The following are the minutes for the Stoddert PTO Executive meeting on February 4, 2016…
PTO Presidents‘ Welcome Remarks
Stoddert’s Annual Fundraising Auction Update
Preparations for Stoddert’s Annual Auction are in full swing. Because the auction this year is in Stoddert’s gym, there is no limit on attendance. So all Stoddert parents can come to the auction. Just buying tickets for the auction, whether you can come to the auction or not, supports the PTO, so please encourage everyone to go to the auction or at least buy tickets to the auction.
PTO Volunteers for Next Year
Everyone should start thinking about what they would like to do for the PTO next year. The PTO is also interested in recruiting new volunteers, so if you know of someone who might be ready for the PTO, let Maria know as she is happy to talk to anyone about volunteering for the PTO next year.
International Day Update
International Day is now scheduled for June 2. The PTO tried to move this event to earlier in the year, but it is now back to being scheduled in June.
The past couple years, the PTO has combined an evening potluck event with International Day at Stoddert. We could split the PTO-sponsored potluck from International Day to avoid the saturation of school events in June, which was why we originally tried to move International Day to an earlier date this school year. Also, we don’t yet have a volunteer to run the potluck.
It is nice, however, to have a potluck or some similar PTO event at the end of the school year as a bookend for the school year. As families leave Stoddert each year, it has been very nice to have the June potluck associated with International Day as a nice year-end event where families can get together one last time before the end of the school year.
Considerations for Organizing PTO Events
PTO evening events that include food have become major events that require a lot of volunteers and organizing effort. Even for events where the PTO just offers pizza that is delivered to the event, hundreds of people typically come to these events. Even just ordering in pizza for the event, still requires an effort akin to a catering company with side dishes, trash removal, etc. The PTO needs to recognize that future PTO events with food will require a real organizational effort with a volunteer to head up the event and recruit additional volunteers.
Additionally, PTO events with food need to be on the playground. The Back-to-School Night event earlier this year at the amphitheater was a bit of a problem because of the constrained space. These kinds of PTO events really need to be on the playground so we have enough space for them.
To make these kinds of events easier to organize, we could bring in a Rocklands food truck or other food trucks for these events to allow Stoddert families to get together with less hassle.
Stoddert Maintenance Crew Thank You
We all owe a big “Thank you” to Stoddert’s maintenance crew who worked so hard to remove all the snow around Stoddert so Stoddert could open for school so soon after the huge snow storm that we just had.
Principal Bryant gave the principal’s report. Stoddert is supposed to get its budget allotment on February 12. But Principal Bryant thinks that Stoddert will not receive its budget from DCPS until after February 12 because DCPS has not sent Stoddert its enrollment projection which is needed to figure Stoddert’s budget.
Principal Bryant believes Stoddert’s enrollment projection will be 435. Based on that enrollment projection, Principal Bryant believes that Stoddert’s staffing for next year will be: 1 Pre-K class, 3 kindergarten classes; 4 first grade classes; 3 classes each for the second, third and fourth grades; and 2 fifth grade classes.
This year, Stoddert accepted 10 out-of-boundary kindergarteners so we could have 4 kindergartens. But next year, Stoddert will only have 3 kindergarten classes and will not accept any kindergarteners off of the waitlist.
Next year, there will be no need to accept fifth grade students off of the waitlist to fill Stoddert’s two fifth grade classrooms like Stoddert did this year. Our current fourth graders will easily fill up two fifth grade classrooms next year. There should be 72 fourth graders next year so Stoddert will probably have 3 fourth grade classes of 24 students. If this turns out to be the case, this would allow the fourth grade classes to be in the trailer classrooms again next year.
It is ideal to keep the same grade in the trailer classrooms from year to year. The size of the trailer classrooms means that only classes of no more than 25 students can fit in them. So if the classes for a particular grade are more than 25 students per class, that grade cannot be in the trailer classrooms. Also, all classes for each grade should be together, either all in the Stoddert main building or all in the trailer classrooms.
Other possible alternatives for the trailers are putting the third grade classes in the trailers or the fifth grade classes and the science class in the trailers, but this last alternative would require more student movement.
Stoddert is expected to and should fill its enrollment allotment. With just 3 kindergartens next year, it may be tricky for Stoddert to fill its enrollment allotment. Another planning problem for Stoddert is that students from the Russian embassy are more mobile. They come and go quite frequently and throughout the year so this makes it more difficult to meet Stoddert’s enrollment projection. Principal Bryant does not want the kindergarten classes to be too big. As soon as Stoddert gets its student enrollment allotment, there will be another LSAT meeting to discuss the enrollment numbers.
Principal Bryant is hoping for at least a flat budget for Stoddert next year. He does not expect a bigger budget for next year. If Stoddert took in more students to get more money, Stoddert would have to add another teacher which would require Stoddert to give up a resource teacher, like Stoddert’s science teacher.
