HSA Presidents Virginia Marentette and Elisa O’Keefe called the meeting to order at 7:12 PM on September 12, 2017 in the media center of Murch Elementary School at Murch@UDC.
- Executive Board Members present: Virginia Marentette (Co-President), Elisa O’Keefe (Co-President), Ashley Webb (Vice President), Chris Cebrzynski (Principal), Meredith Grindrod (Teacher Representative), Diane Beasley (Secretary), Sharon Bennett (Treasurer), Maura Healy (Asst. Treasurer), Nisa Gosselink-Ulep (Asst. Treasurer), Maurice Werner (Budget and Planning), Sue Guzman (Hospitality, Past President), Jason Levin (Ways and Means), Amy Mack (Communications), and Stephanie Owens (Personnel).Other Members in Attendance: Christine LoCascio (SIT Representative), Michele Murphy, Kirsten Hawkins, Angela Pearson.
- Approval of prior minutes – Diane Beasley Diane presented the minutes for the June meeting, which had been posted on BaseCamp for review on September 5th, and sought the Board’s approval of the minutes. Diane made a motion that the Board ratify the previously posted minutes for the June 7th meeting as the official record of that meeting. Sue seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by unanimous voice vote.
- President’s Report – Virginia Marentette and Elisa O’Keefe
- Introductions. Elisa welcomed the meeting attendees, and all attendees introduced themselves and identified their positions on the Board or committees as applicable.
- Approval of Board Committee Chairs. The four Board committee chairs were previously identified as Maurice (Budget and Planning), Amy (Communications), Stephanie (Personnel), and Jason (Ways and Means). Virginia made a motion for the Board to approve the Committee Chairs. Maura seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by unanimous voice vote.
- Mosquito Spraying. Elisa reported that the mosquito treatment of the mulched areas was completed.
- Scholarship Fund. Virginia and Elisa summarized the key aspects of the scholarship fund approved by last year’s HSA Board. The total fund is $5000, to be disseminated towards supporting field trip costs and other expenses (e.g. Odyssey of the Mind) for low-income Murch students. The current process is for teachers to submit funding requests on behalf of the student(s) to Mary Eckstein for specific trips/events. An approval decision will be made by a team of personnel, including Mr. C., the assistant principal, counselors, etc. Upon approval, the request will be sent to the HSA with a dollar amount only (i.e. no identifying information regarding the beneficiary will be submitted to the HSA).
- New Parent Breakfast. The new parent breakfast, held on September 1st, was very successful with a good turnout.
- 4th Grade Ropes Course Field Trip Funding. Meredith discussed an upcoming field trip for 4th graders to the Adventure Park at Sandy Spring Friends School, which includes a ropes course and other activities to promote trust and collaboration among the students. The cost will be paid for with 2017 Paddles Up money raised for experiential learning. Parents will be asked to cover the cost of transportation.
- Fall Fair. Chairs are in place for the Fall Fair, which will take place on October 14th, with a rain date of October 21st.
- SOS Campaign. The SOS campaign will be launched soon. Donation requests will go out in Friday folders along with Murch car magne
- Principal’s Report – Mr. Cebrzynski
Mr. C. reported on various current events, and noted that the school year was off to a great start, with a seamless transition for most students. There are currently 571 students enrolled at Murch with a projected enrollment of 576, although that number may be surpassed as new families are joining the school.
There are some changes from last year, including the addition of new staff. Also 4th and 5th grade students can now go to the bubble since X-Day morning and afternoon programs are no longer at the Murch@UDC site.
We also have a new DCPS chancellor with a strategic plan that was presented at Back to School Night. Mr. C. noted that the improvement focuses for the school year will be: literacy, writing, and social skills, with less stress placed on test scores and more on cultivating the ability to write and express oneself clearly. Also are continuing and developing several programs for the students, including the ENCORE program, which will be coupled with resource classes, and will focus on teaching cursive, keyboarding, and literacy skills. The school will also be implementing a SEM class that kids can enroll in, and the Flex Academy after school programs will be starting shortly. Mr. C. cited research that shows that kids who participate in one to two afterschool activities are more successful, so he wants to have multiple opportunities for Murch students to choose from.
- Treasurer’s Report – Sharon Bennett.
- Monthly Financial Report. Sharon provided copies of the Balance Sheet and Income Statement, which she reviewed with the members present, and then asked if there were any questions. Sue asked about the differences in the SOS revenue on the Income Statement, and Sharon responded that the difference in the amounts was related to families who opted to spread their contributions out over the course of a few months or up to a year.
