have observed and that parents should insist upon.


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

Top Four Characteristics of Exceptional School Cultures Positive/uplifting leadership—Encourage your school’s principal to be invigorated, inspired and invested in the spirit and demeanor of everyone in it. Culture trickles down from the top. Mutual respect—Establish mutual respect. This is the key to opening critical doors to conversation and understanding about difficult topics, such as discipline, etc. among parents, teachers and students. Display students’ artwork—Get those bare walls decorated with students’ colorful artwork. Seeing their own creations displayed inspires students to be more imaginative and more invested in their school community. Strong and positive rapport between staff and parents— Develop good relationships between your school’s faculty and administration and families. A seamless transition between a student’s home and school life happens best if parents and administrators communicate well and stress similar values in each place.



Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

More of What I’ve Learned About Culture

The Bottom Line The bottom line is: kids will be kids, but they all want to be better.

Disciplining works. Condescending tones DO NOT. In my

It is our responsibility, as leaders, to help them become the best

experience, when an adult speaks to a child in a loud volume and/

of themselves. A thoroughly positive school culture will do that,

or with a condescending tone, the child either doesn’t listen and

not only for the students, but for the entire school community.

puts up a wall, or becomes timid and retreats inside their shell. It’s so easy to say we’re going to do something, but it takes Become a safe space for them. When children retreat inside

something completely different, a true investment of time and

their shell, it is more difficult to help them because they won’t

talent, to actually do it. Many of the schools I’ve visited hit the nail

necessarily open up to you the way you need them to. Let them

on the head already, establishing good, safe school cultures, but

know that they always have a safe space in you. Then, back that

the majority have not. Help make YOUR school truly exceptional.

up by actively and genuinely listening.

With more and more examples of excellence, we can make safe, welcoming schools the rule.

Focus on the DO’s, not the DON’T’s, and be their example. I attribute the success of my assembly to two things. One, my age, and therefore my ease of connecting with students. Two, my emphasis on the DO’s instead of the DON’T’s. My experiences show me that children want to make the best and healthiest choices, but they can’t always do that unless they see it being practiced all around them. Tell them, but more importantly, show them, what to do through your own behavior. 25


Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

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Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

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Texas Parent Teacher Association The Voice

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