Starting a group - At the first meeting, become acquainted with one another. A diverse group is definitely a plus. During the first few meetings, allow time for the group to voice frustrations and concerns with what is happening in education in general and their local schools. Having these discussions is the first step in the process of becoming a grassroots group. We found that this process was powerful and helpful. We all knew that something had to be done, but we didn’t know “what” or “how.” Don’t let that frustration stop the group from moving ahead. These discussions helped us to develop a focus of what was right for our community. Without realizing it, we were developing a process, which in turn led to the choosing of the name of our group and the writing of our mission statement. Even writing this “toolkit” was a product of this process.
Choose a name – Our name was a compromise and our first venture into coming to consensus as a group.
Mission Statement – With many rewrites and much input from our group, we developed this written statement of our goals:
We are citizens, teachers, administrators, and parents united by our support for public education and by concerns for its future. Recent federal and state reform measures have created an over-emphasis on testing and have turned over public education to private interests. We believe that these reforms threaten the well-being of our children and jeopardize their futures. Our goal is to inform ourselves and to start community discussion about the impact of these measures on our public schools and more importantly, on our children.Membership and Money – Our group still is hesitant to become too structured. We do not have dues, and we do not have a formal leadership group. We share expenses and are doing well without this structure. The group will be a reflection of its members, and may – or may not – need more structure
Group Leader – This evolved naturally; we never had elections. The leader needs to be passionate and able to persevere through all discouraging setbacks. Some groups may need an official chair or president.
Logo and Letterhead – With input from the whole group, one of our members created our logo. Part of our grassroots’ tool kit includes business cards, professionally printed posters, and letterhead stationery with our logo. When any work needed to be completed professionally, we patronized local businesses.
Media – We developed a list of media contacts that included the name and title of the contact, phone, fax, email, deadlines, and their desired preferences in how to receive our information. Learning the format for writing effective media releases is important.
Web Site – We are very lucky to have a member who likes to maintain our blog. We eventually moved to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It helps to have a member take over each of these social media. A communications committee might be helpful. We have a large email list of interested people who appreciate receiving our information. Here are the links:
NEIFPE Home Page: http://neifpe.blogspot.com/Grassroots Projects—Here are great ways we found to inform the community of our new group. Our first project was partnering with our local independent theater in showing two movies, Waiting for Superman and The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, with discussion following the films. This was a good way to publicize our newly-organized group.
NEIFPE on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NEIFPE
As our group has evolved, we have seen the need to reach out to individuals and groups to inform them about education issues. We are doing this through fact sheets (which evolved after careful research and accurate documentation) and a PowerPoint presentation containing this information, which we update as new issues arise.
These are some of our information and fact sheets, which may be adapted for specific community needs:
Cost of testing: https://sites.google.com/site/neifpe/docs/fs/TestingIndianaNEIFPE.pdfCall to Action: When a bill is coming to a vote and legislators need to be contacted, we have links to legislators, we notify our followers of the pending bill(s) and encourage them to contact their legislators. This is a very important part of what we do.
Slide show: https://sites.google.com/site/neifpe/docs/fs/savingpubliced.pdf
(see slide 15 and 16 for how to write to legislators)
Here are the links to Indiana legislators:
Legislative committees:Meeting Times – rather than having a set meeting time or date, we schedule meetings as the need arises. We always meet in one of our homes where the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable. Snacks and drinks are an important part of our gatherings. Following each meeting, notes are sent out for review by everyone. Our group sometimes gathers just to socialize without an agenda.
Indiana House Members:
Indiana Senate Members:
The loose structure of our group works well for us. We have been together more than a year, and we appreciate the talents and knowledge each of us brings to the group. That, plus the fun and humor of our meetings, may be why we have stayed together for so long. Our focus is still on supporting public schools for the benefit of students, families, teachers, and communities. We continue to work hard to meet the goals of our mission statement.
*An edited version of this Tool Kit appears on the Network for Public Education web site.