The following are the minutes from the Stoddert PTO Executive Board meeting on August 27, 2015.
PTO Presidents’ Welcome Remarks
Maria O’Donnell and Nitchet Quarles gave the PTO Presidents’ Welcome Remarks.
There will be a PTO Executive Committee Memo that will be sent around before the next executive PTO meeting on October 1. The memo will have all PTO updates for that meeting. Before the next executive PTO meeting on October 1, the PTO Secretary, Allan Gordus, will send out an email asking for all updates. Allan will put the updates into a memo and circulate the memo to everyone before the meeting. The memo is meant to save time at our PTO meetings so everyone can get the updates before the meeting rather than at the meeting. Our aim is to spend more time discussing PTO issues rather than going through updates during the meeting. Sometime around September 18, Allan will send out an email asking for the updates for our October 1 executive PTO meeting.
The brand new Stoddert Welcome Committee did a great job during its first start of a new school year. We want to have these welcoming events every year and plan to build on what we did this year.
Principal Bryant was not able to attend this meeting because he had to give a speech. Vice Principal Ibis Villegas gave the Principal’s Report.
Thanks to everyone who worked hard to have a successful “Sneak Peak” on Friday, August 21. The Sneak Peak allowed parents to see their child’s classroom for the coming school year and drop off classroom supplies. This is the first year that we have had a Sneak Peak event at Stoddert. So far Stoddert has had a very positive start to the school year.
The summer mailing from Stoddert with the information and various forms for parents was well received. Stoddert’s office still needs some of these forms from parents to complete its files.
Stoddert’s office needs help. As the school has grown, the work in the Stoddert office has grown. Jocelyn and Victoria who work in the office would appreciate any volunteer who is willing to volunteer in the office even for an hour a week. The office needs volunteers who can answer calls, help parents and families who walk into the office, and work on paperwork. All volunteers need to be patient, friendly and dependable to work in the office. Like anyone who works at Stoddert, volunteers will need to be fingerprinted at the DCPS main office, fill out a DCPS form for a background check, and have a TB test. Juli Smith will try to come up with a description for this volunteer position.
There are 429 students currently at Stoddert. There are 20 students in the Pre-K class and 21 students in the kindergarten classes. Principal Bryant thinks Stoddert will have 440 total students next year. Eighty-eight to eighty-nine percent of Stoddert’s students live inside the Stoddert school boundary. Emily Russell added that it was still unclear whether the Burlieth neighborhood will be moved into the Hyde Elementary school boundary once Hyde is finally renovated.
Stoddert has added another lunch/recess period. There are now 4 lunch/recess periods. The lunch/recess periods start times range from 11:15 to 12:30. Adding another lunch/recess period has made some of the lunch/recess periods less crowded than they used to be.
Principal Bryant and Vice Principal Villegas have a funding request for the 3 teacher professional development days scheduled for this year. They are requesting $500 for each Professional Development day. Maria stated that the PTO’s hospitality budget, which would cover this request, has recently had a lot of demands placed on it, so advanced warning on these types of requests is very helpful.
Caitlin Oppenheimer asked Vice Principal Villegas how computer and library would be taught to the students this year. Vice Principal Villegas said that this year, there has been a change to how those subjects have been taught at Stoddert. Principal Bryant had a new plan for teaching computer and library together this year, but that plan had to be scrapped because our computer teacher from last year left for another job over the summer. Ms. Bowlin is still the Stoddert librarian while Terri Thompson is the new computer instructor.
The plan for teaching computer and library this year is for each class to get their library and computer instruction during the same hour once a week. During the first half hour of this hour, half the class is in the library while the other half of the class is in the computer room. For the second half hour, the students switch rooms.
Principal Bryant feels that library and computer should be taught together to teach students information literacy, that is, how to find information in the library and on the computer. By teaching library and computer in the same hour, this hour is a special class now known as information literacy. Also, classroom teachers will participate in this special class, working with Bowlin and Thompson during the information literacy class.
