The first installment of “Meet Today’s PTA Advocate” is proud to highlight the recent efforts of the Massachusetts PTA in getting September declared “Arts in Education Month” by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick!
MA PTA President Eric Champy with Reflections Chair Maryalice Foise and Reflections contest winners.
The efforts of the Massachusetts PTA are a prime example of patience in advocacy. While many of us would like for change to come overnight, oftentimes it does not. Rather, it takes many weeks, months, and oftentimes years for change to be made. The achievement of Massachusetts PTA was a result of many years of members building a relationship with the governor’s office and their own state representatives.
Beginning in 2006, the Massachusetts PTA began working closely with the state’s Parental Information and Resource Center (PIRC), attending each other’s meetings and collaborating on issues of family engagement and education reform. In 2007, the PTA was invited to take the seat they had been allotted in 2005 by the Massachusetts Legislature on the state’s Board of Education, marking the start of good relations with the state’s PTA and the governor’s office. The PTA was also heavily involved in Governor Patrick’s “Readiness Project,” a statewide initiative to develop a strategic plan for the future of education in the Commonwealth. Building on these relationships, in 2008 the Massachusetts PTA was given representation on the Parent and Community Engagement & Involvement Advisory Council for the state’s Board of Education, and by 2010, Massachusetts PTA then-President Mary Ann Stewart was elected Vice Chair of MassPartners for Public Schools, a coalition of state education groups that have a powerful voice for children. Stewart was elected to Chair the group for two terms following her run as VC.
Students from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts School provide the entertainment for MA PTA’s 2013 Reflections Ceremony
While fostering these general relationships, the Massachusetts PTA also took care to develop its arts in education policies and bolster the visibility and support of the state’s Reflections program. In 2010, Massachusetts PTA celebrated its centennial, and a key feature of the celebration was having their Reflections Ceremony held during the Centennial Conference. The success of that ceremony renewed interest in the PTA, and allowed the affiliate to move forward with strengthening Reflections around the state. In April of 2012, they held their state Reflections ceremony at the Fitchburg Museum of Art in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Reflections submissions were hung between and among the professional works of art in the museum, and families who attended received free passes to the museum. Collaborations such as this are an important part of advocacy; making your PTA’s cause as visible as possible is essential to success.
As a result of these achievements, in November 2012 the Massachusetts PTA Board asked Stewart, now acting as the state’s Federal Legislative Chair, and the state’s Reflections Chair, Maryalice Foise, to petition the governor for a resolution on arts in education month to coincide with September’s “National Arts in Education Week.” Armed with language from other resolutions as an example, and supported by Massachusetts PTA President Erik J. Champy, who began his term with a goal of boosting arts education, Stewart and Foise submitted their application to the governor’s office in April of this year, and were told in August of their success.
In addition to the importance of relationships, the Massachusetts PTA also reminds us that advocacy does not have to come in the form of overwhelming numbers, but can be a result of a small number of dedicated individuals taking the time to make the necessary connections. Stewart explains it as such: “The key to our advocacy success has been in the relationships we have fostered over the years. Because we are small here…we frequently manage advocacy through strategic partnerships and coalitions focused on child and youth education, health & safety, and well-being.”
The Reflections Gallery
National PTA firmly supports arts in education. PTA’s Reflections program is an excellent resource for PTA leaders to partner with schools in improving opportunities for all students to be involved in the arts. Arts education engages students in many different mediums- including music, visual arts, industrial arts, and dance-which helps students develop critical thinking skills, express their personality, and support their fellow students in a positive and respectful manner. The arts also engage families and communities, increase student interest and teacher effectiveness, and bolster social connectedness among students, families, and communities. Schools and PTAs committed to supporting arts education can work together to find opportunities for families to take an active role in supporting the arts at their schools.
For more information on learning in the arts in general, visit the following pages:
American for the Arts
The National Art Education Association
National Endowment for the Arts
Meet Today’s PTA Advocate is a new and recurring series from the National PTA’s Government Affairs department that seeks to highlight outstanding advocacy efforts for PTA by individual members, local units, and state affiliates.