What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is simply expressing your interest in a specific cause and taking action to support that cause.

 

 

What is Bell PTSA advocating for?

 

An accessible and inclusive playground

 

Did you know Bell Elementary’s playground is not ADA compliant? A few years ago, we had a student at Bell who was unable to play with her friends on the playground because she could not access it with her wheelchair. When we see injustices like this, we must act!

 

This is where we come in. The PTSA advocates for children. This is our core purpose.

 

We have been working on resolving this issue for a few years. We have done advocacy work with the school principal, the LWSD School Board, the superintendent of LWSD, and the executive director of support services for LWSD. The effort has paid off! We are thrilled to announce that Lake Washington School District committed to updating Bell’s playground. The updates will include the following:

  1. Accessibility – The district will make our playground ADA Compliant.

  2. Playground surfacing – The district will be piloting rubber play tiles at Bell. (The current LWSD standard is wood play chips – you should try rolling a wheelchair in wood chips!) The play tiles will be under the play structures.

  3. Playtoy structure will be updated – The wooden play structure has become outdated and will be replaced.

Early estimates indicate that this project will cost approximately $250K. In addition to the district's investment, the PTSA is investing in the project as well. The project is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2022.


Advocating for the needs of our students and teachers

 

We recently conducted a Q&A with Dr. Holmen, LWSD's superintendent, where we asked hard questions about lack of sufficient staffing and inclusion practices that fail to provide the needed support for the student and classroom. We also discuss diversity, the education model, and COVID protocols. The presentation, meeting minutes, and a recording of the meeting can be viewed here:


Reducing food waste in our school 

 

The Bell PTSA has been advocating for change in the cafeteria, and we are thrilled to announce some recent successes.

 

When students returned to in-person learning this year, they were required to throw all their food in the trash, including uneaten food (e.g., unopened milk, uneaten fruit, unopened packaged foods). There were days where we were seeing more than 100 pieces of uneaten fresh fruit going in the trash (in addition to unopened milk and other food)! To remedy this, the Bell PTSA did the following:

  • We worked with King County Green Schools, LWSD, and Sodexo (LWSD's contracted food service provider) to obtain all the necessary approvals needed to relaunch a food donation program at Bell (quite a bit of red tape to get through, but we are finally up and running). During each lunch period, we now set out food-collection bins. We put the food in a fridge and take it to the food bank at the end of the week.

  • We expressed our concerns to our legislators, the school district, and to Sodexo. Sodexo recently made a simple change across the entire district (i.e., no longer REQUIRING students to take certain foods, while still meeting USDA requirements). This change has had a substantial impact. Early estimates indicate that this has resulted in 4K pieces of fruit not being wasted every day (across the district).

  • We re-launched our food composting program, reducing our landfill contribution by approximately 50%.

Sustainability should not take a back-seat during a pandemic. We must continue this vital work. We need students to see sustainability efforts in our schools. Our actions need to reflect what we're teaching.


Functioning laptops for all students

 

During remote learning, we advocated for all Bell students to be issued functioning laptops. Bell PTSA spoke at a LWSD School Board meeting and reached out to the district about the sub-par laptops provided to many Bell students (many were 5+ years old). The school board and district listened to our concerns and replaced the oldest HP models and slowest processing times were provided new devices. We still have work to do here! Our Kindergarten and 1st graders still have devices that are 5-6 years old  


Working with our legislators to make policy and legislative changes

 

In addition to the advocacy work we are doing at the school and district level, we are also working with our legislators to make policy and legislative changes that will support WSPTA's top five legislative priorities and supported issues.

 

2020-2022 WSPTA Top Five Legislative Priorities

  1. Increase Access to Nursing, Mental Health, and Social Emotional Learning Staff
  2. Support Students and Preserve Education Funding
  3. Increasing Educational Equity by Closing the Digital Divide
  4. Supports and Funding for Students with Disabilities and Their Families
  5. Prevent and Reduce Gun Violence and Suicide

2020-2022 WSPTA Supported Issues

  • Equitable identification and Services for Highly Capable Students
  • Mitigating the Adverse Impacts of Climate Change
  • Safe Schools Plans and Emergency Preparedness 

 

How to Get Involved:

 

  • Washington State's 2022 Legislative Session started on January 10, 2022 and adjourns on March 10, 2022. Prior to the pandemic, PTSA representatives from many schools (including Bell) would head to Olympia and meet with legislators face-to-face. This session, the advocacy work will be done virtually.
    • Subscribe to WSPTA’s Action Network Group - During the Washington State Legislative Session, WSPTA will send action alerts and informational broadcasts to WSPTA members who have subscribed to WSPTA's Action Network Group. These action alerts are quick, easy ways to communicate with our legislators on topics they are actively working on.

    • Join us for Focus on Advocacy Week, January 17-21, 2022, as we share the WSPTA legislative platform with our legislators in Olympia. Subscribe to the WSPTA Action Network and be part of #WSPTAOneVoice.
      • Monday, January 17 – Call to Action: Focus on dismantling racism
      • Tuesday, January 18 – Call to Action: Focus on equity
      • Wednesday, January 19 – Call to Action: Focus on mental health & wellness
      • Thursday, January 20 – Call to Action: Focus on preserving funding
      • Friday, January 21 – Call to Action: Focus on safety and emergency preparedness
    • Reach out to your legislators anytime (not just during the legislative session) about concerns, or to thank them for the great work they're doing. It really is as simple as contacting your legislators and sharing your story. What are you concerned about and why? What do you want to ask your legislators to do? What work are they doing that you're thankful for? During the legislative session, we provided updates every week in our weekly newsletter, the Bulldog Blast.
  • Attend WSPTA Legislative Assembly – learn about the issues, how you can take action and network with other PTA leaders (October 23-24, 2021). Email president@agbellptsa.org if interested in attending next year's assembly.


  • Be an informed citizen - read the newspaper, read communications from the district, school, and PTSA, attend School Board Meetings, attend Town Halls, attend PTSA meetings, attend City Council Meetings, sign up for your legislator's newsletters, etc. 

  • If you see an injustice or are passionate about an issue, speak up. Democracy works best when citizens are informed and engaged in their communities, and in the legislative process.

  • Reach out any of the following people with any questions or for more ways to get involved with this vital work.