The following are the minutes for the Stoddert PTO Executive meeting on October 5, 2016…
Stoddert’s Beginning of the Year (BOY) assessments of this year’s students are almost finished and are all higher so far.
The first Stoddert LSAT meeting is scheduled for October 24. This meeting will mainly be for organizing this year’s LSAT Committee. The next LSAT meeting after the October 24 meeting will be on November 9 at 4 p.m., and will probably be in Stoddert’s Library. At the November 9 LSAT meeting, someone from DCPS will talk to the LSAT Committee about DCPS’s plan for transitioning Stoddert away from Fillmore to its own in-school arts and music programs next year.
PTO President’s Update
Our PTO President, Jen Perry, and the Friends of Fillmore President, John Claud, went to the recent Ward 3 Education Meeting. Interim Schools Chancellor John Davis was also at this meeting. Davis will be the DCPS Chancellor for the rest of the school year despite the Mayor’s ongoing search for a new chancellor.
Davis was asked about the closing at the end of this school year of the Fillmore Arts Center where Stoddert students get their arts and music education. Fillmore teachers at the meeting made the point that while Davis has decided to close Fillmore, he has never visited Fillmore. The teachers asked Davis to come to Fillmore. Davis said that he would visit Fillmore. The Ward 3 School Board Representative, Ruth Wattenberg, plans to ask Davis to visit Fillmore with her.
Davis was also asked about the new Eureka Math Program that DCPS required the schools to use this year to teach math. Unfortunately, Davis did not have a lot of information about the new Eureka Math Program. Many of the people who attended the meeting felt that the new Eureka Math Program was rolled out too late for it to be used this school year.
There were also questions for Davis about the low test scores at Wilson High School this past year.
Generally, this meeting was very adversarial towards Davis. Ultimately, Davis was not able to answer a lot of the questions directed to him at this meeting.
Jen met with Wattenberg to discuss engaging with DCPS on Stoddert’s budget. Wattenberg said that DCPS used to not discuss the budget at all before rolling it out each year. The PTO should try to engage with DCPS on the budget in October and November.
Our first general PTO meeting of the year will be on November 3. All general PTO meetings will be on the first Thursday of the month like last year. At that meeting, there will be an anti-bullying presentation so parents will know what is being told to Stoddert’s students on this subject. Also, Mr. Scott who runs Stoddert’s School Wide Enrichment Program is also scheduled to give an update on Stoddert’s enrichment classes at this PTO meeting. Assistant Principal Villegas will also make a presentation for a request for PTO funding.
The Fall Festival preparations are coming along. Because of a new DCPS requirement, the PTO will have to pay an extra $600 for 2 security guards for this year’s Fall Festival. Additionally, DCPS is requiring the PTO to update its insurance policy in order to rent from DCPS the space needed for the Fall Festival. In the future, the PTO should try to get permits to use space at Stoddert through DC’s Department of Parks and Recreation which does not have these new additional requirements that DCPS imposed this year for renting space from DCPS.
Ms. Thompson can create all kinds of posters and wants to help make posters. If anyone needs a poster for an event, you should talk to Ms. Thompson.
A parent inquired about the possibility of putting new engraved bricks in Stoddert’s front entrance. The last time Stoddert did this, it took a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately, the PTO already has a lot planned for this year. If someone is willing to handle this brick project, we can do it, but the PTO cannot commit to this with everything that is already planned for this coming year.
Ms. Bowlin would like to make a request for $250 to pay for an author visit to Stoddert. Principal Bryant volunteered to use $250 of his PTO money to pay for this. If this is something that Ms. Bowlin will want to do every year, the PTO should put a line item for this in the PTO budget.
Ms. Thompson wants 15 MacBook Air computers to fill out one of her computer carts. Financially, this is a big request. As far as planned future PTO expenditures, the PTO is planning to cover the cost of the Eureka Math manipulatives, but we don’t yet know how much those will cost. Additionally, it looked like Stoddert was doing OK on technology, but it appears that one of Stoddert’s laptop carts is half full with laptops. Principal Bryant suggested that Stoddert should assess its technology needs before buying 15 new laptops, which would be a big expenditure. The PTO and Stoddert’s administration should know what Stoddert needs technology-wise before considering Ms. Thompson’s request.
It would also be a good idea to get an inventory of Stoddert’s subscriptions and the cost of those subscriptions.
Dogs have been running around the garden and on the field next to Stoddert. Dogs are digging up holes and pooping on the field and around the garden. Dogs are not supposed to be on the field at all, but people ignore that rule all the time. No one enforces this rule. Damage is being done around the garden and around the Pre-K playground. There was a dog peeing on the Pre-K playground recently. We need to get the word out that the dogs should not be on the field at all. We have had dogs not on a leash that approached students during the school day. There has been dog poop on the Pre-K playground. It might be a good idea to put out “no dogs” signs on the field, and near the garden and Pre-K playground.
October 25 is enrollment day. We need to have every student to school by 9:30 that day.