Politics and Prose Fundraiser
Last year, the Stoddert PTO had a one-day fundraiser at Politics and Prose which consisted of Politics and Prose donating to the Stoddert PTO 15% of all of its Stoddert-designated book sales on a particular Sunday. A book sale is designated for the Stoddert PTO if the person buying books at Politics and Prose says so when they are checking out. The Stoddert PTO made about $600 from this event last year. Caitlin Oppenheimer organized this event last year.
This year, our date for this fundraiser at Politics and Prose is Sunday, March 20. Caitlin will be asking for a few volunteers to go to Politics and Prose on March 20 to be available to answer any questions about Stoddert and the PTO. Typically, some of the people who buy books at Politics and Prose will ask about the charity or group that is benefiting from the sales at Politics and Prose. If we have someone from Stoddert who can talk generally about Stoddert and answer these questions, we are more likely to have more people designate their book purchases for the Stoddert PTO and thereby make more money. Caitlin will be in touch with the PTO communications team about this event.
Teacher Funding Initiatives
The PTO is currently in a very good financial situation. The PTO has the money for all of the initiatives considered at this meeting and can fund them all out of money that the PTO has already taken in.
Raz–Kids License Renewal
DCPS did not renew its licenses to use the Raz-Kids online reading program, nor did DCPS tell anyone that it had decided not to renew these licenses. The DCPS licenses expired at the end of the calendar year, so when students tried to use Raz-Kids after the holiday break, they could no longer do so. Principal Bryant believes that DCPS will not buy Raz-Kids licenses next year, that is, calendar year 2017, either.
Stoddert needs 10 Raz-Kids licenses which cost around $100 per license. There can be 36 students using Raz-Kids per license. Typically, a Stoddert teacher will need to manage the students using Raz-Kids. All of the kindergarten through first grade teachers use Raz-Kids to teach reading. There are some second through fifth grade students who use Raz-Kids, but these students do not use Raz-Kids nearly as frequently as the students in kindergarten and the first grade. So, 10 Raz-Kids licenses are enough for Stoddert.
The Raz-Kids licenses are good for 12 months. Since it is unlikely that DCPS will purchase Raz-Kids licenses again 2017, it was suggested that Stoddert should try to buy Raz-Kids licenses that are longer than 12 months and that extend through the end of the 2016-2017 school year. If we do that, we can avoid having these new licenses expire in the middle of the next school year.
A motion was made to use $1,000 of PTO funds for Raz-Kids licenses and to use an additional $500 of PTO funds for extended licenses that last through all of the next school year if such extended licenses are available. This motion passed by a voice vote.
StemScopes Science Lesson Plans
StemScopes science lesson plans are an online program for teaching science classes which would be used by Stoddert’s science teachers, Julie Schneider and Ginger Jacobs.
StemScopes gives Julie and Ginger lesson plans and resources that are aligned with DCPS’s elementary school science standards. Right now, Julie and Ginger are generating their own science curriculum which is really time consuming. Purchasing the StemScopes science lesson plans would really help Julie and Ginger by giving them lesson plans that they could use. It is really too much to ask Julie and Ginger to come up with a science curriculum for all grades at Stoddert from scratch, and then also teach that curriculum to all the students at Stoddert. Julie thinks StemScopes is a very good program for helping her and Ginger teach science at Stoddert. StemScopes would also help Stoddert’s regular classroom teachers, who also participate in teaching science at Stoddert.
DCPS should be providing an elementary school science curriculum, but DCPS just does not yet have such a curriculum.
A six-month subscription to StemScopes costs about $1,100 and would get us through the end of this school year. Next year, we could get a year-long subscription to StemScopes if we have a good experience with it this year.
The PTO anticipated extra spending for the Stoddert science program since it is new this year, and included extra funding for the science program in this year’s PTO budget.
A motion was made to purchase a 6-month subscription of StemScopes. The motion was passed by a voice vote.
Other Funding Initiatives
Mid-Year Teacher Stipends
This year we gave each teacher $500 at the start of the school year. Last year, we gave $750 to each teacher at the start of the year and $1,000 to each new Stoddert teacher. One of the reasons that we gave less to teachers at the beginning of this school year was to hold some PTO money for teacher funding requests. But so far, we have not received that many teacher funding requests and have a lot of the money set aside for these requests still sitting in the PTO’s bank accounts unused.
Generally, we do not want teachers to use their own money to buy things for their classrooms. The PTO’s teacher stipends are meant to allow teachers to buy what they need to teach at Stoddert without having to use their own money. Yet, even with the earlier teacher stipend at the beginning of the year and the teacher funding initiative process, teachers have used their own money this year to buy things for their classes.
Stoddert’s teachers do not mind using their own money to buy a few things for their classes. Generally, this is not a big deal for Stoddert’s teachers. The teachers are very appreciative of the teacher stipends that they have already received this year. Stoddert’s teachers feel like Stoddert’s PTO and parents are very generous, so teachers do not mind taking a little out of their own pockets to pay for things for their classes.
Right now, the PTO has money for teachers. This year, we have had increased PTO dues which has given us a lot more confidence that the PTO will have all of the funding the PTO will need for all of the spending in this year’s PTO budget. At the beginning of the year, we did not know we would have such an increase in dues coming in this year. The PTO can give teachers a $250 mid-year stipend and still have money left over for teacher funding initiatives if there are any that come in during the rest of the school year.
