Frances Frost serves many roles as a wife, mother and author. She has also been an active member of the PTA since 2006, when she first began editing the school newsletter as a PTA volunteer. She then went on to eventually become the vice president, then president of that local PTA.
Frost has pursued many roles as an officer in her children’s high school and middle school PTSA, as well as on the Board of Maryland PTA, and the immediate Past President of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Council of PTAs. After being appointed as the U.S. Department of Education’s first Family Ambassador, it was trusted that Frost would bring experiences, knowledge and stories of parents, families, schools and communities in order to inform and impact Department policies and improve outcomes for children and their families.
We sat down with Frost to ask her a few questions about what it takes to lead in today’s PTA.
What advice would you give someone going into a PTA leadership position for the first time?
Know what your skills, abilities, and interests are, know what you do well. Then, whatever leadership role you take on—whether chairing committee, local Officer or all the way up to National leader—find your work in a position that allows you to use your strengths and interests. There’s real work to do. If you are in a position that doesn’t play to your abilities and that you aren’t committed to, it doesn’t benefit the PTA, the children, you, or your family.
What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better PTA leader?
When I first became President of Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA), a local community leader and school administrator recommended that I read Mark Warren and Dr. Karen Mapp’s A Match on Dry Grass, about community organizing for school reform. Even if a PTA doesn’t think they have issues that rank as “reform,” there is good take-away information about gathering people around a common purpose, namely education and development of children, and inspiring them to action. It really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what informed, engaged, active parents can do.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing PTA leaders today?
PTA leaders have a tremendous job in understanding their own “why” and the role that PTA can and should play as an advocate for all children—regardless of race, origin, English-proficiency, religion, ability. Then, we have to educate and inform our community members on what PTA is about, how their engagement can benefit their child and their neighborhood, and inspire them to action.
If we are really serious about being a relevant organization, we have to focus on advocating for all children and welcoming all families. We have to speak up for children who are marginalized and ignored. We have to ensure resources are available for English learners, children with disabilities, children who are not yet proficient in reading and those who are advanced.
We have to demand that our teachers our culturally competent and respectful to all of our children. We have to be willing to listen to the parents in our neighborhood about what they need for their children.
Frances Frost is a member of the National PTA Board of Directors and the winner of the 2015 PTA Family Reading Challenge. Check out what her and her daughter had to say about reading together.