In addition to learning how to find information on the computer, students will also be learning “keyboarding,” that is, learning to type on the computer. Keyboarding is a required subject for all 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Keyboarding helps all Stoddert students do better on standardized testing now that that testing is done on the computer.
Parents expressed concern that instruction time during the information literacy class will be lost when the students switch between the library and the computer room at the half hour. Parents also expressed concern that this new format will not leave enough time for students to browse the library and check out books or to learn keyboarding. Last year, Stoddert’s computer teacher put a lot of time into helping all Stoddert students prepare for the annual DCPS testing by teaching them keyboarding and how to take the tests on the computer.
Finally, parents expressed concern that the time for special classes is being reduced. This new information literacy program results in less time for students to spend in the library and computer room compared to last year. Additionally, the time for physical education has been reduced from last year.
Vice Principal Villegas said that the current format for the information literacy class is not set in stone and could be adjusted as the school year progresses. Principal Bryant will discuss the information literacy class at his upcoming Principal’s Coffee and at the LSAT meetings.
Vice Principal Villegas also discussed how Stoddert will implement DCPS’s new “Cornerstones” initiative. Stoddert’s Cornerstones program will be set up in the library. Classroom teachers will plan with Terri Thompson to come up with a program that conforms to DCPS’s Cornerstones program. Stoddert’s Cornerstones program does not have to be in the library and Principal Bryant is open to moving the program if there is a good reason to do so.
The teachers feel that the new drop-off procedure is going well. Stoddert’s new 5th grade teacher, Richard Golland, raised some objections to how the teachers’ planning period is being handled this year. This will be discussed at the LSAT meeting. Generally, the teachers thought the new stipend procedure this year, with getting half at the beginning of the year, is fine.
The trailer classrooms in the Stoddert parking lot, also known as the “West Wing,” will have the 4th grade classrooms, and the World Language, Enrichment Resource and Math Resource classrooms.
PTO Budget Discussion and Vote
The PTO budget for this coming year has to be approved at the next PTO general meeting, which will take place on September 8 at “Back to School” Night.
Jason Orlando and Christina Boccuti discussed the budget. Christina made a pie graph of the PTO’s revenues and expenditures to illustrate the PTO’s budget both of which are on Stoddert’s website.
PTO Budget Expenses and Revenues
The PTO’s projected revenues look pretty much the same as last year with one third of those revenues projected to come from the “Big Chili,” the PTO’s big charity auction at the end of the year, and two thirds coming from the payment of PTO dues.
The PTO’s expenses generally fall into two broad categories: “Teacher support” which accounts for 60% of the PTO’s expenses, and “non-classroom expenses” which are 30% of the PTO’s expenses.
The PTO budget team reduced the expected revenue from the Big Chili event by $5,000 because this seemed more responsible. The Big Chili has been more successful each year and it may indeed bring in this additional $5,000, but for planning purposes, the PTO Budget Team thought reducing the expected profit from the Big Chili was more reasonable and got us to an amount that we could be fairly certain to achieve this year with the Big Chili.
The proposed budget also anticipates breaking even on the Stoddert Book Fair. Last year, the PTO actually made a significant amount of money from the Book Fair, so this is another area where the PTO’s revenues may end up being better than projected in the proposed budget. Again, the PTO budget team wanted to be conservative in projecting what money would come into the PTO this year.
The biggest change to the PTO budget from last year was the reduction in the teacher stipends that the PTO gave at the beginning of the school year. Paying less in stipends at the beginning of the year gives the PTO more flexibility on funding throughout the school year. It also allows for more funding for teacher initiatives that will benefit more than one class or more than one grade.
The plan is to have teachers bring their new funding requests/initiatives to the December PTO meeting for the PTO’s consideration and approval or they can email them to the PTO presidents at email@example.com ahead of the December PTO meeting. The PTO has $12,000 for these kinds of initiatives. The hope is that teachers will bring initiatives that are bigger in scope and that cut across classes and grades. The PTO very much wants to encourage teachers to make new funding requests.
Generally, teacher initiatives will be judged on a case-by-case basis. In making their funding requests to the PTO, the teachers should also explain how they spent their stipends so the PTO can see where that money went in considering the new initiative. The PTO will look to fund things that the school budget cannot cover. Stoddert’s DCPS budget is set already, so Principal Bryant has little to no flexibility throughout the school year on funding. This is where the PTO can step in. Still, it is important that Principal Bryant and the Stoddert administrative folks be looped in on these requests because sometimes the DCPS budget can cover some of the things the teachers might want from the PTO.
Traditionally, there are some things that the PTO has not funded, like professional development for teachers, because these kinds of things have to go through the principal. Additionally, the PTO has been historically hesitant to give money for something that just benefits one class.
Garden Coordinator and Enrichment Coordinator Salary Supplements
The amount that the PTO is paying to supplement the salary of Stoddert’s garden coordinator has been greatly reduced this year. The PTO will pay $10,000 this year to supplement the salary of the garden coordinator. The PTO approved this amount at its last PTO meeting last school year. There will probably be some grant money coming in for the garden and that money could be used to supplement the garden coordinator’s salary instead of PTO money, so it is possible that the PTO will spend less than $10,000 to supplement the garden coordinator’s salary. Last year, the PTO spent $32,000 to supplement the garden coordinator’s salary.
The proposed budget includes $10,000 to supplement the salary for Stoddert’s enrichment coordinator. The enrichment coordinator position is a part-time position for someone who would help the teachers plan field trips, among other things. Stoddert has not yet hired an enrichment coordinator for this year, so the $10,000 salary supplement in the budget is a placeholder for when Stoddert does hire an enrichment coordinator.
Science Lab Supplies
With the new science teacher position at Stoddert this year, we anticipate that there will be requests for significant funding to pay for new equipment in Stoddert’s science lab. Julie Schneider is the new Stoddert science teacher and she has already submitted $4,000 in funding requests to outfit the new Stoddert science lab and program.
Teacher /Staff Hospitality (1st day of School, PD Days, Principal Coffees, etc.)
The part of the PTO budget known as “Hospitality” pays for the food and drink at various PTO sponsored and other Stoddert events. Examples of things paid for out of the hospitality budget are the pizza served at the general PTO meetings, the coffee and bagels at the monthly Principal coffees, some of the food served at Stoddert’s International Day event, the food and drinks at the last day of school party, etc.
Last year, the PTO spent a lot more than was allocated to the hospitality budget. Last year only $3,000 was allocated for hospitality, but the PTO spent around $8,000. A lot of hospitality requests came in at the end of the year, like paying for lunches at teacher professional development training at the end of the year and again, the last day of school party. Because we spent so much more than anticipated last year on hospitality, this year’s proposed budget includes $8,000 for hospitality, which is what we spent last year. Also, the PTO did not keep a detailed accounting of what was spent for hospitality. This year, the PTO budget team will try to keep a more detailed accounting of what is spent on hospitality.
DCPS does not pay for the landscaping of the Stoddert Elementary campus or grounds. For example, no one pays to maintain the planter in front of Stoddert where the students line up each morning. DCPS will not pay for this. Additionally, when the West Wing was set up last year, there was no real consideration given to the landscaping around the new trailer classrooms. To be able to do landscaping around Stoddert, we need a water source in the front of Stoddert and at the West Wing.
New this year, the PTO budget will have a line item for landscaping at Stoddert. While DC’s Department of General Services may pay for installing the needed water sources, we still need to hire a landscaper to keep Stoddert looking good outside. The landscaping line item will be for $6,000.
Long ago, the PTO set aside money for enhancements to the Stoddert playground. This money is in escrow and can be spent on the playground whenever the PTO decides to do so. This money is not part of the PTO’s operating budget.
Now that DC has finished the improvements to the playground that it was willing to pay for thanks to the heroic efforts of Caitlin Oppenheimer, the PTO can start to think about how and when to spend the money it has set aside for playground enhancements. We probably want to get picnic tables and hanging chalkboards like they have at Guy Mason Park for the Stoddert playground. This is something that the PTO can discuss going forward.
