The Zoom meting was called to order at 7:00pm on Tuesday, October 20 – postponed from Monday, October 12th due to the Columbus Day holiday.
The minutes from the 9/14/20 meeting were approved.
Attendees included: Deborah Villareal-Hadley, Tessie Thomas, Brian Fleischer, Courtney Redfern, Kristin Wood-Werner, Diane Tehranian, Marco Pedersen, Julie Clemens, Simone Robinson, Norrinda Hayat, Natalie Sullivan, Patty Gamcsik, Kathryn Fogliano, Jada Roman, Brad Haggerty, Mary Sue Youn, Marci Clark, Amy Uhlfelder, Laura Hertzog, Adeola Whitney, Trente Miller, Selma Avdicevic, Andrew Gideon, Christine Calderon, Lisa Ryder, Christy Crawford, Meredith Pressler, Veronica Harris, Eileen Birmingham
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President Debbie Villarreal reported that…
– at the HS a group of parents have begun to schedule meet-ups for their freshmen students, but the plans for organizing a PTA-like parent group have stalled
– the PTAC had a conversation with the MFEE to work together to fundraise for 1:1 computers in the district, an initiative proposed by Dr. Ponds and Sergio Gonzales
– Edgemont’s emergency town hall was well attended and provided parents with more information about the benefits of outdoor learning
– Other meetings in the past month including EAROG, PTA presidents meeting and the PTAC meeting with Dr. Ponds have helped to keep us informed of the status of our parents and students during this isolating period
– suggested reading; in NJ.com – the unsafe re-entry of special education re-entry of special education students and staff
– and about being able to get our students back into the classrooms, this article in NJ.com outlines measures that could help us negotiate with the MEA
- Provide all teachers with a temporary hazard pay increase of 5%. But Brian and Laura added the the district does not have the excess funds to be able to do this
- Grant a waiver for children of teachers to attend full-time.
- Offer onsite day-care.
Debbie wrote to the BOE and Dr. Ponds that… “It would help ease parents’ stress to telegraph in some legal way, that steps are being taken to make it so that our teachers will come back to our buildings so that students will be able to go back to school.” Laura commented that the union does not always share the information/negotiations with the teachers. Consistent with what has happened before.
– Debbie noted that there may be an influx of teachers joining our PTAs which is good news as we need to hear from our teachers. But as so many of our teachers are expressing their disapproval of actions taken by the superintendent and the BOE, PTA Presidents should not feel pressured to take actions on any issues they feel would not be in the interest of all of the students in their school
Highlights from the 10/19 BOE meeting:
– report about ventilation upgrades
– genesis whitlock talked about wanting to meet again with PTAC and other student leaders
– in light of the fact that many parents feel as though they do not have enough information to decide either hybrid or remote, Dr. Ponds reported that about 60% of families had made their decision. The deadline to decide has been extended to 10/22. Trente Miller reported 56.6% responded; 43.40% did not respond yet. of the total # of families in district, 37% selected hybrid, 20% selected remote
– Teachers and some parents were critical of the districts’ actions with regard to going back into th classrooms. There were repeated requests for more information.
In the conversation that followed… Brian commented that more questions mean more answers. 140 Qs from Sarah Blaine. 90 from the teachers. There are weaknesses and some basis for criticism. But the narrative that every question needs to be answered now and in public is setting the district up for failure. Amy agreed that there are too many questions. Things may change. Says on forms about opportunity to change from remote to hybrid. Literature does not guarantee you a spot if you come in later. Jada wants Dr. Ponds to be more collaborative. What he has said we have not seen. Details are needed during a pandemic. Parent university – what happened. Teachers will be there and not one shows up. Needs to put people in place to be accountable.
Other comments… parents need to be able to give more input, doubts that we will be going back into the schools. And a suggestion that the district should publish for teachers and students/parents, separate lists… The 10 things that should be in place to go back into the classroom.”
Simone – Communication issue. Teachers don’t want to go back. You can select the hybrid model and switch to remote. Teachers are comfortable being home. Parents need to answer the survey. Teachers are disgruntled because. Ponds didn’t respond.
Natalie – concern about teaching both populations. Concern about who is going to loose their teacher?
Diane – thank you for the conversation. Not like what was at the meeting. Not like what is on FB. Other districts are opening up in states with higher covid rates without incidents. Hope we can bring sanity.
Mary sue – complex chicken and egg. Spoke with Dr. Sack. Talked about temp sensors, ventilation, teachers can ask for leave. Many teachers are excited to be back in the building. She has a problem not knowing how many students she can fit. What happens if 90% come back – what then. Some of the communication can’t be shared with the parents. Frustration for principals.
Laura – communication with Ponds and planning. He comes from a district with 400 students to a district with 7000. Surrounded by new people. Learning curve and lift. I would advocate for statement of support. Four different superintendents said our union was the most aggressive. Turnover is so great. The MEA believes that they run the district. When the parents are silent the district feels like they are left out to dry. Reality is that if the teachers don’t come back they loose their jobs. Union agrees or they get fired. The union knows that Ponds won’t fire teachers during a pandemic.
Julie – not everyone would support hazard pay. Suggests that is our statement we should describe what success look like. Too many questions. What do we want to see happen.
Kathryn – has asked many questions of Dr. Ponds and is not happy. Loudest voices support their teachers. They won’t like us supporting the administration.
Courtney – the MEA has a PR firm. We don’t. They insist that no teachers get sick.
