John R. Downes Elementary School and Downes Elementary PTA Recognized Nationally as a School of Excellence

National PTA has recognized John R. Downes Elementary School and Downes Elementary PTA as a 2018-2020 School of Excellence for their commitment to building an inclusive and welcoming school community where all families contribute to enriching the educational experience and overall well-being for all students.

“Research shows that when families and schools work together, students do better in school and schools improve,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “John R. Downes Elementary School and Downes Elementary PTA have worked hard to strengthen their family-school partnership and create an environment where all families feel welcomed and empowered to support student success. We are pleased to recognize them as a National PTA School of Excellence.”

National PTA’s School of Excellence program helps PTAs become partners in identifying and implementing school improvement initiatives based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Schools that exhibit improvement at the end of the school year are honored as a National PTA School of Excellence, a distinction that spans two years.

John R. Downes Elementary School and Downes Elementary PTA are one of only 278 PTAs and schools nationwide recognized as a 2018-2020 School of Excellence.

The school and PTA worked together to promote family engagement in activities, meetings and involvement on the board by changing their communication format and methods in these areas. By focusing on the content of their communication, they were able to identify areas where they could better relay the information necessary for families to understand what was going on in the school and with the PTA and how they could participate and be more involved.  Some examples of changes that they made were:

  • The addition of a “What’s Happening This Month” article in the monthly newsletter that included information about the month’s events, the purpose of the event, who was in charge and specific details so that families knew what each event entailed.
  • Replaced oral committee reports with a written committee/chair report that was distributed at PTA meetings and could be taken home and read at the attendee’s own pace. This also cut down on the length of meetings and allowed for more time for input and questions at the meeting.
  • To engage families at PTA Meetings, they continued to serve pizza and offer free babysitting at every PTA meeting.
  • To keep their online presence fresh, they made sure to update families on upcoming events, school closings, pictures from events past, and reminders about upcoming meetings as well as points of discussion about the meeting.
  • Advised the roles and responsibilities of each board member as well as committee chair so that new families can get involved without fear of over-committing themselves.

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit