By Sandi Khine, Arcadia Unified Digital Communications Intern
Over a two-day period, 13 delegates from Arcadia Unified School District (AUSD) gathered in Sacramento for the annual California State Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Conference to advocate on behalf of not only Arcadia students and families but also students all across California. For over 100 years, PTA has served as advocates for students and families, and the 2019 California State PTA Legislation Conference was an incredible opportunity to communicate student and school needs directly to California’s elected officials.
Arcadia Unified’s delegation was the largest one present at the Conference: from City Council Mayor Pro-Tem April Verlato to student representatives like Arcadia High junior Jeffrey Lee, the varied group allowed Arcadia Unified to deliver the important and comprehensive message regarding the needs of Arcadia schools.
Held at the Embassy Suites Riverfront Promenade in Sacramento, the first day of the conference was filled from day to night with engaging speakers, workshops and activities, breakout sessions, and informative presentations. Dianna MacDonald, California State PTA President, opened the day with her personal story and inspired all the attendees to put their best feet forward in their advocacy work. Speakers sharing about positive school climate—Jacquelyn Ollison, California Department of Education; Alice Kessler, Lighthouse Public Affairs; Monica Nepomuceno, California Department of Education; Joy Wake, Start School Later California; Michael Essien, Principal at Martin Luther King Middle School—stressed the importance of developing and maintaining a welcoming school environment to foster students’ growth and learning. Later in the afternoon, a panel discussion was held on how best to advocate messages to representatives. Conference attendees learned how the California State PTA Legislation Team chooses bills and reviewed the advocacy goals tied to the work of the association and the legislation team.
On the second day of the conference, all delegates had the opportunity to meet with the elected officials from their respective districts in order to advocate for increased education funding in California public schools. At the California State Capitol, delegates listened to presentations opened by Cathy Hall of the California State PTA Legislation Team. Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell’s Chief of Staff, Sophia Kwong, delivered her perspective on how elected officials could contend for more funding and California State PTA advocate Carol Kocivar presented the history of education funding in California. Afterward, Senator Anthony Portantino caught the attention of all the delegates with a speech on the importance of the advocacy work that California State PTA did for students all across California. The morning closed with an inspirational wrap-up by Donna Artukovic of the California State PTA Legislation Team.
The delegates from AUSD were able to visit two representatives to advocate for increased education funding: State Senator Susan Rubio (D-22) and Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-49). During these meetings, AUSD had the opportunity to have conversations with the representatives on the importance of increasing California’s base for education funding, and why that especially mattered for Arcadian constituents.
Throughout the two days, delegates learned a plethora of facts and information, making the conference a truly educational experience. Dr. Jeff Wilson, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services for AUSD, noted that the Conference brought “together people to understand current legislation that relates to school funding and then what we can do to promote legislation that ensures that we turn our schools into the best schools in America.”
Furthermore, Arcadia Unified Board of Education Member Kay Kinsler expanded on how increasing base funding in California could directly benefit AUSD and its students; they “could expand programs, make things more meaningful, and be more rigorous in our funding for the arts.” AUSD has always been adamant in the importance of visual and performing arts for a well-rounded education and has never made cuts for arts education.
On meeting directly with elected officials, Foothills Middle School Principal Benjamin Acker mentioned that these meetings “make sure that students are represented well.” Mr. Acker’s favorite part of the Conference “is engaging with the legislators themselves and keeping them informed to make sure that they’re representing everyone within the constituency.”
From student to parent, from teacher to administrator, Arcadia Unified’s delegates at the conference worked hard to advocate bringing about legislative change in order to improve the educational opportunities for not only Arcadia Unified students but also students all across California. After all, students are the future.