Williamstown Elementary School PTO
Tuesday January 10, 2017
Attending: Laura Staneff (Acting Secretary and Clothing Sale Co-coordinator), Kelly Paul (Treasurer), Kathy Hughes (Fundraising Coordinator), Hailey Rinaldi (Clothing Sale Co-coordinator), Tanya R Maramag (Box-Tops Coordinator), Dan Randall (Advocacy Coordinator), Christina Stuebner, Jenna Dickinson (Clothing Sale Co-coordinator), Sloane Torres (Co-President), Chris McAlister (Co-President), Nick Pesce, Mackenzie Tatro
Meeting began at 8:40 am
Those in attendance introduced themselves, though most had previously attended a meeting.
Update on Clothing Sale: Laura reported, with input from Hailey and Jenna, that the team is doing very well at staying caught up on the sorting of incoming donations. There is more of a backlog on pricing at the moment but all-in-all, the process is going as well or better than it has in recent years. The team will continue to work on making times for pricing sessions, and on training new volunteers to price. There has not been a lot of continued volunteers since the Fall Sale and most of the work is currently being done by the team of Co-coordinators. The Board discussed that we should keep awareness going by having updates or sign ups consistently in the WES News.
Update on School Signage: Dan reported that the project was put on hold during December, but the next step is to schedule a walk-through of the building with the WES Administrators and Lindsay Neathawk, who also volunteered to work on this project. They also need to schedule time with the School Committee to discuss their thoughts on desirable signage and to get permission to put up the new signs. He will present a further update on these steps at next month’s meeting. As a reminder, this project was prompted by the Book Fair and the fact that there is no signage as to where the School Auditorium or Gym is for visitors entering the building.
PTO Groups: Sloane said that upon organizing and reviewing the sign-up lists it appears as though most of the people are already involved in some way with PTO events or programming. Those that are group coordinators are attending monthly meetings and/or are involved via email with the Board. Thus, it was concluded that a big meeting of everyone to discuss the Group structure is not really necessary. Instead efforts will focus on maintaining contact with the larger group and to keep all informed and involved with current and upcoming events. Chris and Sloane asked Nick Pesce to take on leadership of the Programming Committee, and he agreed to this role.
Boxtops contest: A check for over $1100 was received by Box Tops for recent donations. The Board recognized the efforts of Nicole Landy and Elea Kaatz at keeping this fundraising effort moving forward despite the lack of leadership last year. Nicole Landy has stepped down as coordinator, but Tanya Maramag has volunteered to step in and presented her ideas for the current contest. She will be replacing the collection box (currently a tiny wooden thing) with a new trash-can sized container that will look like a Minion. She’ll also be working on putting up the bulletin board to track progress, getting pasting sheets readily available and finalizing the details of the contest. Grades will compete for the most box-tops collected and the prize will be a pj-day on the Friday before Feb. break. Tanya plans to have all in place by the end of the week. Chris will reach out to Joelle to ask if we can send an email reminder to teachers and perhaps have the 6th graders talk about the contest on WKZ. Chris encouraged Tanya to reach out to the Board to arrange help with anything she needs, such as counting up the Boxtop donations when the time comes.
Art to Remember: Kathy reported that they have decided not to conduct the bi-annual Art to Remember fundraiser this year. WES has a new art teacher this year and she is already working with students to provide artwork for the WESE Auction in February. Art to Remember is a very big project so it was determined to hold off a year. Kelly responded that she will have to revise the budget, but that it is not a very large amount of expected income ($1,700) and so, because we still have savings in hand, this should not be an issue.
School photos: Last month there was a suggestion of trying a different vendor, or possibly asking the current vendor for more product options. Chris said that this could be a way to expand on already existing fundraising efforts. She’ll reach out to one of the people who had expressed interest in helping with fundraising to pursue the research.
