Maryland PTA


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Cultural Awareness

Extension and Field Service Updates

Shruti Bhatnagar, Extension and Field Service Committee Chair

There’s always something new and exciting at Maryland PTA. Lots of energy, lots of excitement, many new ideas and many new PTA’s. Yes, we are growing! In July2014 Maryland PTA helped install two new PTA’s in Maryland - Wilson Wims and Monarch Global Academy. It’s great to see the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers who step up in leadership roles and the amazing turnout of members who show up to join the PTA to show their support. It is heart-warming to witness the collaboration of school, parents and community organizations who embrace diversity & inclusion and join hands to make these initiatives a success.

Greetings, My name is Shruti Bhatnagar and I was appointed in July 2014 on the Maryland PTA BOD as the Chair of Extension and Field Service Committee with a subcommittee on Diversity Inclusion.  This committee will work actively to assist locals and Councils in establishing, re-establishing and work with challenged local and Council units across the state. Members on this committee will also encourage the active engagement of parents and families in the school community and will work collaboratively with members of subcommittee on Diversity and Inclusion to increase participants’ cultural awareness and knowledge, increase the inclusion of different identity groups and promote better teamwork within Maryland at all levels.

What could be a better time than “Back to School” for PTA leaders to strengthen their PTA Units and Councils by embracing diversity and making everyone feel welcome by being inclusive?

Maryland PTA held its first successful annual “Emerging Minority Leaders Conference” in July 2014, with a purpose to reinforce its commitment to strengthen diversity and leadership. At this conference new PTA and school leaders and community leaders in the diverse population were offered training to effectively advocate for their students by engaging ethnically diverse families and underserved school populations through various workshops and bridge-building techniques. Many local and Council PTA leaders from across the state of Maryland attended this conference. Guest speakers were invited and we collaboratively discussed “Diversity and Inclusion” What it means and the things we need to consider to make sure we are encouraging diversity in our PTA’s and being inclusive as PTA leaders. I share some of those thoughts & ideas with you to help you ensure that every member of your community feels included in representing the need of every child in your community.

How diverse is your community? How inclusive are you as a PTA leader? Even more important what does “Diversity & Inclusion” mean to you? It’s important to understand these terms so you can make sure that all members of your community feel welcome and engaged in your PTA. We as PTA leaders must remember that our members are the essence and strength of our PTA. By Embracing diversity and being inclusive, we can not only grow our membership, we will have stronger PTA’s and better represent the needs of every child in our community. Diversity can mean a lot of different things. Broadly defined, diversity means respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, generations, political philosophy, socioeconomic background, religion , skills,  abilities and all the other unique differences that make each of us who we are.

Embracing diversity and ensuring that everyone feels welcome, appreciated, respected, valued for his or her distinctive skills, experiences and perspectives and has an opportunity to fully participate in the goals of the PTA is critical to the success of the PTA. I encourage you as PTA leaders to put in your best effort to create a diverse workforce of volunteers that truly represents the diversity in your community and create an inclusive environment with opportunity for the talents of all community members.

Achieving a diverse and inclusive environment is an ongoing process. Start the year by making sure that Diversity and Inclusion is an intrinsic part of your PTA. Welcome and engage community members from various backgrounds and of all skill sets at “Back to School” events. Have conversations that will make them feel welcome, respected, valued and “included” by the PTA. Embracing Diversity and creating an environment of inclusion will enrich your PTA with many invaluable resources.

By removing barriers to inclusion we can promote student success.

We wish you all the best for your Back to School Events. Embrace, Engage, Strengthen and Grow!

Shruti Bhatnagar, Extension and Field Service Committee Chair


Strategies for Increasing Diversity in Your PTA

by Caryl M. Stern

Here are some additional strategies for creating an inclusive environment. Use these strategies to recruit and retain a diverse group of parents.

  • Identify programs, services, and events that create an inclusive environment. At my school, these include anti-bias workshops for teachers, anti-bullying workshops for students, and a schoolwide international night that invites families to dress in native clothes, prepare native foods, share cultural performances, and celebrate the school's diversity.
  • Consider diversity when selecting decorations, assembly programs, movies for movie night, songs for school concerts, books for school book clubs, etc.
  • Thank teachers with a parent-sponsored, parent-prepared luncheon for which parents are encouraged to prepare foods that reflect their cultures. Call upon parents and other relatives to present information about their heritages in the classroom, as part of the curriculum.
  • Draft and disseminate materials that articulate the purpose of your PTA, a brief history of your PTA, and the benefits of PTA membership.
  • Establish a formal translator program for parent-teacher conferences and other school functions; establish an informal network of parent and/or student translators who are willing to assist at school and after school.
  • Write and send a personal invitation (translated into the appropriate language) to each parent; the invitation should ask for the parent's involvement and identify why and/or how the parent's involvement would be valued.
  • Assign a mentor to all new members to help ease their transition into the group and to articulate unwritten rules.
  • Reach out to individuals who may serve as intermediaries with specific groups in the community. These individuals may include religious leaders and leaders of local ethnic organizations.
  • Create a feedback system that allows anyone who perceives or experiences exclusion to make it known to the PTA; make sure the PTA responds to all such feedback.
  • Ask volunteers to be involved in the creating and planning of programs and events. People support better that which they help build.
  • Take time to learn how people are comfortable being recognized for their involvement, and then make sure they are recognized.