BEN W. MURCH HOME & SCHOOL ASSOCIATION/PTA, INC.
Final Meeting Minutes November 7, 2017
HSA Presidents Virginia Marentette and Elisa O’Keefe called the meeting to order at 7:10 PM on November 7, 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 (Co-Vice President), Joanna Brown (Co-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), Jason Levin (Ways and Means), Amy Mack (Communications), Stephanie Owens (Personnel), and Sue Guzman (Hospitality, Past President).
Other Members in Attendance: Lisa Burke (SIT Representative).
- Approval of prior minutes – Diane Beasley
Diane presented the minutes for the October 3rd meeting, which had been posted on BaseCamp for review on October 11th, and have since been updated with one correction from Nisa (under Presidents’ Report, the number of iPads purchased for Michele was corrected from three to two). Diane sought the Board’s approval of the corrected minutes.
Diane made a motion that the Board ratify the corrected minutes for the October 3rd meeting as the official record of that meeting. Nisa seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by unanimous voice vote.
- President’s Report – Virginia Marentette and Elisa O’Keefe
- Screenagers Movie Update. Elisa reported that the Screenagers movie will be screened on November 29th at the UDC Theater and will be open to Murch students (10 and older) and their parents. The timing and fundraising options (sales, concessions) are still being worked out. Amy and the Communications team will be handling promotion.
- Fall Fair Update. Elisa reported that the Fair went really well, and that everyone enjoyed the event. She noted that both Laura and Liz agreed to chair the event again next year. Sharon added that we netted $4K from the fair and that credit card purchases using Square went very smoothly, so they will definitely be used at future events, although we will maintain a cash pay option.
- Request for Additional Funding from Mr. C. Virginia introduced the additional funding request from Mr. C, but noted that we will discuss it more detail during the Principal’s Report and vote by line item then.
- SOS Campaign Update. Virginia stated that the SOS campaign is going strong, at over $60K raised so far, which is higher than the amount raised at this time last year. The campaign will culminate with an event at Soapstone Market on November 17th, although there will be a push at the end of the calendar year to take advantage of those looking for additional tax breaks.
- Holiday Gift Collection Guidelines. Elisa and Virginia presented their proposed guidelines for holiday gift collections. They propose to have room parents collect for classroom teachers (and classroom aides if in PK or K) and then do a school-wide collection, facilitated by the HSA, for everyone else, including resource teachers, special educators, security guards, custodians, etc. The school-wide collection will be made via PayPal and then the gifts will be given as cash. They noted that special considerations will be made for HSA funded aides, as they typically receive a bonus from the HSA, and will do this on a case-by-case basis.
- 2017 Paddles Up Money for K, 1st and 5th Grade Field Trips. A number of exciting field trips will be funded using the Paddles Up money (1st grade will go to a children’s museum, 5th grade is going to Gettysburg). Meredith added that 4th grade has already gone on their ropes course trip funded by Paddles Up, and it was very successful.
- Stock Donations. Joanna is working on setting up a mechanism so that people can donate stock to the HSA, which will then immediately be sold for cash. She is working to identify some brokerage firms (or other online sites) that do this for a small fee and work out the process. Her hope is to get this set up so people can donate prior to the year end. She asked for anyone on the Board who has experience doing this, or connections with people at brokerage firms that might be able to get us good prices, contact her in order to move things along.
- Principal’s Report – Mr. Cebrzynski
- School News. Mr. C. reported on a number of school events. The second cycle of Encore and SEM classes is starting and students in grades K through 5th have the opportunity to sign up for an area of interest class (e.g. nature exploration, knitting, etc.) taught by a teacher or other school staff. Mr. C noted that they have also recrafted the master schedule so that on Wednesdays 4th and 5th graders get a 45-minute lunch and can use the extra time to go to the library and use the resources there should they so choose. These schedule adjustments are practice for crafting the master schedule in the new building and figuring out ways to meet the Common Core requirements while still allowing for flexibility.
Murch students are preparing for a couple of competitions, the AMC math competition for grades 3rd through 5th, and the Geoplunge competition. He also noted that the next Open House will be next week and that Murch will be participating in EDFEST at the Armory on December 9th, which will be a chance for Murch to present info on the school. This is very exciting because it is the first year in a very long time that Murch is in a position to accept more new students.
