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Archive for March, 2009

Empowering young leaders

Yes, smaller class sizes, high-quality teachers and adequate funding are vital in our schools.

Yet I believe we often fail to acknowledge the power that student leaders have to improve and enhance the daily experiences of all kids in Washington’s public schools. Student leadership can make or break the climate of our schools. Youth attitudes and actions influence whether their peers choose to wake up to go to school the next morning and the level of safety students feel as they walk around campus.

Beyond the classroom walls and outside of Olympia, students can play a crucial role in the success of our schools. For more than 50 years, the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) has been supporting and promoting student leadership through workshops, camps and conferences that serve more than 10,000 students, advisers and coaches each year.

It’s hard to articulate how powerful it is to be surrounded by 250+ high school student leaders from Forks to Central Valley, out in the wilderness of Randle, Washington, in a world free of cell phones and Facebook, tackling topics from parliamentary procedure to servant leadership. My camp experience (three years as a high school delegate and seven years as a counselor for middle level and high school camps) has been the greatest influence in my commitment to public education and service-learning.

When we look beyond today, we must remind ourselves that these students are the ones who will be the advocates, activists, parents, business leaders, teachers and legislators leading movements as a result of today’s unfinished business. In fact, we all know many students who are already initiating positive change in their schools and communities. Therefore, it is essential that we connect our youth with every opportunity possible to be surrounded by new people, new ideas and new thoughts; to ask tough questions and be uncomfortable; to take risks and to take on a leadership role whenever possible.

Please talk to your children, youth whom you know and students in your schools. Let them know of these opportunities, and encourage them to get involved. Please click on the links for more info, or get in touch with me via email or by posting a comment. This will be my eighth year with Mt. Rainier, one of the five AWSP high school leadership camps, and I look forward to working with new students from your communities and schools.

*Like most other exciting opportunities, this one is not cheap. Prices per delegate range from $275-285, depending on whether or not the school is an official member of the Washington Association of Student Councils. Some schools are able to afford to send their students to camp while others do not have the resources. Don’t miss out on the scholarship opportunities available to help students pay for camp. The scholarship deadline is March 17th.

High School Leadership Camp (Cispus and Chewelah Peak)
Middle Level Leadership Camp (Cispus and Chewelah Peak)
La Cima Bilingual Leadership Camp (Chewelah Peak)
Deaf Teen Leadership Camp (Cispus)
CheerLeadership Camp (Central Washington University)

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Help! I published a newsletter in my school PTSA and I just learned I could be sued by the state!

It is extremely unlikely you will be sued. Your school district, Superintendent or Principal could possibly be sued though.

The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) was formed by the citizens of the state through an initiative to make sure that state facilities and money are not used for lobbying efforts. If you step back and think about this, it makes sense, you don’t want your tax dollars being used to lobby or campaign.

Typically a complaint will occur during a school district bond/levy campaign. The opposition to the ballot issues will file a complaint and the bond/levy ballot issues will fail..(even if the complaint was unfounded). If however, the complaint is found to be valid, the school district and perhaps the superintendent will be fined. This has happened a few times across the state.

What is lobbying or campaigning?
• Asking people to vote yes or no on a bill is direct lobbying.
• Asking people to attend a rally in support of a bill is direct lobbing.

What if you can’t tell if it is lobbying? Ask the communications director in your school district. It can be very, very difficult to tell if your flyer is actually lobbying or not. And, different school districts interpret this different ways. Clearly the best thing to do is to talk to your school district communications director. They will be thrilled that you were proactive, and you will build a very positive relationship with the school district.

But, here is where things get tricky. As a PTA, or an outside organization that is using or renting school facilities you can do whatever you want within the constraint of the meeting, even on school property. You can talk about bills, you can endorse bills, you can pass out flyers, buttons, signs, stickers that all say Vote YES for something. And, if the PTA is running an event like a reflections reception or a movie night, you can also lobby.

The bottom line is…you can’t use any school resources to lobby except within the confines of a PTA meeting or event.

For those of you who like to know a lot more, here is a link to the PDC website that outlines what can and can’t be done, there is a matrix in this file that can be quite useful. Guidelines for Local Government Agencies in Election Campaigns

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism

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