PTO Meeting Minutes – December 1, 2016

In attendance: Nicole Benjamin, Robin Keys, Jennifer Donahue, Marina Diaz, Sheril Hanson, Erin Vito, Julie Poyton, Amy Chan, Amy Shoffner, Sarah Schulte, Kristy Westnedge, Elizabeth Koehler, Liza Weems, Michelle Meers, Margot Brown, Dana Ellis, Amy Carpenter

Bylaws update: Sarah. We have a bylaws committee with 5 of us on it. We hope to bring a draft to the full PTO in January for approval. Amy S. thanks Sarah for all her hard work. We have never had bylaws before.

Amy S. wants to review and discuss the meeting norms. Amy S. drafted the following language as a starting point:

“It is critical to the success of the CMS PTO mission that we discuss, disagree, listen and engage around difficult subjects in an organized, respectful and productive manner. In order to do so we agree to the following meeting norms:

  1. We speak from our own perspective, use “I” statements and stick to the issue at hand.
  2. One person speaks at a time.
  3. No one person will speak a second time, until others who wish to, have had a turn.
  4. We seek to understand the perspectives and opinions of others by avoiding assumptions, asking for clarification, and assuming good intentions.
  5. We remain committed to working towards consensus.
  6. We ask the guiding question: “is this in the best interests of the kids?”
  7. We hold ourselves and each other accountable, by taking responsibility for our words and actions, and our inevitable mistakes.”

Amy S. says we have decided to create norms for our meetings to help us communicate better and keep meetings productive and on track. Part of the motivation for this stems from the bylaws revision process and the fact that we are supposed to follow Robert’s Rules of Order. Groups commonly have these norms. Robin suggests we add something about being solution-oriented (similar to the norms that govern SAC meetings). She suggests something like “We will be positive and we will presume the positive – if we think we know a better way to do something, we will speak up and offer solutions.” In response to a comment from Erin, Amy S. says perhaps we should add something like: “productive/constructive dissent is welcome.”

Amy is taking notes on this and will redraft the proposed norms. Sarah has a suggestion that we have the norms printed on the agenda for each meeting so we kind of have it on our minds. If it would fit at the bottom of the agenda, that might be helpful.

Approval of October PTO minutes: Nicole asks if anyone has any additions or corrections to our October meeting’s minutes. No additions or corrections are brought up. Nicole moves that we approve those. Erin seconds. All are in favor. The minutes from the October meeting of the PTO are approved.

Student Council update: Ms. Fig: We are thankful for parents and PTO. The winter dance and the party look different this year. Kids voted to do it a bit differently. Party is December 14th at 2:45. We are still looking at different things inside of that space. If interested in helping, this is the time! We have all the resources from parent communities in the past. The big challenge will be that this time we will have 600 kids at once!

We did not put a vote out for St. Baldrick’s with the kids this year. Dana says that Jessica Coulson is not getting anyone to volunteer. Jessica wonders if we might want to take this year off. She absolutely needs more help. Ms. Fig says we are being philanthropic as a community anyway so whatever works best is fine with her. Amy S. suggests more data would be helpful so Ms. Fig will create a survey.

Teacher report: Ms. Meers. Amy S. says we want cross communication with teachers and parents. There is no real set agenda for the role of the teacher representative to PTO. Ms. Meers offers an update on what teachers are doing. Teachers are preparing for final assessments for the semester. Since schedules do change from semester to semester we are looking at how kids are doing and talking to counselors about any changes that might need to be made. We have our open house tonight for prospective CMS families, so we are getting ready for that too.