He also noted that the school is doing a technology audit right now, to see when equipment was last purchased in order to determine if we are eligible for new equipment. Finally, Mr. C mentioned that the next school wide morning meeting will be on November 17th and will be run by the 4th grade. The meeting starts at 8:45am and lasts about 20 minutes; parents are welcome to attend.
- Request for Additional Funding. Mr. C presented some background on a one-time request from the school to the HSA for additional funding to cover a budget shortfall in the amount of $18.5K. He had posted a document to BaseCamp on November 6th detailing the request and how it came about. At the meeting, he summarized this information for the Board as follows. The school was counting on approximately $96K previously allocated for a teaching position that would be made available to them through the IMPACT evaluation process. Prior to the start of the 2017-18 school year, the decision was made to hire a 0.5 math teacher at $48K/year and additional 0.5 social worker. However, due to an error at the district level, the $96K teaching position remained intact and the school was in a challenging position. The school decided to reallocate and use $48K of the $54K non-personnel budget to fund the 0.5 math teacher as this was in the best interests of Murch students (math teacher supports grades 3rd through 5th), and opted not to increase the social worker position by 0.5. This left just $6K in non-personnel funds. Non-personnel funds generally cover five categories (educational supplies, custodial supplies, electronic learning, office supplies, and professional development) and the $6K remaining would not be enough to cover the school’s needs over the remainder of the school year. With this in mind, Mr. C asked for the HSA to help cover some of that shortfall by asking for the following funding: $8K for educational supplies, $3.5K for custodial supplies, $1.5K for electronic learning, $1.5K for office supplies, and $4K for professional development. He then invited the Board to ask any questions they may have regarding the funding request and the situation that predicated it. Questions to Mr. C included the following (Mr. C’s responses summarized in italics):
- (Maura) Did you expect to the $96K teaching position to open up? Yes.
- (Maurice) Can you clarify the numbers floating around? We thought $96K would be available, of which we would use $48K to fund the 0.5 math. When $96K position remained, we reallocated $48K of $54K non-personnel funds to cover that position, so only had $6K left for non-personnel, which left us with a shortfall.
- (Maurice) Had you planned on having a FT social worker? Yes, but that went down to half-time after the district level error was identified.
- (Sue) When did you learn you needed to adjust your staffing plan based on the error? In late July. Talked to the current HSA Board Presidents at that time and decided to wait until later in the school year to address so we could figure out how to offset some of the costs.
- (Ashley) If the Board voted not to approve some or all of the request, how would you make up for non-personnel shortfall? Would have to set up a fundraising effort, but that would be tricky as it would need to be set up in such a way as to not cannibalize HSA fundraising efforts.
- (Amy) What is your priority in terms of the funding categories? Educational supplies, 2. Custodial supplies, 3. Electronic learning, 4. Office supplies, and 5. Professional development.
- (Amy) Is this unprecedented? Not really. While this particular error is new, school has asked HSA to fund unplanned purchases in prior years. Mr. C took care to note that this ask is a one-time request and this will not be a yearly request.
- (Lisa) In terms of the social worker, once it was decided to only fund 0.5 of the position, did the case work reduce accordingly? No, the student needs are unchanged and the school and social worker are trying to make sure students’ needs are met but it is challenging. (Sue remarked that the effect of the reduced position is discernable with respect to the students.)
- (Maurice) How will this play out next year? We don’t know, it really depends on the IMPACT scoring. Discussion ensued regarding staffing plan for next year, then Virginia noted that this is a separate issue.
- (Sue) For the Professional Development ask, did the Reggio consultant work with the teachers last year? Is it needed again this year? She worked with the Pre-K teachers last year and is working with K teachers this year. There is a knowledge gap between the Pre-K and K teachers so the consultant is worthwhile.
- (Sharon) When will you need purchasing through? Through June. All requested funds will be spent by the end of the school year. (Sharon noted that while the Board would vote to approve the funding request today, funds would not be issued as a lump sum, but rather the regular HSA purchasing process would be used.)
