WES PTO Meeting Minutes
March 7, 2017
Meeting began at approximately 8:45 am
In Attendance: Matt Baya, Laura Staneff, Hailey Rinaldi, Jenna Dickinson, Kelly Paul, Nick Pesce, Dan Randall, Kristen Mabey, Tanya Maramag, Christine Stuebner, Chris McAlister, Sloane Torres, Geraldine Shen.
2. PTO communication and email lists – Sloane Torres:
Sloane has used the SignUp Genius list to update the email lists. She passed around her draft; there was discussion about making sure we capture everyone and how to determine if people want to be on the PTO email lists. Chris also mentioned that there is a list on the shared drive of everyone who attended one of the organizational meetings early in the year. Sloane will continue to finalize these.
3. Update on Boxtops and School Pictures – Tanya Maramag:
Boxtops: Tanya would like to propose another Boxtops contest for the Fall to coincide with the November submission date. She is proposing a “Let’s Go To the Movies” theme with the prize being a grade trip to Images theater for a movie. She inquired if anyone knew the current Director of Images so we could reach out to see if they would be willing to donate the theater for an afternoon. Dan Randall offered to help by sending her contact information. Tanya stated, to general agreement, that the recent Boxtops contest was very successful and it generated a lot of enthusiasm and excitement amongst the kids.
Pictures: Tanya has also been busy getting more information about our options for school photographers. Judy Dias has been the photographer for the school in recent years; she has been very forthcoming with information and packages as she does not want to lose the contract. The sticking point is that families want to be able to see proofs before committing to a package; Judy is happy with her 93% participation rate and pointed out that she offers $5 retakes for anyone who is not satisfied with the original photo, and doesn’t often have a lot of re-takes. The board questioned whether that due to a lapse in communication. Judy is unwilling to go to internet proofs, but next year she is planning to add more a la carte items (baggage tags, magnets, etc).
Tanya has tried to contact Steve Faucher (of Adams), who also takes photos for a number of local events. She hasn’t received any response from Steve. Several PTO members concurred that he can be very slow to respond but he does tend to be conscientious about his clients. The group agreed that we need someone who will be on top of, and able to handle, this large annual project.
Tanya has also contacted the local photographer who takes pictures for Pine Cobble, but she will only work outside and apparently will reschedule if it is a rainy day; this seems unworkable for a student body of 450 kids.
Sloane had also suggested Slayton Studios (Monticello NY) who take pictures for the Williamstown Community Preschool; pointing out that her experience has been very favorable. Slayton’s business model is to give the printed package up front and rely on the parents to return unwanted prints with payment. Sloane suggests requiring the money up front so that we don’t lose out, but there would still be a lot of bookkeeping and moving pieces with this approach.
Tanya continued her discussion of alternatives by showing samples from LifeTouch (national chain), which has many options for photos and items for purchase, and also offers online proofs. The New England School for Photography (out of Boston) is another possibility; they have online proofs and ordering. All of these vendors are interested in making presentations to the PTO before we make a decision. Chris suggested that we use a parent survey to determine what options parents might want. Additionally she pointed out that this is an annual fundraiser and we need to keep that in mind. Tanya will look into the margins with some of the other vendors. This led to discussion about the existing relationship with Judy, the fact that she is local, and the need to offer her a chance to work with us to fulfill our needs. Perhaps Judy could just offer a proof sheet with a few different photos so that parents could choose which photo they want and possibly order more items; this would also be an opportunity to advertise the possibility of retakes. Matt asked how much money we bring in from Photo Day—Kelly reported it was over $2000 last year.
4. Update on school signage – Dan Randall.
Results from the recent survey are as follows:
Teachers’ top 3 picks for locations are A) Front & Back Door signs; B) signs for Office; and C) signs to identify the different Grade Pods. Their next 3 picks are D) Nurse; E) Auditorium; and F) Specialists. Parents, meanwhile, chose A) Front/Back Doors; B) Auditorium; and C) Pods/Office/Library, followed by D) Drop Off for Youth Center (possibly outdoors); E) Gymnasium; and F) Cafeteria.
Dan explained that he would like guidance from the PTO as to 1) What is the purpose of the signs—are they for teachers or for visitors? (Group consensus seemed to be it is for visitors and families new to the school.) And he explained that his next step is to determine how many signs we may want, and what their cost may be.
Someone suggested a sign at the parking lot as there is sometimes confusion about which driveway to use. Chris discussed a recent basketball tournament held at WES in which she found herself directing traffic because visiting parents and a pizza delivery guy were hopelessly confused after dark, even if they’d been here before. Dan also described an idea for hanging signs that can be double-sided. The “You are here” map idea was popular as well both in the survey and in the meeting; Sloane pointed out that this could also be printed on paper and distributed to parents in that way. Further discussion of how parents currently learn the building layout and how to improve that. A point that came up in the survey was whether it is a security problem to publicize the layout of the school; Dan and the group recognized this as a concern but did not feel it was more important than helping visitors and new families feel comfortable here. Geraldine suggested having a re-usable free-standing sign for, say, the Auditorium, that could be placed in the hallway for special events such as the Book Fair or the Musical. Dan will also visit Mt. Greylock to see what they are doing; discussion of the town and/or the school having some responsibility for the cost, especially for exterior signs.
