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2023 National School Parent Group of the Year Winner

2023 National School Parent Group of the Year Winner

Congratulations to the Huntingtowne Farms Elementary PTA in Charlotte, N.C., which worked hard to make the parent group inclusive and representative of their diverse school community!

by Kerri Beauchesne

09/13/2023

 

PTO and PTA groups work incredibly hard on behalf of their schools and families to make a difference in their respective communities. Here at PTO Today, we’re here to support every parent group, no matter the acronym, every step of the way!

We love hearing (and celebrating) all the great work parent groups are doing across the country, so we invited K-8 groups to share their most meaningful accomplishment this past school year for a chance to win PTO Today’s School Parent Group of the Year Award. We received so many amazing, heartwarming, and inspiring entries, it was hard to choose just one...but we did it!

Winner: Huntingtowne Farms Elementary PTA, Charlotte, N.C.

PTA president Lorin Bent shares how incredibly proud she and her fellow leaders are of the progress they’ve made to have their parent group reflect the diverse voices and needs of their school community. “I am honored to nominate our PTA for the great strides we’ve made and results we’ve achieved in making our PTA representative of our school population,” she writes. “Huntingtowne Farms Elementary is 65% Spanish-as-first-language, yet historically, our PTA membership and volunteers have been close to 100% English-as-first-language speakers. Our top priority this year was to engage our Spanish-speaking families to build a PTA and school community that is inclusive of all families and reflective of all voices.

“We started by creating a Spanish-Speaking Families Lead and appointed our Latina Family Advocate as our Staff Liaison, both under our Advocacy Committee, to serve as representatives on all our events and initiatives committees. We wanted members not just to translate communications but to be a voice for the needs and desires of [Latinx] families.

“We also invited our Spanish-Speaking Families Lead to speak at all Open Houses for prospective families so they could hear from a parent who immigrated from Mexico just one year ago, and how her family is thriving at our school. From there, we employed varied and many strategies and tools to increase engagement in our majority population.”

Here are a few ways the HFES PTA increased engagement among Spanish-speaking families:

• They created “Join the PTA” yard signs in English and Spanish with QR codes linking to the PTA's member-management program and strategically placed them in the carpool lanes at school.

• They utilized the group’s school communication tool for sending all communications and messages in place of email because the tool automatically translates into a user’s preferred language.

• When their Spanish-Speaking Families Lead shared that most Spanish-speaking families prefer hard-copy communications, the PTA printed flyers for every PTA meeting to hand out during carpool and parent events. They also made it standard practice for all committees to translate all flyers, signs, and volunteer signup requests into Spanish.

• They worked with the school district to provide simultaneous interpreters, new interpretation headsets for PTA meetings, and Zoom simultaneous instruction to ensure that all Spanish-speaking families had the same real-time information and experience as English-speakers.

• They presented overviews of what the PTA does, its mission, and why they fundraise, as well as deep dives into financials at PTA meetings and why the group would need extra funding, after learning that many Latinx families don’t understand how schools and government agencies work in the United States.

• The school held its very first Latin Families Night, where Spanish-speaking families could enjoy music, dancing, and food donated by local Latin American restaurants and hear important information from school leadership while their kids enjoyed fun activities and childcare.

• They appointed a Spanish Speaking Families Lead to the panel that interviewed candidates for a new principal to ensure representation from the school’s Spanish-speaking community.

Bent shares that all these efforts and more have led to incredible results for the HFES PTA, including the following:

• PTA monthly meeting attendees are majority Spanish-speaking, and overall attendance has increased from an average of 10 members to 30.

• 150 attendees came to the first Latin Family Night for preK to 1st grade (they plan to host one for grades 3-5 families this fall).

• 750 attendees, representative of their school demographics, attended the HFES Doughnuts With Dear Ones breakfast in January 2023.

• 500 attendees came to the preK to 2nd grade school dance.

• The Family Advocate and Spanish Speaking Families Committee organized a uniform drive to provide new and gently used uniforms to families in need.

“We are so proud of the work we have started this year to make our PTA truly inclusive and representative of our school community and to celebrate our wonderful diversity that includes families from 18 countries speaking 12 languages,” Bent says. “We look forward to continuing this important work and making even more progress in the coming years.”

Shout-out to the HFES PTA board, who are all returning to serve another year!

President: Lorin Bent

Co-vice President: Henley Schmiedel

Co-vice President & Spanish Speaking Families Lead: Fabiola Escarcega

Secretary: Nicole Lucas

Treasurer: Allison Gnilka

As the National School Parent Group of the Year winner for 2022-23, the Huntingtowne Farms Elementary PTA will receive a $500 Visa gift card and a commemorative plaque from PTO Today.

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