WES PTO Meeting Agenda
April 4, 2017
Evening Meeting, WES Library
Meeting began at 6:36 pm
Laura Staneff, Sloane Torres, Chris McAlister, Jenna Dickinson, Tanya Maramag, Dan Randall, Lindsay Neathawk, Stephanie McMahon, Joelle Brookner, Matt Baya, Toshi Shibamoto
2. School Portraits / Judy Dias presentation:
Chris McAlister gave a brief introduction for Judy, who lives in Lanesborough and has been a photographer for 23 years, working with WES for the last 15 years. Judy prepared a handout of her pricing for PTO members to review. Judy feels that as a local photographer, she provides good service for local schools and organizations. She always tries to take some extra time with the kids to make sure they are comfortable and looking their best in the portraits. PTO members who were present at the meeting and who have helped with the portrait process confirmed that this is true. Judy also pointed out that she makes a practice of having the photos ready for distribution to families within one week. She also has a 100% guarantee policy, even after the retake day. Judy also offers a family plan for those having three or more students at the school. The first two are full-price, but she offers a free package for the remaining siblings.. She went over the basic packages she offers, and demonstrated some specialty items that she is adding this year: a holiday ornament, metal luggage tag, and set of two magnets. Each item has the child’s name and graphics. Her prices have not gone up in a number of years, and she has agreed to waive the $5 re-take fee for next year. Last year we had a 90+% response rate.
Members of the PTO have investigated the option of digital proof and ordering. As a result, Judy has been looking into a 3rd-party website that specializes in school photographs. Each parent would be required to complete a liability waiver form and allow for their child’s photograph to appear on the website. Personal login and password information would be required to view their child’s two proofs (and only their own child). Email would be the standard course for correspondence. There would be no deadline for ordering, but all ordering would take place on the website with photos being shipped directly to the parent. The online ordering system would involve a 25% increase in cost, plus shipping, over what she currently charges. Lindsay asked whether it would be possible to use the website for viewing the photographs but to have the ordering done by paper as it has been done in the past (for reduced cost). After much discussion, it became clear that much of the additional cost is in the use of the website itself, so keeping the ordering process on paper would actually add a level of complication without saving any money. Laura asked if the printing would still be done by Judy; she said the commercial lab she uses would still be doing it and the site merely organizes and co-ordinates the viewing and ordering.
Judy addressed questions about re-takes saying that she has had relatively few numbers in past years. Chris and others pointed out that many people are unaware that re-takes were available for dissatisfied customers, not just for children who were absent on the original picture day. Judy is concerned that the participation rate will fall if the pre-order system is changed and the cost goes up; she is also concerned that as many as 80-100 families will not give permission to have their kids’ photos on the website, which would reduce participation. Chris then pointed out to the group that the participation rate is important to the school and to the PTO because the portraits are a fund-raiser for the PTO, which gets 25% of the income. So, a lower participation rate means less money coming to the PTO and to the school programs it supports.
The Board asked Judy to discuss the possibility of keeping the process the same, but allowing for proofs prior to ordering. Judy stated that she would set up the schedule normally and parents would be required to complete a form with their students info and background choice to be turned in the day of pictures. Once the proofs are ready they would be sent home along with an order form and would be due approximately two weeks later with prints being ready for distribution within a week. The additional cost for this method would be $2 per package or item and the whole process would take about 5 weeks. The group discussed the pros and cons and logistics of this method.
Lindsay also asked if it is possible to have a different background (like a scene) as an alternative to the colors, and Judy said she has one that she can make available.
Sloane said that the results of the recent survey suggested that people really want to be able to see proofs and that might be the best option. Dan suggested, and everyone agreed, that the group should continue the conversation more concisely after thanking Judy and allowing her to depart.
Chris passed out copies of the recent parent survey results. A total of 140 people participated and 60 of them made comments. All agreed that the tone was generally favorable and were thrilled with the overall response. A number of comments recorded in the survey suggested using a different photographer for the school portraits, and some referred by name to a local photographer who does photos for Pine Cobble; Tara has reached out to her and she would be willing to discuss it if the photos were shot outdoors—she does not do studio portraits (indoors). The Board questioned whether or not she is truly prepared to deal with a student body the size of WES. Chris wrapped up the survey discussion by saying that she will be posting the summary of results on the PTO website and will acknowledge it in the WES news, and by thanking Tanya for her research and Nick for creating the survey.
There was then a discussion of whether it is important/how important it is to work with a photographer who will work digitally (ie, make images and/or ordering available online); Joelle also expressed concern that the logistics of an exterior photo-shoot may be beyond what is reasonable to orchestrate and what is really needed or expected from a public school photo-shoot. Others (such as Lindsay, who has helped on Photo Day, agreed that even indoors, the kids can be difficult to manage sometimes.) Dan summarized the questions by saying that the PTO needs to decide what aspects are the most important to us. There was more discussion of price comparisons with other photographers vs. trying to continue to work with Judy, who seems to want to try to accommodate the WES/PTO needs. The group agreed that we would continue to work with Judy for next fall with paper proofs, and to reassess satisfaction levels after that process; meanwhile to continue to gather information from other photographers so that a better price comparison can be made. Tanya will help transition to a new person to take over the research process.
