Connecting with your School Board

Now is a great time to develop a personal connection to your school district leadership. Your local School Board is responsible for creating policies and setting budget priorities for superintendents and school district staff to implement. They are also elected officials and need and want to hear from their voters about the issues that are important to children, students, and families in their community.

That is why it is vitally important to develop a relationship with your school board, engaging them in recognizing the importance of funding the arts in school district budgets and including the arts an integral part of the school curriculum.

It is the shared responsibility – of individuals, community members, and arts education advocates – to ensure that School Boards have the information needed to fully address important education issues and decisions that will impact arts education. And consider taking your efforts one step further by inviting members of your community to join the efforts.

Here are a few simple tips to help you get started

1. Find your district and School Board information

If you don’t already have it, you can find your school district information by visiting the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Each district web page will list information on the district’s school board. You can use this information to contact the Board’s directors, subscribe to their e-communications to hear directly about issues and meetings you need to participate in, see their calendar of meetings, and learn the rules of participation. (Most allow public comment at every meeting.)

2.  Prepare your “60-Second Speech”

Get ready for any occasion that might provide you with the opportunity to speak with a School Board director. Here are the steps you might consider in developing your speech.  Below is an example of how a letter might flow.

  • Identify yourself and your district.
  • Mention if you are part of a group and the number of members or people served in the School Board director’s area or in your school district.
  • Say what you want to call to their attention, for example the need for adequate funding for arts education programs or  the need for equitable provision of arts education to all students.
  • Tell them why the arts are important.
  • Say specifically what you’d like them to do, such as “please vote for/retain arts funding in the District budget” or “Don’t eliminate the arts programs.”
  • Give them something in writing that includes how to contact you – such as a fact sheet or card and include resources such as the ArtsEd Washington website, www.ArtsEdWashington.org, where they can find more information to help inform good decisions.

Sample 60 Second-Speech

Hi, I’m ________ and am affiliated with __________ school. I’m a member of __________ group/organization; we have ________ members in your district.
I’m very concerned about adequate funding for arts education programs in our district’s schools.

As you may be aware, arts education is a mandated core subject that is required to be taught in school.  By nurturing creativity through arts education, students are developing important skills and attributes that are essential to their success.

Cuts in the arts would be very detrimental to our district and the students served.  I strongly encourage you to support arts learning and funding allocations for the arts in the District budget.

I’m happy to answer any questions you may have; meanwhile, here is some basic information about how important the arts are in a complete education.  Additionally, you can access more information about arts education and its impacts online through the ArtsEd Washington website at www.ArtsEdWashington.org.

3.  Encourage other people to take action

Be a community advocate by encouraging others in your neighborhood or city to speak out on behalf of arts education. Some ideas include:

  • Make up a supply of cards with the School Board’s regular meeting dates and locations.  Include the website, phone numbers, and emails for your Board of Directors.  You can also include where to find more information about arts education, such as on the ArtsEd Washington website – www.ArtsEdWashington.org.
  • Pass out your cards to everyone you encounter – such as teachers, friends, neighbors, etc.
  • Organize a group to attend School Board meetings together or to alternate, to ensure a constant and consistent presence.
  • If your district is undertaking strategic planning, find out when those meetings are happening and rally arts-active families (and students) to attend and participate. These plans will be the roadmaps for your district and the arts need to be included in order to attract resources.
  • Share your 60-Second Speech with friends or community members – and practice with each other so you feel fluent.
  • Forward e-newsletters or school board alerts, to your circle of friends and encourage them to subscribe to these alerts as their first step.
  • Send weekly email updates to interested parties to keep them informed of what is happening within your school district and with your School Board.  Encourage them to attend the School Board meetings with you.

4.  Show up and speak out

Any time you are at a School Board meeting (formal meeting, candidates’ forum, or town hall meeting), wear or carry something (a conspicuous badge, a folder, or bag) that identifies you with your issue. Bold lettering on a neon background will be seen even from a distance (for example: ART IS EDUCATION – or – ARTS FOR EVERY STUDENT). Board directors will quickly realize those badges mean there’s an organized group that cares about arts education, and has its members in the audience. It is important for arts active families to be part of these conversations, especially as schools face tough cuts in every district statewide.