President’s Report: Amy S.: We need your opinion – what is the best way to fill open officer and chair positions in a timely way? From a legal standpoint, the executive committee has an obligation to fulfill the positions of President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary. The rest of the coordinators are not required but those positions do help fulfill our mission. Our question to you is what is the best way to fill our open officer and coordinator positions. We wanted to throw this out to everyone for thoughts. Sarah says it was a very stressful element of the president’s job wondering how to fill the vacancies. Last spring, Sarah spent so much time worrying about filling the positions. We talked about having a nominating committee or having this be part of someone’s job description. Elizabeth says a thoughtful description of each position would be helpful. Amy S. says it is on her list to reach out to all of us to update our respective job descriptions. Amy S. will also include the commitment level involved in each of the descriptions. Amy Carpenter suggests spreading the word amongst our friends to find interested people Personal asks are most effective. Margot says she has worked for nonprofits and they have had general/annual meetings where people would be nominated and elected. Amy S. says we are contemplating an annual election meeting in our bylaws. Margot suggests maybe there be a board of directors and we call the positions something different. Robin says people may not be informed about what happens here anyway to be in a position about whether to volunteer for a position. So, we really need to educate the community and market what wedo. Robin reports that she is hearing that things are getting buried in the eblast. How can we best reach people? Amy Carpenter suggests maybe the administration could send out a standalone email at the beginning of each year telling the community how important the PTO is and how helpful to teachers and staff it is with a plea to help and volunteer. Amy S says there needs to be someone to drive these things. We struggle with having a lot of work. Should we put together a nominating committee – a group of parents to drive this whole thing? That seemed overly formal to some of us. So, how do we drive it? Do we have enough interest from parents to put together a committee? We need to communicate that these are the needs we have and if we don’t have a person to coordinate these things, they just won’t happen. Julie says it would be helpful if the dates of the meetings were in the eblast a couple of weeks beforehand. Amy asks where the information should be? Julie says it should be on the cover page of the eblast. Amy Chan says that in March/April timeframe, we should reach out to PTOs from elementary schools and have one of our meetings late in the year dedicated to having 5th grade parents come and see what our PTO meetings are all about. Erin says maybe instead of a nominating committee, perhaps we make “recruitment” another PTO job for one person. Amy Carpenter says that personal contact with requests for help is often very effective. Let’s ask people! Sarah says it would be nice to have the process start sooner. January would not be too early to put this on the agendas.

Treasurer’s report: Amy S. says that Diane could not be here today. Copies of the budget were made available. Diane wanted people to know that people are being slow to hand in receipts for reimbursement or are not handing them in at all. Please provide receipts so we can reimburse you! It helps Diane to plan and make sure we are on track for spending.

Fundraising Committee update: Kristy: Gwen and Kristy met. We are $1500 short of our goal. Instead of doing a renewed drive or campaign now, we may add a dinner out and make a bigger push in the spring. We are planning dinner out with Chipotle.

Nutcracker report: Machal couldn’t come today but she asked Amy S. to let us know that we raised about $215 from the Nutcracker fundraiser. She doesn’t really think it is worth continuing because she mostly just harangued her friends 🙂 We won’t continue this unless someone has a great interest in taking it on moving forward.

Principal’s report: Dana: Open house is going on right now. We have a slide in our presentation about PTO. We start to teach how attendance, daily work, grades is all on infinite campus. Tonight, in the cafeteria there will be a table for PTO and SAC. Robin made a great flyer for SAC to have on the table. Amy and Robin and Dana were talking about how someone can be there at the table or we can just have a sheet for signups to get more information. We could sell spirit wear tonight if people want us to. Dana just needs to know how many tables to set up. Erin asks if we can give those cards and magnets out at the table. Amy S asks if we have someone who can staff the table. The 360 kids come help us and Dana can tell them to staff the table. Dana thinks a take away that parents can pick up would be great. Kristy says if Mail Chimp is happening, we could ask for emails. Erin says she has set up a Mail Chimp account and we could add more names and emails. Erin volunteers to make a signup sheet and come get the table going tonight at the open house.

Dana says the we have met with Crest View’s 5th grade team and we are meeting with Foothill next week. Jamestown has 5 fifth graders this year. We are trying to get dates set up for counselors to go meet with the kids. They would meet with the kids before the 5th grade parents night at the beginning of February. This way parents would have some information from their kids and then they’d have questions to follow up with. 5th grade will be testing kids and teachers will put all the information in student files that are then uploaded to the middle school in April/May and that information CMS will also use for placing kids. The testing gives reading and writing and math information.

