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EPISD Q&A: EPISD Council of PTAs President Bridgette Valdes

Bridgette Valdes

(EL PASO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT -- Aug. 6, 2020) — With a new school year, the EPISD Council of PTAs has a new president.

Bridgette Valdes takes the helm of the organization in a year filled with pandemic-related uncertainty. However, the mother of four is up for the challenge, knowing full well that this year more than ever keeping parents engaged and empowered is critical.

EPISD’s Office of Community Engagement interviewed Valdes this week to chat about her goals and expectations for the Council during the 2020-2021 school year.

Community Engagement: Why did you become involved with the PTA and Council of PTAs?

Bridgette Valdes: I became involved in PTA in 2015 when my oldest children (twins) started kindergarten at Mitzi Bond.  I wanted to get involved at the school to get to know the faculty and community there. My oldest are entering fiftrh grade this upcoming year so I have only been at Mitzi Bond.  I have held various positions on the board with my last two years being president.  Council became of interest as I wanted to further my involvement with the district – especially now that my children are close to moving into middle school.

 

CE: With the current pandemic, how do you see PTA evolving?

BV: I see the pandemic, as tragic as it is, as a great opportunity to showcase the PTA as an advocacy group. So often, PTA is seen as a volunteer group that fundraises for the school.  While we do love helping our schools, there is so much more to PTA than this.  PTA was built as an advocacy group. We are here to make every child’s a potential a reality. We are here to be the voice of our children, making sure they have the tools and resources they need to succeed in their education. I think we can also use this opportunity to connect more with our families. Often PTA meetings and events can be scheduled at times that many parents simply cannot attend.  As so many things have moved to a virtual platform, I think this provides a great chance for us to connect with those individuals.

 

CE: How will the Council of PTAs be able to lend support during this unprecedented time?

BV: In July, we applied for a grant from the National PTA to support social emotional health.  We find out if we will be awarded this grant later this month.  However, we have already started implementing some of the things we talked about in our application.  We are currently running a social media campaign on our Facebook & Instagram accounts (@episdcouncilpta); where we are addressing Social Emotional Health with Mindful Mondays, Wellness Wednesdays and Fabulous Family Fridays.  We are also working on how we can support families as school starts back up virtually … especially for those families that have working parents and need child care during the day. 

 

CE: Why is it important to join PTA right now? What are the benefits?

BV: There are so many reasons to join PTA. Locally, we are working to create that community for families as we look to host town halls with our members to discuss how we can support each other and our children and then we can work to implement them with EPISD.  At a State level, our PTA President has already requested Commissioner Morath wave the STAAR test this year and our National PTA President is putting pressure on Betsy DeVos and Congress for additional funding to support technology for families as so many children do not have a reliable internet connection or even devices in their homes. There is power in numbers. When we can go as a large group (last year El Paso over 4,800 members and the state of Texas has 500K+ members) to advocate for change, for the things we need for our children to be successful; our leaders will listen.

 

CE: How will Council meetings change in this era of COVID?

BV: Our council meetings will be held virtually using Zoom as we closely follow local health guidelines.  Until our children are back in school face-to-face our council meetings will be held virtually. 

 

CE: What is PTA doing to facilitate this transition to distance learning?

BV: I have reached out to both our Board of Trustees and superintendent to let them know we are here to support them in any way we can.  I know that they are working tirelessly to ensure that our educators will be fully prepared this fall for both virtual learning as well as when we are ready to head back into the classroom.  We will be here to support them and our families in any way we can.  We are also in the beginnings of reaching out to various community organizations to see how we can partner together to provide additional resources to our children and students this fall.

 

CE: Anything you'd like to add?

BV: Our EPISD Council of PTAs executive board has been working hard over the summer to get ready to support our local PTAs and families this fall.  Things will look differently that is guaranteed, and I feel there is a lot of opportunity to reach and connect with more families.  We are willing to be flexible in what comes our way.  As previously mentioned we will be hosting Town Halls with our members and we’ve started to reach out to the community to create partnerships. Moving through these times will take a team effort and I know we can work together to do it.

 

If you’d like to get involved in your school PTA or have any questions about the Council of PTAs, email Valdes at president.epcouncilpta@gmail.com.

 

Interview by Reneé De Santos