5.  Do your “due diligence follow up”

By phone or email, be sure to follow up with your School Board, especially if you promised to send something or answer a question. Identify your issue in the subject line and refer to your visit to their meeting. Clearly re-state what you want the School Board to do and mention your role in the school district (student, parent, or other hats you wear). Keep it short and to the point. For best practices on writing a letter and to see sample letters you can use and adapt, visit the advocacy section of the ArtsEd Washington website.

6.  Stay up-to-date and informed

In order to provide your School Board with the most current information on arts education issues, it’s important to stay informed through good arts education resources and alerts.  Two excellent resources include:

  • ArtsEd Washington
    Through our website you can access advocacy tips and toolkits, fact sheets, talking points, legislative updates, and find the latest news arts education news. You can use our talking points to help you position the arts as part of the solution for meeting district outcomes such as “closing the achievement gap.”
  • Your district website
    Visit your district website to view the priorities and goals, usually in their strategic plan, and to learn how you might subscribe to email updates or notifications from your school district. This is where you’ll hear the first whisperings of budget challenges and receive notification of any community meetings or input being sought.
This was posted in the category Advocacy Tools, Headline.
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    • ArtsEd Washington Presents PAL Success at National Title I Conference

      Title I panel

      2014: At the National Title I Conference in San Diego in early February, ArtsEd Washington presented on using the arts to improve student and school success with a panel of principals who used ArtsEd Washington’s Principals Arts Leadership (PAL) program to transform their own Title I schools. The Title I program aims to bridge the achievement gap between low-income students and other students by providing supplemental federal funding to underachieving schools to meet the needs of at-risk students.

      Three principals shared their experiences working with the PAL program in Title I schools including Tracye Ferguson (formerly of Franklin Elementary and now Director of Title I/Early Learning for Tacoma Public Schools), Alan Matsumoto (Garfield Elementary in Yakima), and Farah Thaxton (formerly of Madrona K-8 in Seattle). ArtsEd Washington Executive Director Una McAlinden moderated the panel as they offered their leadership perspective and insights on how arts learning and specifically the PAL program has helped them improve their schools and can impact students and schools statewide. The session was introduced with pride by Gayle Pauley, Title I Director of Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

      “Integrating arts education strategies in reading, mathematics, and the sciences is having a positive impact on the achievement of students who are struggling academically. Title I, Part A programs are demonstrating how this integration has a positive impact on student achievement,” said Pauley. “I am a musician myself and know first-hand the impact arts education has on student success.”

      Like many other schools across Washington State, Garfield, Madrona, and Franklin have used the PAL program to grow their arts capacities, impacting overall academic success, school culture, and student/family engagement. The panel shared their experiences in building effective arts plans, visions, and real world tactics to turn their schools into vibrant, successful places for their students to engage and learn. The session also covered tangible strategies to advance this instructional change and demonstrated a simple infrastructure for team-building, vision development, and planning for student success.

      “Including the arts in the school day improves student engagement, academic achievement, attendance, graduation rates, and overall success,” commented McAlinden. “The fact that our session was chosen for this national conference demonstrates the growing understanding among education leaders that the arts are a path to both student and school success.”

      The goal of the PAL program is to empower schools to create the fundamental systemic change that will ensure that the arts play a vital role in a complete education for all students, now and for years to come. PAL trains principals, as instructional leaders in all areas of curriculum, to expand their own capacities in arts leadership, to develop arts teams, visions, and plans, and to implement concrete strategies to integrate and sustain arts instruction for every student in every school.

      Thaxton’s experience at Madrona K-8, where more than three quarters of the students fall below the poverty line, demonstrated the remarkable impact of arts learning.  Citing more confident, engaged, and perseverant students at Madrona (which had limited arts offerings before she began work with the PAL program), Thaxton observes that the climate and culture of the school were transformed by the arts. She also sings the praises of the professional development she received through the program.

      Notes Thaxton, “It was one of the most focused professional development experiences I’ve had as a principal. PAL brought everybody’s voice together and was a key strategy in our success.”

      ArtsEd Washington is currently in the process of revamping the PAL program to be implemented at a district-wide level instead of the slower school-by-school approach. As part of the Creative Advantage, Seattle Public Schools has just begun implementation of PAL in its Central Pathway and will continue rollout to the whole district over the next few years.

      For more information, call 206-441-4501 or email office@artsedwashington.org