The Role of Students in PTAs

by Kathryn Rickard | April 25, 2021 | 1 Comment
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"S" is for "Student"

Students are part of the leadership of at least 325 high school communities in California, at least in name.

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Kathryn Rickard

Most high school PTAs have an "S" in their formal name (PTSA), which generally indicates that the board includes at least one student. In practice, though, most student leaders of PTSAs are isolated from one another, which makes it hard for them to know what to do with the position.

We aim to change that.

A new network for PTSA student leaders

PTA leaders: Make sure your student board members read this and attend the Ed100 Academy!

This summer, a group of student leaders will kick off a new statewide network for students who will serve on PTSA boards in the coming year. We will preview our plan at a workshop session of the PTA State Convention, which will be held online in May. In June we will use the Ed100 Online Academy for Student Leaders as our launch event. This free online conference June 21-23 will help student PTSA leaders get connected and trained.

The basic idea is pretty simple. As the school year progresses, we will host online gatherings for student members of PTSA boards, roughly one per month. We will use these meetings to connect, to celebrate innovative work by student PTSA leaders, and to challenge one another. At each meeting, we will recognize students who have become Ed100 graduates, building their own credibility and the influence of PTSAs in the process.

We hope that this effort will spur leaders in high school communities to think with new seriousness about the importance of PTSAs. The state of California has 1,763 public high schools with at least 100 students enrolled, but only 325 of those schools are known to have a PTSA.

Engaging in civic life isn't something that just happens, right? It needs to be part of the experience of school. We believe that revitalized PTSAs can be an ingredient of stronger social glue to help hold America together.

Student Workshop at CAPTA convention

This summer presents a big opportunity for ambitious PTSA student leaders. You have chance to get in on this effort from the start. To learn more about it, join our workshop session at the CAPTA state convention, which begins May 3. It will all be online, so it's easy for students to participate — a big change from past years! There’s a discount for early registration by April 30 — just $50. (Then it goes up to $65.) If your school isn't part of PTA, you can register as an individual by joining the Golden State PTA.

A major point we will make in our workshop is that schools should have a plan for how they will develop effective student leaders. PTSAs can and should play a much bigger role in this work, engaging with aspiring student leaders from the moment they begin high school, or even earlier — some of the state's middle schools are set up as PTSAs, too.

Get Informed. Apply now for the Ed100 Academy.

As a new student leader, it's easy to feel like an imposter, and for good reason: there's a lot to know, and where do you learn it? That's why our partnership with Ed100 is important. To have an impact, it makes a big difference to be well-informed. I earned my certificate as a graduate of Ed100 last year, and I urge other students to do the same. Adults aren't as likely to patronize you when you know what you're talking about!

The Ed100 Online Academy for Student Leaders will be an incredible platform to launch this movement. The conference (June 21-23) is free and I urge all student leaders to apply for admission to it. I hope to see you there!

Kathryn Rickard is a student at San Ramon Valley High School (in 32nd district PTA). She is a graduate of and a member of the Board of Managers of the California State PTA.

Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Albert Stroberg April 26, 2021 at 1:20 pm
What are some of the objective, measurable effects of the student participation? Not just “feel good” but real change in policy & procedure.
user avatar
Kathryn Rickard April 28, 2021 at 1:07 pm
Hi Albert, our objective is to make sure that every single high school and middle school PTA is a PTSA. To change from a PTA to a PTSA the unit must change their bylaws and incorporate students on the executive board, which a PTA does not have to do. A PTSA will give a huge boost to student participation because they are making students leaders within their school.
user avatar
Zachary Patterson May 19, 2021 at 2:53 pm
Here is a good example of student involvement having actionable steps. Courtesy of Edutopia.
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