The Week is Yours, Own it: Perspectives from the Back Row


This has been a very long week, where all of the hats I wear as wife, mom, parent volunteer, future board member and PTA leader collided.


Monday:


In 2013 I began my service as a member of the legislatively mandated State Assessment Parent Review Committee. That first year, 15 of us went through over 10,000 SAGE questions. I served for two years and then took a break. This year was my final year of another 4 year term. Once a year for 2 or 3 days (or more) parents review new questions that will be used on the Statewide Assessment (now called RISE). Initially, we were given the task to determine whether or not we were comfortable with our child seeing the content of the questions. Over the years I have seen the value of the parent input as we have shared concerns with some content, but also technology, confusing answers, etc. I have been there to create a better test for my children and the others who take the test. Our yearly review for 2022 began on Monday with ELA questions (English/Language Arts). For 7 hours we poured over a batches of questions. Got home from the Capitol in time for a meeting with Rising Up, a new Utah non-proft created to help youth find Connection, Purpose, and Resilience. They are looking at ways to partner with Utah PTA.


Tuesday:

Back to the Capitol for another day of test questions. Today was math! I was content to get through as many 3-5 grade math questions as I could. I even managed to get a science batch in by the end of the day. I love the Science test. If I hadn't had an aversion to Botany in college, I totally would have been a junior high science teacher. I've been told by a friend who is a new science teacher that I can help her with dissections this year, so I'm counting on spending some time with some frogs later in the year. I love the interactivity of the test. Parents can check out the different training tests and see the different kinds of test questions at UtahRise.org. This is not your old-fashioned fill in the bubble test!



After another 7-8 hours of test questions, it was great to spend the evening at the Utah Women Run Winter Social. I took their candidate training a couple of years ago and it set a nice foundation for running for office. Tonight the organization celebrated its move from the YMCA to a new partnership with the Hinckley Institute. Representatives Becky Edwards and Rebecca Chavez-Houck were recognized for their work in the Utah legislature and other civic areas. I also got to say hi a number of people who supported me during my campaign, which was so amazing. It was fun to see a few fellow newly elected board members there at the same time.



Wednesday:

Back to the Capitol. This is going to be a crazy day! Started my RISE science batches at 8:00 AM and worked tirelessly to finish up my batches. My term is now over. If you are a public education parent and would like to learn about service on the RISE Parent Review Committee, let me know. I know at least two of us that will no longer be on the committee.

Ran over to a meeting room in the Capitol at 11:00 for a Utah PTA Resolutions Committee Meeting. Utah PTA can only speak to issues where a Resolution is in place voted on by the general members. Utah PTA has a committee that meets monthly to work on updating and and writing resolutions to keep Utah PTA current in their positions on policy, legislation, and the work they do. Resolutions contain Whereas statements, which are evidence-based facts regarding the issue, and then Resolved statements, which are statements of action directing the work of Utah PTA. Plans were made for future resolutions and then we were off to a luncheon sponsored by the Trust Lands Advocacy Office. SITLA and SITFO officers were also there to meet legislators and others.


Following a quick lunch, we gathered in a committee room for the Education Interim Committee. This was packed full agenda. I'm concerned that there seems to be some animosity between the legislature and local school boards. I hope that there can be some respect from both bodies as publicly elected officials. Reports were made from Alpine, Davis, and Park City on the efforts made on HB 374, the Sensitive Materials bill, regarding books in the library. I'm currently on one of the committees for Davis School District. We are charged with discussion on 4 different books where complaints have been made. At this point, I have been impressed with the training we had to sit through, the focus on the law and strict adherence to the law. We will convene after Thanksgiving to make final decisions on the books we have been assigned.



Other interesting items on the interim agenda were the School Accountability System Redesign, the Curriculum and Teacher Training in Public Education Audit Report, and the Chronic Absenteeism and Truancy Working Group Recommendations. I served on the Advisory Committee for the School Accountability System Redesign. We have been meeting for nearly a year to come up with a recommendation for the legislature that is not based solely on end of the year testing, like our current system. I have been advocating for years to eliminate the current system of assigning a single letter grade to our schools. It doesn't truly tell parents what is happening in a school. I also worked hard in the committee to make sure that if climate surveys are taken that parents can see and possibly give input into the questions.

It was figured that as individuals we spent over 50 hours helping to create the new recommendations. It will be exciting to see if the legislature will honor any of the work and seek some necessary statute changes.



The meeting ended just after 4:00 PM. It was sad to think this was Representative Snow's final meeting to chair. He has been a wise, kind, and thoughtful legislator. Had the privilege of visting with a friend while waiting for my family to come pick me up. We had the opportunity to attend the MACU Night at the Aquarium as PTA community partners. It was so fun to have the four of us hang out and play and go to dinner. I sometimes don't take the time to put away the phone and connect with my family like I should.


Thursday:


Began the day listening to the "Ready! Resilient! Utah Early Childhood Mental Health Summit presented by Governor Spencer J. Cox and First Lady Abby Cox" I loved Governor Cox's plea for us to BE BUILDERS. He shared with us that there are churches in Europe that took 250-350 years to build and asked us if we would be willing to put effort into something that neither we or our children, or even our children's children would see the completion of. It's such a big picture perspective. I've worried that as a society we have lost long-term perspective. My generation grew up with the sit-coms that were resolved in half an hour. My children's generation are growing up with instant access to anything they want and 30 second videos on social media. For the benefit of our children we need to invest in foundations of support for our children.


Headed to the PTA office for a Finance Meeting and then cleaned out my van filled with items from last weeks Utah PTA Advocacy Conference. As I left the office at 4:00 pm, I had the strange thought that this could be my last time I leave the Utah PTA office as a member of the Utah PTA State board. It was a bittersweet moment. Got home just in time for the National PTA Virtual Townhall.

I love these standards. For a few years in a row, I was invited to participate in a Kindergarten Transition Summit helping Headstart Leaders prepare for positive transitions for new Kindergarteners. I would share these standards because I truly believe they set a positive foundation for engaging families.


Friday:

This morning was such a great morning! I was invited to participate in some school visits as a newly elected School Board Member. I had the privilege of being escorted by the principals of Bonneville HS, Mueller Park Jr. High, and Valley View Elementary. It was such a positive experience to visit classrooms and watch teaching and learning going on. Seeing the interactions of the administrators with their students and learning about the challenges and wins that each school is having. Some interesting things that I learned for my new role as State School Board Member: Principals are using the TSSA money for direct needs in their schools. The flexibility and autonomy they have with those funds helps them with unexpected needs. I picked the junior high specifically to see the technology platform they use in their school. I visited the core classrooms and did not find students glued to computer screens, I saw them engaged with paper and pencil and science lab books. I saw the great importance of the music programs. I saw that 6th grade students give inciteful answers. I saw administrators who truly care for all of their students. I listened to concerns about behavioral issues in our elementary schools and ELL students in our high schools. I am grateful that the District chose to include me in the visits and for the time the district personel and school board members took to walk through with me.



Saturday:

OK - this was just pure fun! Nothing like hanging out with Batman and bunch of great men who put their all in helping to get dads engaged in their children's education. An AMAZING assistant principal from Holt Elementary spent the entire morning with us filming a video to prove the point that "Volunteers are Super Heroes." You don't have to be batman to make a difference! Research shows that "Parent involvement in education is crucial. No matter their income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school."



There were times this week that I was singing a song from an old children's show in my head … "This is the week that never ends, it goes on and on my friend!" … but it's really the kinds of things I have been doing for so many years. I'd love to know what others are doing to make a difference for students and teachers! What was your week like?






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