- Financial Controls. Sharon also provided a handout which detailed the financial processes and controls in place for the HSA and reviewed the various checks and balances in place, including: the accounting software for all HSA bank accounts and credit card transactions (Xero); bank account access; cash withdrawal procedures, approval, and reconciliation; deposits; check management, approval, and reconciliation; credit card transactions; expenses; cash collection procedures; and the payment system.Sharon asked that all Board members accept their Xero invitations, as it gives them the ability to view the financials as they come out, and Elisa agreed and stressed that this acts as an additional check. Sharon noted that there were two instances of credit card fraud last year, which were caught because the charges were posted to Xero and noted by Board members as suspicious.Maurice raised a question regarding Board votes on expense overages, and Sharon responded that particular check was put in place to increase transparency and act as a financial control. There is also a $2500 limit for both purchases and checks written out, again, to act as a financial safeguard.
Sharon also noted that she had spoken with counterparts at Lafayette, who had recently dealt with embezzlement within their organization, to get information on safeguards that could prevent similar circumstances at Murch. Based on these discussions, Sharon noted that the HSA has excellent financial controls in place, as noted above, and that the cash aspect was really the only area of concern. Virginia mentioned that we are looking into getting a safe to hold cash until deposits can be made, and that it would be nice to get a secure storage space for the HSA at the renovated Murch.
The HSA also utilizes an accounting firm to prepare and file taxes for the year. Sharon thanked Sue for her suggestion that every Board member review the returns, as all Board members are listed on the tax return.
- Move to Cashless System. Sharon noted that we are making efforts to transition to a cashless system. This includes moving from written checks to online bill paying, and potentially using the Square system to accept credit card payments at school events such as the Fall Fair. Elisa noted that using such a system will greatly ease the accounting process after the fair as well as being more convenient for families (and likely increase revenue at the fair). Both Mr. C. and Angela provided anecdotal evidence of the increase in revenue at school events by using Square, and the relative ease of such a system. Some discussion ensured regarding the fees and fee structure associated with Square and similar systems. Regarding PayPal, Sharon noted that we are not receiving the non-profit rate from PayPal, and Virginia asked if there was any customer service points of contact that could help with this.
- Credit Card Rewards Rebate. Sharon mentioned a new source of funds, the credit card rewards rebate on spending. She recently redeemed the accrued points in the amount of $2775, which will be used to purchase iPads and Square components.
- Budget and Planning Committee Update – Maurice Werner
- Low Income School Grant. Last year, the HSA set aside 1% of the 2017-2018 budget ($3000) for grants to low income DC schools. Maurice spoke with several parents at Wilson and Deal who had similar set asides in their budgets to see how they allocated those funds. Through these discussions, he learned about the Parent Empowerment Program (PEP), to which both the Wilson and Deal organizations donated. Maurice provided a brief overview of PEP, which is administered by the Washington Lawyers Committee (WLC) for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. PEP provides Title I schools with matching grants that support academic enrichments projects at the schools. To qualify for a grant, parent groups associated with the schools must submit an application and undergo an interview process, with the expectation that any grants awarded will match money raised by the parent groups. Grants are capped at $1000.Discussion ensured regarding the perception of politicization by donating to a program administered by the WLC, how well PEP delivered support to the applicant schools, and whether the schools receiving the grants would have systems in place to properly administer the funds. Michelle, who previously worked at Tyler Elementary, a Title I school, suggested that Maurice contact the parent groups at some schools that have worked with PEP to inquire about their experience. This suggestion was well received, as well as Virginia’s that all board members read through the documentation Maurice posted to Basecamp. Maurice added that a representative from the WLC can come to an HSA meeting to provide a brief on PEP as well as address any questions or concerns, and that they hold a quarterly luncheon that an HSA representative can attend.After much discussion, the Board concluded that Sue could attend the next luncheon as a representative, and that, in order to be transparent with the school community about where the grant could be directed, Maurice will invite a WLC representative to speak to PEP at the next HSA meeting. This way, interested families can find out more and provide feedback to the Board.
- Communications Update – Amy Mack
- New Volunteers. Amy noted that there is a large communications team in place this year, with 10 volunteers providing designated and back-up support. One of the goals of the team is to reduce paper communications and go green. Amy also noted that she would like more info on the Fall Fair, SOS campaign, and Auction so that she can coordinate the dissemination of information in a timely manner. Virginia noted that they are working on getting SOS finalized so they can roll it out and have possible giving incentives tied in with the Fall Fair. The team will also be updating the school stats on the website.