This year, the “Dancing Classrooms” program will be paid for entirely by a DC grant.
Voting on the Budget and Passing the Budget
Maria moved to vote on the proposed budget as presented and the motion was seconded. The budget was approved and passed by a unanimous vote.
The new flagstone paver rocks that were just installed on the playground as a part of the improvements done over the summer are a potential problem. First, the rocks are not flush with the ground and just sit on top of the ground making them a tripping hazard. Also, they have sharp edges and the kids are picking them up. We should look into how to make the pavers flush with the ground so they don’t trip anyone and cannot be picked up. A related problem is the rocks near the drain. The rocks are small enough that the kids can pick them up and throw them, which is an obvious problem.
Finally, the PTO might want to look into limiting the use of the playground during non-school hours. On a Saturday in May, there were 5 birthday parties held on the Stoddert playground at the same time. While some of the party goers bagged their trash, some of them just tried to stuff their trash into the trash cans on the playground which resulted in overflowing trash cans and a real mess for the rest of the weekend.
EDP Working Group
There is a working group looking into changes for Stoddert’s Extended Day Program (EDP), also known as the AfterCare Program. Specifically, the EDP working group is looking into whether we need a more structured governing board for the AfterCare Program and whether we should expand the AfterCare Program. Currently, there is a long waitlist to get into the Stoddert AfterCare Program.
So far, Maria, Nitchet, Dave Clark and Michelle Jones are on the PTO EDP working group.
Membership Plan Presentation
This year, the PTO is implementing a new plan to increase the percentage of parents paying PTO dues and participating in the PTO and PTO events. Nick Jacobs, the PTO’s Vice President of Membership presented the plan to the PTO.
The PTO needs other methods to reach parents besides the weekly Chalkboard emails because it does not reach many parents. The message that the PTO helps all students at Stoddert needs to get to more parents.
Nick has lots of ideas for how the PTO can reach parents about the PTO. For example, Janney Elementary school has a thermometer showing the percentage of parents who support the PTO with a push for 100% participation. Stoddert could do the same thing and could also put up posters outside of Principal Bryant’s office throughout the school year advertising the things that the PTO does that affect every Stoddert student. For example, the teacher stipends that the PTO funds at the beginning of the year benefit every Stoddert student. The PTO should also let parents know about all the new things that the PTO wants to fund that will help all Stoddert students.
Nick recommended monthly membership themes to help parents understand why they should participate in the PTO.
There was also a recommendation to disassociate the PTO from the AfterCare program in parents’ minds. Even though no PTO dues go to the AfterCare program, many parents feel that the PTO is only for those families who participate in the AfterCare program because all families in the AfterCare Program have to pay their PTO dues in order to join that program.
We could do away with the requirement of paying PTO dues in order to join the AfterCare program, but that could decrease PTO dues significantly rather than increasing them. Last year, the PTO received $75,000 from PTO dues payments. All but $8,000 of that $75,000 came from families who paid PTO dues in order to join the AfterCare program.
Once we get into the school year a bit and the initial influx of families paying PTO dues is over, we should try to get an idea of the percentage of families/parents who have paid dues this year, including looking at the percentage of families/parents paying dues who are not participating in the AfterCare program. Nick would like to compare those participation rates with the participation rates from other schools. The PTO should also talk to parents who do not participate in the PTO and the AfterCare program and ask them why they are not in the PTO.
Over the summer, the PTO’s communications team launched Stoddert’s new website. The big communications push this year is to make the website the go-to source for all Stoddert related information, which includes classroom information, event information, etc. For example, we are trying to get all individual classroom information on the teacher pages. The goal is to have all Stoddert information on the website.
The Stoddert PTO Chalkboard is coming out every Sunday. Since this mass email is coming out every Sunday, the communications team who puts this together every week needs all the information that should be in the Chalkboard by the previous Thursday. That will allow the communications team to prepare the Sunday Chalkboard on Friday rather than having to do that on Saturday or Sunday.
A big “Thank you” to Jen Perry and Juli Smith for putting together Stoddert’s new website.