The following are the minutes from the Stoddert PTO Executive Meeting on October 01, 2015…
Principal Don Bryant
Assistant Principal Ibis Villegas
Assistant Principal Turner
PTO Presidents‘ Welcome and Update
Tom Strike has finished his term on the DC Schools Chancellor’s Parent Cabinet. It was great to have a Stoddert parent on the Chancellor’s Parent Cabinet, and it would be great to have another Stoddert parent take Tom’s place when his term is finished. Please encourage any Stoddert parent to apply for this position.
The typing agent is going out so Stoddert students can practice typing at home. Since many Stoddert students use educational software outside of class, and all testing is now done on the computer, it is important for all students to know how to type.
The Information Technology class is coming together. The teachers in charge of the program talked about the class at the Principal’s coffee this morning and provided a detailed explanation of what they are doing in their class. There is a lot of good information at the Principal’s coffees.
We are going to add an activities page on the Stoddert website for activities outside of Stoddert that are relevant to Stoddert parents, like Stoddert soccer, t-ball, etc.
Stoddert’s current enrollment is 429 students. The 1st grade has the largest classes, followed by the 3rd grade classes. Ideally, the 1st grade classes would be smaller.
Stoddert lost one of its special education teachers this year. Last year, Stoddert had two special ed teachers, Mr. Smith and Mrs. Smith (no relation). Stoddert lost Mr. Smith because we did not qualify for two special ed teachers at the beginning of the year. But we petitioned DCPS for another special ed teacher and got authorization to add another special ed teacher. We will not get to hire the new special ed teacher. Instead, DCPS will send a special ed teacher to Stoddert.
Stoddert is authorized to have a half-time instructional coach. An instructional coach is supposed to help the teachers with their teaching. Unfortunately, Stoddert could not find anybody to fill this position. Mrs. Ogburn will now become Stoddert’s half-time instructional coach along with being a half-time reading instructor. She was a full-time reading instructor.
Julie Schneider, currently our full-time science teacher, is going to half-time. Ginger Jacobs will join the Stoddert faculty and will fill the half-time science teacher position that will come open when Julie Schneider goes to half-time. Ginger will also fill the half-time reading instructor position that came open when Mrs. Ogburn became our half-time instructional coach.
Big Chili Update and Discussion
We need chairpersons for the Big Chili party or gala and the online auction associated with the Big Chili. So far we don’t have anyone heading up either the Big Chili or the online auction. We really need to get these chairpersons in place in October so they can start the preparation that is needed for both of these events. There are a lot of people with experience with both of the events who are available to help anyone willing to step up and lead these two events. Alysa McClellan is willing to work with the chairs and there are a lot of people who can help the chairs of these events.
Please let the PTO presidents know of anyone who you think might be a good candidate for chairing either the Big Chili party or the online auction. The PTO presidents will happily talk to the candidates about volunteering to chair these events.
Last year, many people were confused about the Big Chili party and the online auction. These two events are actually separate events. While we do auction items off at the Big Chili party, the online auction is a separate fundraising event from the Big Chili party.
Because the Big Chili party and the online auction are separate events, we could have the party in February and have the online auction later in the year in May. Moving the Big Chili to February or earlier in the year could be beneficial in a few ways. There seem to be more events at the end of the school year versus the middle of the year. Moving the Big Chili to earlier in the year would make the end of the year less crowded with events. Also, moving up the Big Chili would also move up when the PTO gets the money raised by the Big Chili. Rather than waiting until nearly the end of the year for the PTO’s big fundraising event, the PTO could at least get some of this money earlier in the year. Separating the Big Chili might also help with raising more money through both events. Parents might be willing to spend more money at the Big Chili and the online auction if they did not overlap. PTO President Maria O’Donnell said that it might be a good idea to clearly make the online auction and the Big Chili party/gala two separate events and have them at two different times.
The question was raised as to whether some of the items being sold through the online auction are getting stale in that some of the items have been offered for many years. Also, there were items that just did not sell through the auction. Maybe it is time to come up with new items or ideas for what we should try to sell through the online auction.
One idea for new items that could be sold through the online auction is putting things from teacher wish lists on the online auction. Teacher wish list items could be solicited as donations and then parents could bid on them to “purchase” them for each teacher.
We could also have less items for sale through the online auction and try to raise more money through company sponsorships.
Another suggestion was to downsize the Big Chili party and skip the online auction this year. This would obviously result in less money coming into the PTO to fund everything the PTO does, but the PTO could probably get by this year even if it took in less money through the Big Chili and the online auction. If we do not get chairs for either the Big Chili or the online auction or both, the PTO could probably still organize and put on just a downsized Big Chili party without an online auction.