We had the ALA meeting on November 17th and sent out the survey which closes tomorrow.

There is a coat drive going on right now. We haven’t received as many coats as Dana expected. If your kids are outgrowing their clothes, please consider donating. We have gone through lost and found again. We will wash what is left and donate coats to the coat drive. The other things we keep here for PE or for dress clothes violations or for spills.

Amy Carpenter mentions that the PTO usually does a staff holiday lunch in December. This time, Tina will do it in the new year. Should we communicate to teachers that we haven’t forgotten but that we are planning it for the new year? Amy Carpenter will send something to Dana for inclusion in the bulletin.

Winter Party update: Amy S asks if there is anything else we need to talk about for the winter party? Amy Carpenter says we have great leads for different stations and we will try sign up genius next week. Please sign up and forward the signup sheet to your friends! Ms. Fig is very conservative with her budget and doesn’t ever want to ask for money. However, we’d like to ask for $300 from PTO for black lights for the dance floor. Elizabeth has them and says perhaps she could donate them. PTO will pay for pizzas this year instead of asking parents to bring them. The party is December 14th from 2:45-4:15. It starts earlier this year. We would bring pizzas at 3:45 so perhaps there are a few less people. Blackjack is the cheapest according to Amy S. Sometimes they will give a discount. Amy Carpenter says we’d like PTO to pay for fruit and marshmallows for the chocolate fountain. Sue is coordinating the budget for the party. Amy S. says we have $500 in the budget for the winter party. Dana suggests that in the PTO section of the eblast, we could say now is a good time to donate if you haven’t done so already because PTO is paying for all this stuff at the winter party. Amy Carpenter will add some language so people know about how their generous donations to PTO will help us with pizza and supplies for the party. We still need parent volunteers for chaperoning, staffing stations, decorating and cleanup. Amy Chan asks if we will offer gluten free, dairy free pizzas. Amy Carpenter says we will this year. She will let Sue know.

Mailchimp update: Erin: Erin set up a mailchimp account using our Centennial gmail. Moving forward we will send out emails through mail chimp. Nicole can introduce the mail chimp through this month’s minutes. Nicole will include an introduction about this new method. Erin also set up a mailchimp signup on the PTO website so it automatically populates to the mail chimp campaign list. There is a double opt in. So, you sign up and then you get an email to confirm that you wanted to sign up. Do we need the double opt in? Thanks to Erin for being our communications guru and for getting this set up. People get annoyed when they can’t unsubscribe. Communications will come from CMS PTO. It will look more formal. Sarah asks about whether we could send an email to all the people who are in the student directory asking if they want to be included in mailchimp. Amy Carpenter asks if there is a blurb in the PTO section of the Eblast asking if people want to be included in the PTO distribution list? Erin says she will do that. Erin doesn’t think there is a huge issue about authorizing several people to send out emails through mail chimp. Amy S. says we will put this briefly on the executive board agenda for protocol around mailchimp.

Barnes and Noble Bookfair: Mr. Georgitis, Librarian: Mr. G says we will have another Barnes and Noble book fair benefiting CMS on Tuesday, December 13th. Jennifer Dunn is coordinating instrumental performances and there will be singers too! Unfortunately, the book fair is the same day as the Screenagers showing but Centennial Middle School benefits all day! Just mention CMS when you check out anytime on December 13th. There will be books pulled out that several of the LA teachers have requested. Last year, Mr. G used the proceeds from the book fair to purchase some books for battle of the books and also for the memoir project. It is a nice supplement to the library’s budget. You can shop online too and there is a code to put in which will add a percentage of sales to CMS. Check the blasts!

PEN Update: Elizabeth: The movie, Screenagers, is showing at CMS December 13th at 6:00pm for parents. Please buy tickets online, although they will be available at the door if it hasn’t sold out. They are all general admission tickets. Kids are seeing the movie the day before in school. There will be popcorn!

Next PTO meeting: January 26th at 8:15 in the CMS library.