5. WES Parent/Teacher Social – Lindsay Neathawk.
Lindsay was not at the meeting, but the event is this Friday. Parents reported that not all of them have gotten the emails from class parents. There are nine children currently signed up for babysitting. Lindsay is reported to be concerned that there may not be as much interest shown so far in this event compared to the first one, but others were not as worried. No age limits on the childcare. Kelly asked about who to co-ordinate with for payments, and Chris volunteered.
6. Lost & Found:
Chris emailed Joelle based on last month’s discussions; she responded that she liked the idea of involving the 6th graders; and that the recess paraprofessionals are doing more to help with discarded items left on the playground. Hailey reported that she recently did another sweep of the playground and picked up a large number of items. She also noted that the outside trash can was overflowing (as it often is) and that this is yet another issue. Chris mentioned that this has been a responsibility of the Buildings & Grounds staff in the past. Chris said she has asked that WKZ News to regularly feature items from L&F, and that perhaps if the older kids encourage the younger kids it will become part of the transmitted student culture. Laura added that when she brings the clothes into lunch for students to look through them, she has observed students either joking about or seriously “shopping” for items that they like, but don’t belong to them–her point being that we should also teach the fact that this is not acceptable behavior. Discussion of a date for donation to the Clothing Sale and agreement that it would be good to have L&F accessible to parents during the upcoming Camp Fair.
7. School Committee update – Chris McAlister:
Chris reported on the most recent SC meeting and how impressed she’s been with the process this year and the initial budget discussions that have been happening. Currently, due to a number of factors, they are currently proposing an increase of 4% over last year. iBerkshires published an informative article about this meeting (here). The SC raised the possibility of a Parent information forum, perhaps the weekend after next (March 18); this is not intended to be a PTO meeting or a presentation but a chance for the School committee to have a less formal discussion about the budget and a chance for parents to ask questions. The PTO will help publicize the event. Chris also encouraged parents to consider attending the SC meetings as they are very informative and the Committee members are very appreciative of interest shown by parents and members of the public.
8. Parent survey – Nick Pesce:
Nick reports that we now have a SurveyMonkey account for WES PTO. It came with very generic suggested questions that he feels are not relevant to us, and he inquired about the survey priorities. Chris suggested having quarterly surveys on specific current topics—for instance, the topic of school photos might be a good one coming up. She also said that these should be simple (one category) and not too frequent so that they don’t become annoying. Sloane mentioned a future survey about Parent Socials would be a good idea.
9. Camp Fair – Matt Baya:
Matt presented a poster for the Fair (based on last year’s poster) that is ready to print and post. He’s working on updating the other materials for the camp vendors and will email them all later today. Sloane had received a few emails and passed them along to Matt. There is also a link for the registration on the PTO website now. Matt would like help with some of the more public aspects of the process; Nick offered to help and Chris also suggested sending out an email to the “At Large” list to see if anyone would like to volunteer.
10. 3rd Grade pancake breakfast:
Chris has made initial contact with the 3rd grade room parents; she has also worked up a PTO document with instructions for this event, and has asked the parent coordinators from last year to review it for accuracy. She will then distribute it to the current 3rd grade room parents. The event is pretty straightforward and the funds go directly towards the annual 3rd grade field trip to Historic Deerfield.
11. Student Author Night:
Student Author Night is scheduled for March 30, and coordinated by Kathleen Igoe. Students are encouraged to submit and present an example of their own writing from this year. Kathleen has reached out to coordinators/facilitators for the evening and information is being included in the WES news.
12. Upcoming Spring events:
Field day: Kristen is leading this event as she has in the past; Hailey will be shadowing her this year to take over next year (Kristen will shadow next year to make sure all is well, but after that she will no longer have a child at WES). As usual, Walk for WES will be the same day. Chris said that the date is currently the 12th but it may move as the last day of school has been adjusted due to the snow days; she will check on this with Joelle. Kristen mentioned she has had feedback from parents about changing the structure of Field Day, however she would prefer not to change it now since she and Hailey are transitioning. There was also discussion about whether the popsicles will be allowed this year (for Walk for WES). Kristen described the events, which include a bounce house in the gym and different sports stations around the playground; kids can choose which events/stations they want to visit. There has been a suggestion that the times/events should be more structured, but we all agreed that we like that kids can choose what’s of interest to them. Chris said we should have a written synopsis of the activities and that this deserves more discussion.
Clothing Sale is May 20. Discussion of the hours (possibly keeping it open until 3pm) and limiting the 50% off period. Due to a recent inquiry, the Board is entertaining the idea of inviting local charitable organizations to come and look over the items following the sale and prior to donation to the Goodwill. We have a longstanding arrangement with the Goodwill for the pick-up of items following the sale so we don’t really want to change that set-up.
Staff Appreciation Week is also in May– Nancy Garrity has done this in the past so Chris will reach out to her for this year.
13. Budget review – Kelly Paul:
Current Balance $17,823
Expected income remaining this year (+) $8,808
Commitments remaining (-) $16,391
Projected year-end balance $10,240
Expenses paid this month:
Adventures in Learning $450
Classroom support $70.90
Clothing sale $85.00
Parent social $5.70
There were no deposits in the last month.
Group discussion of expected revenues and upcoming fundraising activities. Brief discussion of Walk for WES.
14. New Business: None discussed at this point in the meeting.
Meeting ended at approximately 10:20. Chris thanked the members for persisting through an unusually long meeting.
Next meeting is Tuesday, April 4.
Minutes prepared by Laura Staneff, Acting Secretary.