- Social Media. Amy stated that there is a dedicated social media volunteer (Katie Drossos) who will be working to increase Murch’s social media presence.
- Personnel Update – Stephanie Owens
- Employee Handbook Revisited. Stephanie reported that a first draft of the employee handbook was completed last school year, but that it is being fine tuned to more closely mirror DCPS policy with respect the PTO and sick leave for aides. Stephanie also noted that PayChex, the payroll service used for the aides, has several features that will streamline the payroll and accounting process, but that these features come at an additional cost. Virginia asked Stephanie to look into the costs associated with each of the extra features and report back to the Board.
- Six Full Time Aides, one Part-Time Aide on Staff. Stephanie summarized the number of full and part-time aides on staff at Murch.
- Ways and Means Update – Jason Levin
- Nationals Day. Jason reported that 89 tickets were sold for Nationals Day, which resulted in $445 back to the HSA. He noted that with more advance notice, sales would likely increase next time. Ashley noted that the cost could be prohibitive for some families, and asked if less expensive options could be available. Jason responded that while that particular pricing was set by the Nationals organization, he is looking into scheduling similar events for other sports and venues that will span a range of price points.
- Restaurant Nights. The HSA earned $78 from Potomac Pizza sales at Back to School Night. A restaurant event is scheduled at Tesoro on September 28th – 20% of all dining bills, all day, will be donated to the HSA. Jason is also organizing an event with Galley, a meal delivery service, from October 16-20, and information on this will be provided at the Fall Fair. Other restaurant nights are in the works throughout the school year as well.
- Shopping Rewards. Jason is setting up or renewing rewards programs with multiple stores, including Harris Teeter, Giant, Target, and Wal-Mart. Murch also participates in Amazon Smile, and with Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods, we could potentially set up a rewards program with them as well. Jason also discussed the Heart of America Foundation, which works with large companies to support school beautification days – this could be a potential when Murch moves back to the renovated facility.
- New Business
- “Screenagers” Movie Screening (Kirsten Hawkins). Kirsten, an adolescent medicine specialist and pediatrician, discussed Screenagers, a documentary about growing up in the digital age that was made by a physician. The movie addresses helping kids find balance and navigate a tech filled world. The movie is appropriate for children ages 10 and up. Schools can host screenings by either paying a flat $650 for two showings, or paying $500 and charging for tickets, with the school receiving 50% of any proceeds above the $500. Discussion ensued regarding which showing option is best, what venue to use (UDC Theater or Deal Auditorium), and what audience to invite (just Murch or other schools as well). Sue suggested not charging admission, but rather selling concessions. Kirsten also mentioned the possibility of hosting a panel that included physicians (Kirsten), filmmakers (Jen Oko), and kids for discussion after the screening. Virginia asked Kirsten to contact Mary Eckstein regarding potential screening spaces and associated costs and report back to the Board.
- Reggio Space (Sue Guzman). Sue stated that the early childhood team received approval for the purchase of Reggio materials using Paddles Up funds last year. Volunteers will be installing the materials in the mulched area on September 23rd from 10am – 2pm. Sue inquired as to whether the HSA could cover the cost of boxed lunches and coffee for the volunteers that day, which was met with approval by Virginia and Elisa.
- Meredith raised a question regarding the disbursement of Paddles Up funds and whether grades can submit multiple requests per year. Elisa responded that the funds would be spread among the grades so that all would benefit, but that there were no hard and fast rules regarding disbursement. In this vein, Meredith mentioned that the 4th grade is reading Wonder and a movie version is being released in November – is there a possibility that Paddles Up could be used to fund a movie night? Discussion ensued regarding the book and possibility of a movie night, with no conclusion.
- Old Business
- SIT Update (Christine LoCascio). Christine reported that there has been significant progress at the site, including the completion of the roof on the cafeteria, the installation of the green roof over the media center, and the new window installations. Discussions on furniture selections will be taking place soon, and the SIT has an onsite tour scheduled for September 27th, during which they will be able to tour the inside of the building.Christine also presented a rendering of the early childhood playground, which will be located on the roof of the cafeteria. The SIT was solicited for comments on the playground design, and the team provided a coordinated response. Basically, the initial design was almost identical to the playground at Forest Hills, so the SIT requested some changes to the design to differentiate the Murch playground from Forest Hills’, as well as to incorporate some features unique to the Murch neighborhood landscape.
Elisa adjourned the meeting at 8:45 PM.