A motion was made to give teachers a mid-year stipend between $150 and $250 per teacher. The motion was passed by voice vote. Individual teachers can waive getting this stipend if they feel they do not need the stipend.
Experiential Learning Funding
Last year, we had grant money to pay for experiential learning events like field trips or performance groups who came to Stoddert. This year, we do not have this grant money. At the beginning of the year, we put money in the PTO budget to pay for these experiential learning events. Since this money is already in the PTO approved budget, it can be spent for these events as needed without coming back to the PTO to get approval for each expenditure. The PTO will continue to pay for these events this year until the money for these events is used up.
We also have $10,000 in the PTO approved budget to pay for an experiential learning coordinator. We have not used any of this money so far this year. This money is in the approved budget, so technically, another vote to approve spending this money is not needed.
With only 16 weeks left in this school year, it is likely that an experiential learning coordinator would simply help teachers do all the paperwork and coordinating that is required for the field trips that are already planned for the rest of the year. At the beginning of the year, the thought was that the experiential learning coordinator would come up with ideas for field trips and performance groups to come to Stoddert as well as do the legwork for these events. But this late in the school year, coupled with the fact that Stoddert cannot schedule any field trips during the upcoming PARCC testing, the most an experiential learning coordinator can really do now is help the teachers with the events that are already scheduled for the rest of the year.
Teachers would really like to have someone who could handle for them all of the administrative tasks for field trips, such as collecting permission slips from every student, etc. Right now, teachers have to do all this work themselves, and it is a significant burden.
Jill Sanderson is a Stoddert parent who is uniquely qualified to be Stoddert’s experiential learning coordinator. She has long experience as a museum educator during which she gained a lot of contacts and ideas that could be used for Stoddert field trips. Jill would like to fill the experiential learning coordinator position at Stoddert for the rest of this school year. She understands that in that position, she would mostly be doing the legwork for the field trips scheduled for the rest of the school year.
The PTO has $10,000 for this position. The PTO is generally committed to spending all of its funding each year and does not try to bank or save money from year to year. Jill would be great, if not perfect, for this position.
Additionally, she could really help the teachers with the burden of coordinating for the field trips. Teachers have said that they are passing on some field trip ideas because they simply do not have the time to do everything needed for a field trip. Stoddert’s teachers would really like to have an experiential learning coordinator to help them with field trips. It is possible that with an experiential learning coordinator, there could be more field trips scheduled for the remainder of this school year.
Jill also understands that there would be no commitment from the PTO to fund this position next year. Jill said that she might try to get grant money to fund this position next year.
Nevertheless, there are only 16 weeks left in this school year, and as mentioned above, there cannot be any field trips during the PARCC testing period, which will be at least 2 weeks, if not longer. More than likely, Jill will not have time to schedule new field trips for this year, and will only be helping teachers with the existing field trips. It is also unclear how many remaining field trips there are this school year.
It seems hard to justify paying $10,000 just to support current field trips for less than half of this year. How much would this position cost next year if we are paying $10,000 for less than half the school year?
The PTO should also put in writing exactly what is expected from the experiential learning coordinator position before spending $10,000 to pay someone to fill this position.
Finally, many Stoddert parents volunteer significant amounts of their time to make Stoddert a better school. Is it fair to pay Jill, who is a Stoddert parent, to help with field trips when many other Stoddert parents are contributing a lot of their time at Stoddert without pay?
Garden Funding Request
The greenhouse in Stoddert’s garden needs to be repaired. Stoddert’s garden teacher would also like to have a small book library in the garden which would consist of a small box with a roof that could hold a small number of books. This would be something similar to what is in front of some DC homes. Wes Lawrence has volunteered to repair the greenhouse and build the book library if the PTO will pay for the materials which will probably cost around $2,500. A motion was made to use $2,500 in PTO funds to pay for the materials needed for these two structures in Stoddert’s garden. The motion passed by voice vote.
Picnic Table Funding Request
We would like to make the area around the trailer classrooms more attractive and usable. One way to do that is to put picnic tables in the unused parking lot space near the trailer classrooms. These picnic tables will probably cost about $1,000. A motion was made to use $1,000 in PTO funds to pay for picnic tables for the area around the trailer classrooms. The motion passed by voice vote.
Outside Storage Bin Funding Request
Stoddert needs an outside storage bin for outside stuff. This will probably cost around $300. A motion was made to use $300 in PTO funds to pay for an outside storage bin. The motion passed by voice vote.
Future Funding Request for Playground Book Nook
Finally, the PTO may want to fund a book nook on the playground because some students want a quiet place on the playground. Not all students what to run around and play on the playground during recess. Some of them want a quiet place where they can read out of the way of the other students who are running around and enjoying the playground. This book nook will require some planning and more than minimal funding. PTO President Maria O’Donnell will provide more information on this project at a future PTO meeting before any funding request for this project is made.