If you’ve yet to join NASSP’s Federal Grassroots Network (FGN) because you’re not sure how it will benefit you, how you can contribute, or even what FGN is, I hope that learning about my experience will give you the clarity you need to jump on board.
First, the “what”: FGN is a community of school leaders learning from one another about the policy issues that are important to us and our schools. Moreover, it helps school leaders build relationships with their members of Congress for the purposes of informing them about how their decisions impact education in their home districts and states. As a member, you get a monthly e-newsletter highlighting recent changes in federal education policy, resources to help you become a more effective advocate, timely action alerts, and, most important, the opportunity to attend the annual NASSP Advocacy Conference.
I got my first taste of advocacy in 2015, when I was the South Carolina Assistant Principal of the Year and a National Assistant Principal of the Year (APOY) Finalist. That year, APOYs from all over the country had the unique experience of being recognized in Washington, D.C., during National Assistant Principals Week. It was then and there that the advocacy bug first bit me. I initially felt intimidated going into those meetings with my members of Congress on Capitol Hill, but it didn’t take long to realize that they were just as nervous as I was, if not more so. I was the education expert in the room and had a credible voice. I had stories of real students with real faces and hopes and dreams who might be adversely affected by misguided policies. That first experience on Capitol Hill was exhilarating; I left Washington wanting to learn more and eager to share with others. Joining FGN made it easy for me to stay in the loop about current relevant issues. The legislative action alerts sent to members have been very helpful so that I don’t miss an opportunity to have my voice heard at the times it’s needed most.
From my perspective, there are two main reasons why school leaders need to sign up for FGN:
- First, it is important that school leaders remain knowledgeable in the areas of educational policy and school law. We all took a course at some point in time, but the hot-button issues and political players are constantly changing. Being a member of FGN means that you get the most current and accurate information—delivered directly to you—about what’s happening in Washington and in our nation.
- Second, the networking opportunities have been invaluable. As a result of FGN and the NASSP Advocacy Conference, I now have professional contacts in every state. I’ve also had the opportunity to develop relationships with many people at NASSP and find them to be very responsive to my concerns and questions. They’ve also been incredibly supportive in helping me to find my own voice.
If you’re a school leader who has ever thought, “I would like to be more involved,” or “I wish I knew more about what was happening on Capitol Hill,” joining FGN is the best way to make it happen. Sign up now—and join me at this year’s Advocacy Conference!
Sarah Longshore is principal at Saluda High School in Saluda, SC. In her previous role as assistant principal for instruction at Dutch Fork High School—which is recognized as one of the highest-performing schools in South Carolina—she led an extensive open-enrollment AP program that produced impressive test scores and involved students from all demographic areas. Sarah takes pride in having contributed to the school’s positive climate, which saw a 56 percent decrease in discipline referrals during her tenure. She was the 2015 South Carolina Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year.