ACSA members’ words of wisdom for grassroots advocates

November 14, 2017 ACSA Writer

“One of your biggest barriers may be trying to get someone to call back or answer an email. I always go through a legislator’s scheduler, but copying another staff member can also be very helpful. When I did not hear back after a week, I emailed AND called again on a weekly basis. When I was 3 weeks out from my event, I actually called each legislator’s local offices to grovel and say that I had tried to connect with their scheduler in Sacramento repeatedly for the past 6 weeks with no response. If nothing else, scheduler’s respond to persistence and tenacity. Do not let being ignored get you down, you have to keep trying.”

Julie Hatchel, VPLA Region 17 (2016) 
Principal, Irvine Unified School District

“The most important thing to remember is that elected officials and their staff are people just like us. We should not feel intimidated or fearful of reaching out to them. Once you are in a legislator’s office, know that they enjoy hearing both stories of success, and of the challenges that we experience when implementing policies that come from the state.”

Manny Nunez, Region 10 VPLA (2016) 
Principal, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

“If you can make a connection with a personal story or common interest this can definitely open up a line of communication, with both staff and your legislator. This is where doing your research about who you are meeting with will pay off. I also think it is important to ask what we can do for them. Everyone I have met with has always responded positively when I have asked what I can do to help them.”

Scott Lay, VPLA Region 2 (2016) 
Principal/Superintendent, Clear Creek School

“Always start with training within your team – work off of a sample meeting or event template, use video snippets and role play to help build each person’s comfort level. Making sure you are all on the same page with messaging is important as well. When you’re speaking with your legislator and you have an ask, always make clear statements. Try to say things like, ‘I need your support with X, and that support looks like Y’ or ‘In order to achieve X, we need your support with Y, so please do Z.’ Clear communication is the key to great advocacy!”

Lisa Gonzales 
Statewide ACSA President (2017-2018), Statewide VPLA (2011-2015) 
Asst. Superintendent - Educational Services, Dublin Unified School District

“Try to remember that elected officials are parents, siblings, friends and were students at some point. They are invested in their district and their constituents and they want to hear from you. If you are hesitant to reach out to your legislator, JUST DO IT! All it takes is one phone call to get the ball rolling.”

Tierra Crothers, VPLA Region 7 (2016) 
Principal, Calaveras Unified School District

“Be mindful of the practices of each legislative office. Some schedulers will not add you to a legislator’s calendar until 2 weeks before the date of your event, but others will add you 3 months in advance. I have found that keeping a running list of who you spoke with and when they asked you to call back/what their preferences are, is extremely helpful. Then you can plug reminders into your calendar, so you are sure to follow-up.”

Jose M. Rodriguez, VPLA Region 16 (2016) 
Admin Coordinator, LA Unified School District

“You are the expert. Don’t ever forget it. We need to train each of our legislators to understand our point of view. It is not an us against them. We are all educators, so consider legislators as another part of a class you may have had, with students who all have different learning styles, personalities and experiences. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration. The better you know your legislator, the easier it is to communicate. That doesn't mean they will always agree with you, but they will eventually understand your perspective.”

Terri Rufert, Statewide VPLA (2017) 
Superintendent, Sundale Union Elementary School District

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