The downside to dropping the online auction and downsizing the Big Chili party is that we will lose the institutional knowledge of how to run these events, which we have now through all the folks who are ready to help with these events this year. PTO President Maria O’Donnell said that she really would like to have the online auction and Big Chili party this year so we do not lose the institutional knowledge we currently have on how to run these events.
There was a suggestion that we should try to get the international community at Stoddert more involved in the online auction and the Big Chili party and perhaps find our chairs for these events in the international community.
The teachers were asked what things could be helpful with fidgety students. In response to this request, the teachers suggested that we could get pilates balls for fidgety kids to use when they cannot sit still. Also, there could be a basket of items for fidgety kids to use when they cannot sit still.
The teachers report that the new playground is great. The new artificial turf is great because the students can roll around on it without any problem. The teachers would really like to get some jump ropes and kickballs for recess on the playground. These would be dedicated specifically for recess and would be separate from the balls used for gym classes and aftercare.
The problem with getting new jump ropes and kickballs for recess is where to store them. They need to be stored on or near the playground and be secure enough that they do not go missing, but accessible for the teachers who supervise recess. Since the teachers rotate on supervising recess, the storage, while secure, would need to be something that every teacher could access at any time. There used to be rolling wire cages to store balls. The PTO is in favor of funding balls and jump ropes for recess, but we need to find a way to store them that is secure and yet accessible to all teachers.
There are still a few things that need to be done on the new playground. We are still waiting for a circular bench in the mulch area. Also, there are some gaps in the seams of the artificial turf that need to be fixed.
Other improvements to the playground area are the repainted foursquare and hop-scotch patterns. Wes Lawrence once again volunteered his artistic talents and time to improve the Stoddert campus by repainting the foursquare and hop-scotch.
PTO President Maria O’Donnell encouraged all teachers to sign up for the Chalkboard emails so they can see what information is going to the parents.
Membership Plan Review/Update
Vice President of Membership, Nick Jacobs, gave the membership plan report and update.
Initially there was a membership poster in the window of Principal Bryant’s office. Now, we have a sandwich board in front of Stoddert with this poster and another membership poster. Others are welcome to use this sandwich board, it does not have to be exclusively for membership posters and information. The next membership poster will compare our PTO with other Hardy feeder schools on suggested dues and PTO participation rates.
So far this year, the PTO has had a good response on PTO membership. The plan to further increase membership this year is to target parents who are not participating.
Aftercare families are participating in same numbers as last year because the aftercare program is the same size this year as it was last year. Outside of aftercare, we have had 47 families pay some amount of PTO dues, though not necessarily the full $400 suggested dues. Tim Brown indicated that only 17 families outside of aftercare paid PTO dues last year.
Online payment of dues seems to be helping with getting families outside of aftercare to participate in paying PTO dues. Many families outside aftercare have used PayPal to pay PTO dues. Many families pre-paid their PTO dues for this year in May and June of the last school year.
The question of how many embassy families at Stoddert have paid PTO dues was asked. There is no information at this time on how many embassy families have paid PTO dues. It was suggested that if embassy families have not paid PTO dues, we should see if there is a different way to reach out to those families.
Other ideas for increasing PTO participation include putting a “participation thermometer” on the Stoddert website. Kindergarten room parents have mentioned PTO participation in their communications with parents. We should encourage other room parents to do the same. The room parents could mention the things that the PTO has made available for each room. The Chalkboard emails could mention things that the PTO has funded or helped make available like the new science lab.
We will have a PTO membership table at the Fall Festival so the PTO can talk to parents about participating in the PTO. We should have a PTO presence at all future Welcoming Committee events. At all events, the PTO membership table should have a laptop because many families have paid their PTO dues online through PayPal. With a laptop, we can go ahead and sign up parents for the PTO on the spot.
Our ultimate goals for PTO membership this year are achieving 100% parent/family participation in the PTO and increasing PTO dues for this year over last year.
Teacher Initiated Funding Requests Review
The PTO’s Vice President of Budget, Christina Boccuti, discussed the PTO’s process for considering teacher requests for funding.
Christina proposed the following questions to be answered as a part of each teacher funding request:
- What is the service or item being requested?
- Describe the way in which the item or service will benefit the students and/or assist teachers and staff?
- Is there a certain group of students (for example, grade, class, special needs, etc.) for which the item or service is targeted?
- Will the item or service carry over to use in the future?
- What is the cost of the item or service?
- Have you requested this item or service from the Principal’s Office? If so, what was the response?
Christina would like to send this list of questions to the teachers so the teachers know what information they need to provide when they make funding requests to the PTO. Ideally, the teachers would make their requests by December because it becomes harder to consider these requests after December.