Please put the word out that if a teacher needs something, the teacher should bring that request to the PTO instead asking parents to donate the item or money to pay for it. We try to limit the number of times parents are asked to donate money at Stoddert. Ideally, we would like to only ask parents to donate money to the PTO and avoid multiple funding requests to parents. When parents are bombarded with funding requests, it creates parent confusion on who they should donate to.
If a Stoddert teacher needs something, he or she should first try to buy it with the money from their PTO stipend. If a teacher needs additional things beyond what their stipend can pay for, then the teacher should come to the PTO first before asking parents for money. The PTO has set aside money specifically for teacher requests throughout the year. Stoddert’s teachers should always feel free to ask the PTO for money if they need something. We would rather teachers ask the PTO for money before they ask parents for money.
School Health Services Discussion
At the beginning of the school year, Stoddert was told that Nurse Poindexter could only be at Stoddert part-time because there was a shortage of nurses resulting from the resignation of 6 nurses. The school nurses, like Stoddert’s Nurse Poindexter, are paid for by the DC Department of Health (DOH), not by DCPS. DOH is implementing a new school health services program starting in January 2017. Under the new program, each school will only get 20 hours of nursing a week and “trained” school staff will cover the rest of the week. Under this new program, a school can get fulltime nursing if the school can show a need for fulltime nursing at that school.
Right now, Nurse Poindexter is not at Stoddert on Thursdays and Fridays. This is very disruptive because Stoddert’s administrative staff now has to stop doing what they would normally be doing on Thursdays and Fridays to cover student medical issues. Principal Bryant very much wants someone paid for by DOH to handle medical issues at Stoddert fulltime. This person does not have to be a nurse, but Stoddert needs someone fulltime because it is very disruptive to have staff pulled away to handle student medical issues on Thursdays and Fridays.
Not having a fulltime nurse at Stoddert impacts Stoddert in other ways as well. For example, Stoddert no longer has any inside recess on Thursday and Fridays because we don’t have a nurse and inside recess always results in students needing medical attention. If it rains on Thursday or Friday, the students have recess in their classrooms rather than the gym. Not having a nurse at Stoddert also disrupts the classrooms because the staff has to send students with medical issues back to class as soon as possible which is sometimes before the student is ready to go back to class. With a nurse, students with medical issues could stay longer in the nurse’s office and be watched by the nurse, something Stoddert’s administrative staff simply cannot do because of their other duties.
This new policy of less than fulltime nurses at the schools is a problem for all DCPS schools.
The question for the PTO is: does the PTO want to take the position that there needs to be fulltime nursing at Stoddert? On a unanimous voice vote, the PTO votes for advocating for Nurse Poindexter to be fulltime at Stoddert. Jen will draft a letter on this issue.
Nurse Poindexter wants to be at Stoddert fulltime. The PTO should advocate specifically for Nurse Poindexter to be at Stoddert fulltime.
On October 17, there will be a meeting with DOH people on the new health program. This will be a chance to advocate for a fulltime nurse at Stoddert.
Stoddert should figure out if there are Stoddert students with special medical needs that would warrant a fulltime nurse? Schools that have a special need for a fulltime nurse can get one under the new plan.
The PTO should also look into the legality of not having a fulltime nurse at DCPS schools. It is possible that it is illegal not to have a nurse at a DC school when the school is in session.
DC Council Members Mary Cheh and David Grosso are being asked to help on this issue.
Fillmore Arts Center Discussion
As background, John Claud has done a great job working for the Fillmore Arts Center daily and weekly. He has been fighting to delay the closing of Fillmore. But John Claud is going to have to step away so there will be a vacuum in our advocacy in the near future.
Despite John’s tireless advocacy for Fillmore, it is likely that Fillmore will end after this year. DCPS is very strongly against Fillmore. DCPS has been trying to get rid of Fillmore for two years and is dead set on this.
It seems futile to try to engage with DCPS to keep Fillmore open. The busing costs for Fillmore are more than DCPS wants to pay and DCPS will not discuss how to reduce that cost. DCPS says closing Fillmore is an equity issue because DCPS is spending too much on Fillmore and it’s not fair to the other DCPS students who don’t go to Fillmore. Also, DCPS wants uniformity in its schools and Fillmore is not uniform.
A Georgetown Current article seemed to indicate that DC Council Member Jack Evans has accepted that Fillmore will be closed after this year. So, the political leverage to reverse DCPS on closing Fillmore may not be there.
The PTO could also try to go above DCPS’s head to get its decision to close Fillmore reversed. It appears that Mayor Bowser is following DCPS’s lead on Fillmore because she says closing Fillmore is an equity issue and that DCPS has a plan to transition Stoddert and the other Fillmore schools to in-school arts and music programs. The Deputy Mayor for Education, Jennifer Niles, also says there is a plan for closing and replacing Fillmore at Stoddert and the other Fillmore schools, but when asked, Niles did not know what that plan was. Stoddert Parent Dave Clark asked Niles to take a fresh look at the decision to close Fillmore and to find a solution for closing Fillmore before deciding to close Fillmore. Niles said that she would.