WES Parent gathering (Parent Social): Lindsay could not be at today’s meeting but she has been in contact with the Board by email. The next event will be at the Water Street Grill. She has proposed the date of Friday Feb 10; however the WESE auction is scheduled for Sunday Feb. 12 and the group was in agreement that this would pose too big of a conflict. Other dates, including Jan. 27, were discussed. That date is difficult because Lindsay herself will be out of town; other dates in February are complicated by February vacation. The group settled on Friday March 3rd as the best option, and Chris will communicate with Lindsay about it.
Jenna asked about Room Parent communication and specifically if group lists were created that she can use to send correspondence to her room parents. There was a short discussion of how it was supposed to work and/or how others are finding it to work, and it appeared that different people/grades had differing experiences as to what they received and what was working. Sloane and Chris are working on updating the Board and PTO group email lists and will talk with Matt Baya about the current format and how to streamline.
PTO Parent Programming:
Northern Berkshire Community Coalition: They are still interested in making a proposal for a parent event; Chris said when she gets more information she will discuss it by email with the Board. She has suggested to them that any such event should be open to both MGRHS and Lanesborough Elementary, as well.
Sloane also discussed an upcoming event that Gina Coleman, WES parent and Principal of a school in Pittsfield is hosting at the Crowne Plaza. The presentation is called “Jefferson’s Children” about the African-American descendents of Thomas Jefferson. Gina had asked that the WES PTO help spread awareness about this event in the WES community, and Sloane suggested that they could put it in the WES News, if approved by Joelle.
Budget Review: Kelly provided a summary of the current budget situation (below), which is now slightly out of date due to the change in Art to Remember.
Current Checking Balance $24,313
Expected Income Remaining $11,338
Commitments Remaining $23,051
Difference (potential extra) $12,600
We also have $13,120 in a saving acct which is earmarked as classroom money for next year.
This budget statement includes the playground chains at $600 (this does not include installation) and $1000 for parent socials for the year.
Sloane reported that the Parent Social cost looks like it will continue to hover around $500 per event, even if we start asking for donations to help cover the babysitting. Kelly raised the concern that this is expensive for events that are primarily social in nature, and that so far have not involved a large number of families. Chris responded that future events are likely to bring in more people, based on the success of the first one; Dan also pointed out that this is like any “start-up” in that it takes some money to get the process going, but that once it has some momentum it can be adjusted to reduce costs. There was general agreement that, after years of decline in parent involvement in the PTO, this year it is desirable to continue to build on parent community. The last event, in the spring, may be an outdoor picnic which may have a lower cost. In future years the events may change to different venues (i.e. fewer bar/restaurant and more activity based) or may find more ways to share costs with the people attending or with the venues themselves.
Chris presented a draft of the Spring Event Calendar.. She discussed some of the dates more specifically and once it is finalized will work with Joelle in order to integrate it with the school calendar. The idea is to publish (WES news, PTO website, School website) it so that people can have a better idea of what the PTO does on an on-going basis, and so they can know what events are coming up in order to plan for them more effectively. She also talked briefly about having included the upcoming GeoBee in this calendar, even though it is more of a curriculum event (5th and 6th grades), because in her experience many kids and families are unaware and relatively unprepared for this activity, which includes an all-school assembly for the competition; the winner of the competition goes on to a regional contest outside of WES.
Dan inquired about Staff Appreciation week and what policies apply to arranging gifts for teachers. Prior to Winter break 2015, he received several emails of concern from parents about a gift policy (when he was a room parent trying to arrange a class gift). He asked for clarification about the policy and where to find it in case others encounter those same concerns. Sloane responded that there are State laws which provide guidelines on how much can be spent on gifts to public school teachers (maximum of $50); while this hasn’t been much of a problem locally, in some affluent communities it can be and for this reason it is a matter of State law. Chris further explained that the Staff Appreciation week does not involve gifts, per se; it is a week-long event with different aspects each day, including massages and meals. Nancy Garrity coordinated this effort last year. There was more discussion of the law’s guidelines, as well as the fact that it used to be more specifically cited and promoted by the school administration. The group felt it would be desirable to post it in the WES News prior to the holiday season, as well as more prominently on the website. Chris and Sloane will follow up with Joelle.
Meeting adjourned at 9:45 am. Minutes submitted by Laura Staneff.