3. WES Parent Social– positive feelings overall; Water St. Grill was a great location and the Community Preschool worked well, again, for the babysitting. Sloane asked about the fact that there was no pizza for the kids this time; it did not seem to be a problem. Chris asked about doing a final end-of-school event, possibly on the school grounds and including kids. Joelle indicated that she’s wanted to do something like this for a long time, a cookout (with grills) for families. The group decided on Thursday June 15th as a date and concluded that grilling would be difficult to organize and plan without knowing the number of people expected to turn out. It was decided instead that the PTO will provide water and/or lemonade and snacks, but invite people to bring picnic food for themselves as well. The event will take place on the playground and open area between the WES building and the Youth Center in order to easily supervise kids playing on the playground and to avoid the multiple athletic teams that are likely to have practice that evening (Lacrosse, soccer and baseball all share the space at that time of year.)
4. Student Author Night: This event was a great success. Eighty-five kids signed up and 75 attended with their families. We had 8 facilitators. Kathleen Igoe organized the event and provided Chris with a summary as well as suggestions for planning for future years. We will be looking for someone else to co-coordinate with Kathleen next year.
5. Camp Fair: Matt said that two more camps signed up today, bringing the total up to the same number as last year (making the flier very easy to format, which pleased him). The 3rd grade Pancake Breakfast is also in planning and moving ahead. The weather is expected to be cold and rainy so Chris hopes that plenty of people will come inside instead.
6. Boxtop promotion: The current pizza oven display is generally very cool and creative. Tanya is concerned that there haven’t been many donations as yet. Discussion of factors that may be contributing to that, and discussion of planning for the fall promotion (exciting ideas) and how to make it bigger. Sloane pointed out (and others agreed) that she is saving her boxtops for the Fall (having been depleted in the Minion drive), and others may be doing this as well. There was a discussion about how much the kids enjoy the boxtop promotions that Tanya has led, and that this is valuable for spirit-building even if not as much is brought in for fund-raising.
7. Staff Appreciation Week: Nancy Garrity is currently planning this event, but is reaching out to others to assume the role for next year. There are three events planned for the week – a breakfast, a lunch and a day of massages. As we get closer, she will send out a SignUp for contributions. Sloane said she wishes the PTO could do this for more than just a week; Joelle said the MGRHS PTO does provide snacks for the faculty meetings (weekly, there; WES staff meetings are monthly). This idea was well received especially since there have been people who expressed interest in staff support. Jenna volunteered to organize something for the meeting this week.
8. School Committee and PAC meetings: Dan attended the most recent PAC meeting and learned that the PAC has not been formally dissolved, it just had no leadership. School Committee Chairman, Joe Bergeron walked the participants through forming new leadership, by-laws, and other logistics. Six people were in attendance. Gabe Pesce is now the Chair; Maury Lawson is Vice Chair; Nick Pesce is Secretary; and Anya Pesce is Treasurer. Dan also attended the recent School Committee Budget meeting where the budget was presented for public comment; he noted that Joelle had thanked WESE for the continued support of “extra” programming that is important to the school but still can’t be accommodated in the budget. There will be a reduction of one bus route (two will be consolidated into one); Dan pointed out that specialist classes and a low student-teacher ratio, things that other districts have been forced to compromise in recent years of budget problems, have been retained in the WES budget. Joelle said that in fact nothing has been taken out this year, other than the one bus route; class sections also remain the same. Dan said there were nine people attending besides the School Committee members, and there was only one question asked, clarifying a point that had been made. The next School Committee meeting is the 26th and Dan won’t be able to attend; Chris said she might be able to do it, but is just returning from vacation that day. Town Meeting is in May. Joelle said that the Town Finances Committee meeting also went well and the budget was unanimously supported so she anticipates the Town Meeting budget approval process to go smoothly this year.
9. Parking Lot: Sloane and Chris met with Joelle last week and talked about issues with drop off/pick up traffic, among other things. Joelle said she’s spoken to the town police about monitoring it more closely; Sloane says she’s now witnessed the same poor behavior happening and the police doing nothing about it. Joelle said she would send the blurb that was in last week’s WES NEWS to the police for their information; the group discussed also emailing it to parents.
10. Kindergarten Open House is now scheduled for June 6th, from 6:30-8pm. Sloane and Jenna are going to attend and will put together an info-packet in order to reach out to new families about the PTO and what it does for the school, as well as to offer support in adapting to the WES community.
11. PTO Budget Information:
Chris mentioned that at a recent SC meeting Fern Murtagh mentioned in public comments that the PTO contributes $300 for each teacher; this was a nice public recognition of our efforts.
As reported by Kelly Paul and relayed by Chris:
Current Balance $17,623
expected income remaining this year (+) $8,166
commitments remaining this year (-) $15,263
projected year-end balance $10,526
Expenses paid in the last month:
box tops $11.95
clothing sale $85.00
parent social $407.84
classroom support $354.75
camp fair $11.80
**this only reflects money paid directly with the debit card. I currently have about $160.00 in unpaid receipts for this. We will need to adjust the budget amount from $500 to perhaps $800 per year.
12. Meeting Times: Alternative meeting times were discussed with an eye to improving convenience for more parents and teachers: evening vs. morning vs. after school times; discussion of how to attract teachers or a teacher liaison to attend. Chris pointed out that only a few of the people attending this evening meeting were people who cannot usually make it to the morning meetings; on the other hand several additional people had contacted her to say that they meant to come but had other things come up at the last minute. Joelle suggested contacting the teacher association leaders (Maureen Anderson and Susan Langman) to see if there would be interest in having a liaison from the association attend each PTO meeting, as has happened in the past.
13. Walk for WES/Field Day has been moved to June 19th instead of the 12th.
Meeting ended at approximately 8:30.
Next meeting is May 2, 8:40 (right after school starts), in the conference room next to the Main Offi