DCPS has yet to share its plan for closing Fillmore and starting new arts and music programs at each of the Fillmore schools. We have asked for this plan and it really looks like DCPS does not have a plan.
An example of DCPS’s failure to plan is DCPS’s replacement of the costly charter buses that used to take the students to Fillmore with a collection of different sized vehicles. To bring down the cost of Fillmore, we asked DCPS to replace the costly charter buses with regular school buses which are much cheaper. DCPS cancelled the charter buses but replaced them with a collection of vehicles that varied in size and were difficult to use because entire classes could not fit on each bus, which meant that the classes had to be split up between multiple buses. After splitting up each class, we did not have enough teachers to put a teacher/chaperone on each bus. Next time DCPS will send yellow school buses.
In its advocacy to close Fillmore, DCPS is not using an accurate cost of the busing needed to take students to Fillmore. DCPS’s Brian Pick told Principal Bryant that the busing for Fillmore costs $1 million. This is not accurate and is way over what the actual busing cost is.
DCPS has said that 3 schools will be dropping out of Fillmore, leaving only two schools that will be in Fillmore next year if Fillmore continues next year. This doesn’t seem correct because Ross has absolutely no extra space for an arts or music program, so it has to be in Fillmore next year. Key and Stoddert want Fillmore next year, so with Ross, there should be 3 schools that will want Fillmore next year if it continues. Marie Reed and Hyde Elementary Schools will not be in Fillmore next year. Hyde’s principal was not in favor of Fillmore this year. So, if Fillmore is around next year, only 3 schools will be in, which will mean only 6 teachers at Fillmore next year.
Two Questions for the PTO: (1) Do we want to advocate for Fillmore?; and (2) Should the PTO start looking into what it would take to start arts and music programs at Stoddert?
There was a unanimous voice vote to advocate for Fillmore and research how to start arts and music programs at Stoddert. Jen would like to get parent volunteers to handle these two issues.
We have until the November 9 LSAT Meeting with DCPS to get our message on Fillmore crafted.
We could use the equity issue by showing that taking away Fillmore is not equitable to Stoddert because Stoddert would have arts and music programs that are worse than those at other schools.
We could also ask Ruth Wattenberg to ask Jennifer Niles to come to the November 9 LSAT meeting at Stoddert when DCPS will explain its plan for closing Fillmore.
Hyde-Addison Swing Space at Hardy Discussion
The Hyde Elementary School SIT (School Improvement Team) and Council Member Jack Evans are pushing a new proposal to have Hyde located at Hardy Middle School while Hyde is renovated. This is not a DCPS proposal. DCPS has already decided to move Hyde to Meyer Elementary School while Hyde is renovated.
Under this new proposal to go to Hardy, Hyde would occupy not only the Fillmore space at Hardy, which means no Fillmore next year, but also all of the Hardy field and parking lot. The Hardy proposal will cost $5 million more than the DCPS proposal to move Hyde to Meyer which includes busing Hyde students to Meyer.
This new proposal to move Hyde to Hardy was never discussed or even mentioned to Hardy. Hardy has been blind-sided by this new proposal.
This new proposal to move Hyde to Hardy runs counter to building up Hardy Middle School. Hardy has made a lot of progress and moving Hyde to Hardy for two years would be a big setback. Hardy is just too small for this new proposal. Hardy and Hyde each has 400 students for a total of 800 students. Putting 800 students at Hardy with no green space, no garden, etc., is a bad idea.
This is also a quality of life/neighborhood issue. Dropping off 800 students at Hardy every morning will be a problem. Also, this proposal will take away space for the farmer’s market and a play area that is used when school is not in session at Hardy, especially on weekends.
The question for the PTO is: Should the PTO take a position on the new proposal to locate Hyde at Hardy during the Hyde renovation? By voice vote, the PTO unanimously votes to support the DCPS’s original decision to locate Hyde at Meyer.
Drop-Off Safety Discussion
Safety, and particularly traffic safety, continues to be an issue at morning drop-off at Stoddert. Some of the problems are: parking on Calvert street, even in front of Stoddert; U-turns; dropping students off while stopped in the middle of the street.
Possible ways to stop this unsafe behavior include putting a flyer in the windshield of cars that are breaking the rules. Stoddert is going to try to get another crossing guard for right in front of Stoddert at the intersection of 40th and Calvert streets.
Stoddert could ask the DC Department of Transportation to put up “15 mph” signs with flashing lights for Stoddert. Other schools have these signs.
Stoddert could come up with a more formalized drop-off procedure to get children out of cars quickly so parents can drop-off their children and then get their cars out of the way quickly.
The PTO votes to hand-out flyers to stop unsafe traffic practices at Stoddert’s morning drop-off.
Extended Day Program (EDP) Security Fees
Stoddert’s EDP is dealing with getting a permit from DCPS for using Stoddert space for the EDP. New this year, DCPS is requiring additional security with additional costs as a part of getting the permit for Stoddert’s EDP. This new requirement and its additional costs were totally unforeseen. Another school’s EDP is dealing with this same issue, so hopefully Stoddert’s EDP can join forces with other EDP’s to deal with this new requirement.