The Hearts & Souls Project
The first step in advocacy is establishing a relationship with your state legislators. One of the best ways to do this is by creating a connection between your legislators and your school district by inviting your state Senator and House of Representative member or members into your schools. Many of our members have already hosted their legislators, but during the 2021-22 school year, we are asking our members to invite their legislators to their schools through The Hearts & Souls Project.
Sometimes, legislators make a judgement on the school districts they serve simply by looking at the district’s state report card. It’s important to show our legislators that: “Behind the test scores are the hearts and souls of children.”
And the best way to do this is to invite your legislators into your buildings to show them the hearts and souls of the children you serve every day—the children who are impacted by the decisions they make in the Statehouse. To encourage and support our members in doing this, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials have joined together to develop The Hearts & Souls Project.
Goal of The Hearts & Souls Project
100% of our member districts will host their House of Representative member(s) and state senator in their school district during the 2021-22 school year
Purpose of The Hearts & Souls Project
- To “put a face” on the students of Ohio’s public schools and the educators who work tirelessly to serve them
- To share the great things happening in Ohio’s public schools
- To establish and enhance the relationship our members have with their legislators
How to find and contact your legislators
To find the contact information for your school district’s elected representatives in the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate, follow the three steps outlined below.
Step 1: Go to the Ohio Department of Education’s legislative search tool by clicking here.
Step 2: Select “School District Search” and then enter your school district’s name.
Step 3: Once you know the legislators who represent your school district, you can find their contact information, including their mailing and email addresses, using the following resources:
Resources: Invitation, thank you letter and press releases
The samples below are for your use and reference:
- Sample form invitation letter – Click here
- Sample form thank you letter – Click here
- Sample press release – Click here
Ideas for hosting your legislators
- Have a welcoming committee comprised of school board members*, district and building leaders, staff members, and student leaders. Note that this would be considered an “official” visit, so school board members’ participation should be limited to two members.
- Provide a welcome with a quick PowerPoint overview of your district.
- Have your legislators visit selected classrooms, K through 12, to see your great teachers in action.
- Expose legislators to programs your district has implemented to:
- meet the 21st century learning needs of students;
- provide innovative programming for students;
- deliver interventions to students to help all students find success;
- provide enrichment for gifted and talented students;
- address pandemic-related learning loss.
- Have the band and/or choir prepare a musical selection to perform when the legislators visit their classroom.
- Schedule a luncheon and include students; allow the legislator time to share his/her story about becoming a legislator and to discuss the aspects of positive leadership; give students time to ask questions (work with students to prepare questions ahead of time).
- Have legislators speak to students at a school assembly.
- Bring government classes together to meet with legislators.
- Invite your legislators to come back for a school event, such as a school musical, a concert or an athletic event; introduce the legislator to your community at halftime of a game or during an intermission.
- Take plenty of pictures! This will help your legislators feel included and honored as special guests to your school. Please share some of your pictures with us at email@example.com.
- Present your legislators with a memento — a school T-shirt; a varsity letter; take a picture of the legislator with students, have it framed and send it to the legislator for display in his/her office along with a thank you.
Tips for hosting a successful visit
- Plan a visit that focuses on the positives. This is not about advocating for or against legislation. It’s about developing a positive relationship with your legislators and “showing off” the great things happening in your school district.
- Put students at the center of the visit; interaction with students is paramount to sharing the hearts and souls of the students you serve.
- Make this a “win-win” situation for your district and your legislators. Make sure you share the story of their visit through:
- school newsletters;
- your school website;
- social media posts;
- press releases — use the sample provided above;
- inviting media to cover the day.
- Whatever venue you use—a school assembly, a meeting with government class students, a luncheon — give legislators the opportunity to tell students about their “path” to the Statehouse. They each have a unique story and enjoy telling that story.
- It is best to work with students ahead of time to help them develop questions to ask legislators.
- Generally, legislators are in Columbus Tuesdays through Thursdays for committee hearings and sessions of the Senate and House, so Mondays and Fridays are often prime days to get legislators into your schools.
- Consider partnering with a neighboring school district; one district can host in the morning, one district can host in the afternoon.
- Share your contact information with the legislators. Make it easy for them to reach out to you. If you are comfortable sharing your mobile number, do so (and they might share their mobile number in return). This makes it easy for them to contact you if they want to get your input on a piece of legislation.
- The Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators has a program in place called PAL (Principals Advocating with Legislators); additional ideas and resources to help plan your visit can be found at https://oaesa.org/PAL
Social media suggestions
- Use the hashtag #ohiosheartsandsouls when Tweeting about your legislators’ visit
- Please include our organizations in your Tweets:
- Tag your legislators in your social media posts
Remember: Share your visits with us!
Help us to track our members’ successes and share your good news with others: https://forms.office.com/r/2C1JATRQ82