First lady calls on school leaders to help children get active

In a nationwide conference call hosted by first lady Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative on March 19, CSBA Immediate Past President Jill Wynns and several school superintendents from across the country shared what they’re doing to encourage quality physical activity and nutrition as a way to improve students’ academic and physical performance.

Mrs. Obama called on school boards and superintendents to become “role models and champions” in the campaign to make children’s school days more active.

“You know better than just about anyone else just how important physical activity is for our children’s health and wellbeing. You all know the impact it has on their behavior in the classroom and on their success overall – not just in the classroom, but in life,” she said.

But budget cuts have made it difficult for districts to invest in quality physical activity programs, so the Active Schools initiative offers a wealth of low- and no-cost solutions that can make moving fun for kids. School leaders can lead the charge, the first lady said.

“We’re going to need you to spread the word about this program in all of your schools,” she urged, “… to encourage folks in your districts to step up as champions.”

Wynns, the only school board member invited to participate in the call, recounted what the San Francisco Unified School District is doing to partner with civic and community organizations to counter the obesity epidemic and to help teachers provide high-quality physical activities aligned with standards.  Many actions began at the school board level, with policies banning soft drinks, providing curriculum and professional development for teachers, seeking sources to fund instructional support staff and after-school activity programs.

“Speaking of role models, we’re trying to get all the adults in our system to model this behavior,” said Wynns, citing the example set by Superintendent Richard Carranza, who has lost 55 pounds since last June and is training for a local 10K run.

“America’s local school boards are your partners in this effort,” she concluded, inviting Mrs. Obama to join Carranza for the 10K event.

“Judging by the emails we received from school board members who could not get on the call due to the limited number of ports, there was great interest in this topic and specifically in what you had to say,” wrote Lucy Gettman, director of federal programs for NSBA, in a congratulatory email after the call.

CSBA offers guides, videos, sample policies, and policy briefs to help boards develop healthy food and activity policies in their districts.

“CSBA’s set of comprehensive resources can help school governance leaders develop, adopt, and monitor policies and practices that are designed to create healthier school environment.  CSBA’s Building a Healthy Community resource guide also helps school governance leaders  lead and engage their community on this vital and important health and education issue,” said Assistant Executive Director for Member Services Martin Gonzalez.

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