After the question and answer session, several Board members provided additional information regarding the request. Maurice noted that the Principal’s Fund was used to fund several items that the HSA had paid for in other years (Battle of the Books, recorders, planners), so of the $18.5K ask, the HSA was given relief in other budget areas of $8.5K. Sharon noted that the HSA was financially in a strong position to be able to approve the request, and that the Board could make adjustments to other areas of the HSA budget to offset the request, but that this was not necessary fiscally. Sharon also remarked that she would create a new budget line for the request so that it could be tracked. Sue remarked on the necessity to clearly document the entire discussion in the minutes so that the Murch community could see the Board’s thought process in approving or denying the request. Amy added that the minutes are available publicly on the Murch website, so transparency between the Board’s decisions and the Murch community will not be an issue.
Once all questions were presented and discussion closed, Virginia and Elisa discussed the voting process with the Board and it was agreed that the Board hold a voice vote on each non-personnel funding category.
Jason made a motion to approve additional funding not to exceed $8K for educational supplies (which includes all materials to support learning in the classroom, science fair boards, science equipment/materials for experiments and experiential learning opportunities, construction paper, glue, chart paper, tape, index cards, pencils, and ink for printers), in accordance with all HSA financial guidelines and purchasing procedures. Virginia seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by unanimous voice vote.
Jason made a motion to approve additional funding not to exceed $3.5K for custodial supplies which includes toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags and other supplies, in accordance with all HSA financial guidelines and purchasing procedures. Maura seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by unanimous voice vote.
Jason made a motion to approve additional funding not to exceed $1.5K for electronic learning to purchase Mystery Science and additional Lexia licenses, in accordance with all HSA financial guidelines and purchasing procedures. Elisa seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by unanimous voice vote.
Jason made a motion to approve additional funding not to exceed $1.5K for office supplies which includes paper, report card envelopes, postage, Band-Aids for when nurse is not at Murch, in accordance with all HSA financial guidelines and purchasing procedures. Elisa seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by unanimous voice vote.
Jason made a motion to approve additional funding not to exceed $4K for professional development which will secure the services of Jen Azzarati, a Reggio consultant, in accordance with all HSA financial guidelines and purchasing procedures. Maura seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by a voice vote of 14-0, with one abstention.
- Treasurer’s Report – Sharon Bennett
Sharon provided a summary of the monthly financials. She noted that she did find one error in the budget (a difference of $195), which has since been corrected. She reported that Liberty Mutual came back with an additional premium because they have a requirement to insure two Board member salaries of $75K each. Sharon stated that we should be exempt from this requirement as the HSA is a non-profit, and is working to resolve this issue. She pointed out that we are already receiving auction revenue from the sponsors. Finally, she noted that there will need to be a separate meeting to address the approved line items from Mr. C’s funding request (see Section 5).
- Budget and Planning Committee Update – Maurice Werner
- Low Income School Grant. Maurice reported that PEP received applications from Title I schools in multiple wards, and that the approved applications will be decided in November. Because of the Murch donation to PEP, they will be able to fund six additional grants.
- 2018-19 Budget Process. The Budget and Planning committee is working to clean up the budget in order to make it easier to understand and increase transparency. They are looking into moving from a detailed line item view to a rolled-up budget presented by category, as well as cleaning up the liabilities to increase clarity.
- Communications Update – Amy Mack
- SOS Campaign End. Amy asked about wrapping up the SOS campaign promotion and whether there would be any promotion beyond November 17th. Virginia responded that while the official campaign ends November 17th, there will be an additional push at the end of the calendar year, and that will need to be promoted as well. Room parents will also be sending out an email as an additional push.
- Winter Concert (Festival of Lights) and Talent Show Promotion. The Festival of Lights will be held on December 21st and some information on the performance and clothing requirements for the students was included in a website post, although Amy will work with Ashlee on some new messaging the further promotes the show. The Talent Show has been pushed to January 26th and Marsha will be creating an online form that students can use to register. Amy will reach out to the organizers for what they need in terms of promotion and communication planning.
- Auction Communication Strategy. The auction always requires a lot in terms of promotion and messaging. Elisa noted that Jess will be organizing the auction again this year, so Amy will work with her on communications.
- Emergency Communications. There have been two incidents requiring emergency communications this year. While Elizabeth Mettler has given Mary access to Mail Chimp for emergency messaging, we really need an emergency communications plan. Mr. C. noted that the best time to discuss this is during a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) meeting. He stated he would let Amy know when the next one is so that she can participate and raise the issue there.