Also, if there is a request that should be included in Stoddert’s budget for next year, the item can be considered for Stoddert’s budget if Principal Bryant knows about the request by mid-January. Principal Bryant typically finalizes the Stoddert budget for each school year in March of the previous school year. To include anything in Stoddert’s budget, Principal Bryant needs to know about the program or item well before March of the previous school year so he and others can considerate it and make a decision on whether to include it in the Stoddert budget. To have enough time to fully consider something for the Stoddert budget, the program or item should be discussed with Principal Bryant no later than mid-January of the previous school year.
The PTO agreed that each teacher should answer each of the above questions when they make a funding request to the PTO.
It was suggested that teachers should also let the PTO know if there are any annual fees, update fees or licensing fees for online items in addition to the cost for the initial purchase of the product. Basically, are there any hidden or ongoing expenses, like training costs?
Principal Bryant stated that any teacher requesting funding for an academic program should first talk to Principal Bryant about the request to make sure the program fits into Stoddert’s current academic program. Once a teacher discusses the program with Principal Bryant and it is determined that the program is something Stoddert needs, then the PTO can consider funding the program.
The PTO should also make it clear that any teacher requested items that are paid for by the PTO belong to Stoddert, not the teacher, and will stay at Stoddert even if the teacher leaves Stoddert.
The PTO will consider teacher funding requests on a rolling basis as they come in, so the funding will be paid out on a “first come, first serve” basis.
Finally, the PTO should be aware that there are typically a lot of funding requests at the end of the school year for subscriptions, parties, I-ready, etc.
So far, the PTO has received two funding requests from Stoddert teachers. The PTO has $19,000 budgeted for teacher funding requests.
The first teacher funding request is from Stoddert’s special education teacher, Ms. Smith. Ms. Smith has requested funding for a “Tier 3” math touch screen program. This kind of tactile math program is for kids who need extra math help. This program is not cheap, costing approximately $2,300 for the kit.
Questions raised by this request include: (1) how does this fit into Stoddert’s budget; (2) is this a line item in the special education budget; (3) how many students will this serve; (4) how does this fit into Stoddert’s current academic program; and (5) if this is some sort of online program, are there any annual update or licensing fees.
Principal Bryant stated that this math program is not in Stoddert’s current budget because no one mentioned it when Principal Bryant made his Stoddert budget for this year. Since Principal Bryant just heard about this program at this PTO meeting, there is no way that it could be in Stoddert’s current budget. This program could be included in Stoddert’s budget for next year if someone wants to make that request.
The PTO would really like to know how many children this program is going to serve, especially for such an expensive program. Someone will need to find this out before the PTO can make a decision on this request.
Principal Bryant stated that because this funding request is for an academic item, he would like to see how this program fits into Stoddert’s current math program before making a decision on this request. Principal Bryant would like to talk Dr. Pesek about this program. The PTO will wait to consider this request until after Principal Bryant has a chance to discuss this request with Ms. Smith.
The second teacher funding request sent to the PTO is from Mr. Maubouche. Mr. Maubouche believes that Stoddert does not have an adequate sound system. He thinks Stoddert needs a sound system that is portable and can be used outside. This is needed for everyday school events so speakers can be heard over the students. Any sound system for Stoddert should have multiple microphones. There is a sound system that we can buy with wireless microphones, body microphones and an amplifier to broadcast sound from a laptop rather than holding a mike to a computer as we currently do. This sound system would be for Stoddert only and would be separate from DPR with no sharing with DPR. The cost for this sound system is around $1,000.
Principal Bryant agrees with this request. This kind of sound system is definitely needed and will get regular use.
The PTO previously bought a portable sound system for Stoddert 4 years ago. One big issue with the previous sound system was security, how to keep the portable sound system all together and from being stolen. Some of the microphones from the earlier sound system eventually went missing.
The PTO voted in favor of approving this funding request with one vote against this request. The PTO approved $1,000 for purchasing a portable sound system. The sound system should not be purchased until there is a plan for securing the sound system. Also, the sound system should be purchased through the Amazon Smile program so the PTO can benefit from the purchase.
The PTO’s communications team, Jen Perry and Juli Smith, should know about any information that anyone is trying to send out to parents, including through flyers.
The communications team also needs to know the details related to all school events, like who is invited to the event, what volunteers are needed for the event, etc. Please provide event information to the communications team as early as possible.
The communications teams should also know about all PTO spending on anything that benefits Stoddert so they can let parents know what the PTO is doing for Stoddert and its students.
There are still lots of blank pages on Stoddert’s website. For example, the pages on the LSAT, ELL and World Languages are still blank. The communications team cannot fill in these pages without information from the people responsible for these areas. Some of the blank pages require information from school personnel. Principal Bryant does not need to review the information that teachers provide to fill in the Stoddert website. The communications team can take information from teachers and put it directly on website.
Also, someone should let the communications team know if there are blank pages on the website that we should just eliminate instead of filling in. We can certainly eliminate blank pages if there is no need for those pages.