- Personnel Update – Stephanie Owens
Stephanie reported that since switching to the new Paychex plan that includes additional services (such as leave tracking), we are saving approximately $40 a month. She also notified the Board that she made an executive decision to pay the aides for the 1.5 hours they worked beyond 3:30pm during the lock down situation at the end of October. She noted that there were two professional development days during this pay period, putting the aides well under their normal weekly hours, so the extra lock down pay would not affect the aides budget.
- Ways and Means Update – Jason Levin
- Tesoro and Galley results. Tesoro Day brought in $740, and Galley week earned us $118, for a total of $858 earned for these events.
- Potomac Pizza Day. Murch Day at Potomac Pizza will be held on November 15th at their Chevy Chase location (19 Wisconsin Circle) from 4-9pm and will be valid for dine-in or carry out purchases.
- Giant A+ Rewards. Jason reported that we started the school year with 24 accounts, and that number is up to 43. He plans to keep working to get that number up throughout the school year. Also, based on the first month, we are tracking to earn $1200 for the school year, and that number does not include earnings from new accounts.
- 10. New Business
- Open House Tours (Ashley Webb). Ashley noted that there will be five Open House tours with the first scheduled for November 16th. She is working with Ms. Otten to bring in peer mediators for a student panel at the end of the Open Houses. She also noted that Lisa Burke and Martha McIntosh will be helping with the Open Houses.
- Old Business
- SIT Update (Lisa Burke). Lisa reported on the SIT progress and presented a plan drawing of the Murch campus, with specific consideration to the grounds and outdoor playspaces. She noted that the entrance to the large play area is still being worked out (fenced vs. gated) and that the safety of the students will affect the decision. She noted that one of the older oak trees on the campus is dead and will be removed, which will allow room for a full basketball court, should that be included in the design. The SIT has been working with the designers to provide suggestions and changes on the larger playspace design and presenting ideas that could increase the play areas. She noted that the basketball courts would be blue top, with rubberized material under the play structures, and artificial turf on the “green” areas. The SIT also learned that approval was given to push the fences out closer to the sidewalk which provide gains in space. She also talked about the design of the early childhood and large playspaces and how they will reflect our location (nods to Soapstone and Broad Branch, inclusion of climbing rocks, educational signs on nature).
In terms of the building, she reported that construction was on schedule. Brick is going up on the new buildings and mature planting will be brought in to make up for the loss of mature greenery.
- LSAT Update (Maurice Werner). Maurice attended the November 7th LSAT meeting, held just prior to this HSA meeting. He briefed the board on the discussion points which included: lack of data on writing in the strategic plan; schedule changes for 3rd graders and future schedule adjustments; increasing transparency with regards to the budget process between the LSAT and HSA; comprehensive school plan (up on website); play/PE space issues at the Murch@UDC campus; and ideas for the new building (teaming with EcoRise, butterfly garden, dealing with overcrowding). Maurice informed the Board that the nurse position was approved as full time by the city council, but the Mayor has not yet funded it. Maurice and Mr. C also noted that the Chancellor has started asking for feedback on the budget engagement forms and has noted there is a large achievement gap based on race, and is looking for ways to close this gap. Maurice noted that any adjustments to the budget with respect to the achievement gap will not affect the 2018-19 budget, but may impact the 2019-20 budget.
- HSA as part of National PTA (Sue Guzman). Sue has been working with a committee to investigate whether the Murch HSA should join the National PTA. Sue reported that the existing DC PTA charter was removed and is currently being re-chartered under new leadership. She looked into the advantages of becoming a PTA and determined that the only real benefits were for organizations that are just starting up and not fully functioning (e.g. help with setting up EIN and bylaws, and complying with audits). She also stated that there were no legal advantages to joining the PTA and that currently no Ward 3 schools are members or have any plans to become members. Based on the committee’s investigation, she recommended that the Murch HSA not join the national PTA. She also noted that if the Board agrees with this recommendation, the Communications team will need to update all references to the Murch HSA/PTA on the Murch website to just Murch HSA.
Sue made a motion that the Board formally decide not to join the National PTA. Virginia seconded the motion, there was no objection, and the motion passed by unanimous voice vote.
Virginia and Elisa adjourned the meeting at 8:52 PM.