Natalie – frustrated. Angry. Spoken to both sides. We have heard things that can’t coexist. Too much chatter.
Amy – plan was done without details about what was done in every different building. Glenfield will have double the amount of COVID touchpoints.
Laura – both can be true that the superintendent can do a better job and that the MEA can sabotage him. More useful to address what we are hoping for and we expect that the district will do to get to the success points. And lets get the district to get there.
Adeola – our job as volunteers to hold all of the leaders accountable. Frustration comes from the experience of our students. Center our needs. Not taking a side. Focus on that and work with everyone. We will support the district and the leaders.
The group voted to write a statement asking that the district make it so that all of our students are able to learn in the environment they choose.
Report from Tessie about the schools and PTA Reports:
These are a few initiatives that exemplify the outstanding work being done….together!
The first initiative is a telling example of “Collaborate to Reduce Costs” –Bullock PTA wanted to bring in a speaker. The speaker fees are fixed and based on the time they would spend. So, given that everything happens on Zoom now, this PTA reached out to other schools to see if they had an interest in attending the speaker session. 6 PTAs decided they are in and the cost per PTA dropped from $600 to less than $100!
The second initiative is an example of “Innovation in Pandemic” Dr. Ponds granted permission to the first use of school grounds for outdoor ASE program proposed by Edgemont. It’s a first and other schools can now follow this. We now have clearer guidance on the process and forms/permissions involved to get this done. In fact, Dr. Ponds’ last email asked me to call him if there are any hurdles that arise as schools goes through this.
“Collaborate to Prioritize Efforts” in ASE and Spirit wear. One school’s negative experience with their mask fundraiser resulted in all other schools knowing the do’s and don’ts around masks. Similarly, the shared experience around ASEs has been assuring to all in that all schools are facing low turnout, but fulfilling some critical needs.
Finally, similar to ASE, Spiritwear, Webmasters, we are now planning to form a group of heads of equity to share best practices and coordinate with EAROG. This process has just started. Working with this stellar group reminds me every day that we are in this together and that we can collaborate to work through all of this and more.
Bradford – Kathryn – ask Kathryn for her notes.
CHB – Marco. Let’s talk about the kids. Is participating with the speaker collaborative. Committee chair meeting. To arrange events. Meet with the class parents to connect them. Pancake breakfast on-line and pick-up. Also coat drive and canned food drive. In tandem. Remote learning survey. Reviewing answers now. ASE registration closed starts in November. Coalition for healthy school food to serve more plant based food. 10/28 green apple summit. Talk about school in the age of covid, Brooklyn mayor will be there.
Edgemont – Norrinda – hybrid harvest day. Virtual farm tour, band. Hybrid part is Brookhollow tour. Grade meet-ups outside. Making scarecrows. Nice white parents discussion. Friends giving at Montclair Brewery. Storytelling with Liz Manuela. Working on outdoors ASE. Teachers can use tents if they choose.
Hillside. Brian had a meeting with Dr. Anglin the day after the return plan was published. She answered as many questions as she could. More than 100 people showed up for the meeting. Discussed all of the parameters they need to develop. Coat drive going on now. Brian is on their pandemic response team meeting. Insight into logistics. Building leaders have measured the classrooms ID’d all of the spaces. Exec board met with parent advocates about outdoor. Financial limitations – phased in program. Outdoor fresh air breaks. Opportunity for teachers to go outside with their class. Safe and welcoming spaces. Virtual book fair with scholastic this year. Not Watchung.
Nishuane – Diane. Pancake breakfast was a huge success. Community building on zoom. Nishuane aprons sold with Bisquick delivered to their door if they wanted. Pancake competition. Reader for the kids. Trivia on cahoot. Book fair is going on now. Thanksgiving drive. Collecting money with grocery gift cards. Explorers is in their 3rd of 6 weeks. Will look into doing outdoor for next cycle. Tent for bussers and for ASE classes. Hopefully teachers will use them. We can get tents from Edgemont
Northeast. Adeola. Annual giving campaign exceeded goal of spirit wear. Global heritage cookbook. Share favorite family recipe along with teachers and staff. Working with principal and teaching staff and SAT – DEI. Global studies mission will change to include DEI. Also planning to purchase tents. Virtual blacktop – open space to engage with families to talk with PTA. Birthday books for students. Outdoor activities developing.
Watchung – Patti – walk and roll to school. Students filmed walking outside around the school. Put up on flip grid. Week of respect. Daily activities. Book fair starts 11/7. Running one ASE class. For the younger kids. Starts next week. Possibly outdoors next semester. May be doing something for Halloween. Possibly costumes. Coffee with Kren – 50 people. Another one at night for working parents. Partner with restaurant to fundraise. Partner with Bullock and look forward to collaborating with other speakers.
Buzz – Mary Sue. Memberhub is up and running. House liaisons. To help with communications. Sept pta mtg – speaker talking about anxiety. 2nd meeting about fundraising. Some parents are volunteering. New spirit wear. New designs. SATp had a meeting. Working on cyberbullying curriculum. Some anti racism work. Parent happy hour no one came to the first one. Trying to give other spaces for parents to connect. Peer mentors 8th to 6th graders via email. Clubs are meeting – science Olympiad, NOS, others. Social emotional learning during office hours.
Glenfield – Amy. Townhall, pta meeting. Record breaker attendance. Zoom helps more parents to participate. Looking for younger talent for exec board. Bring more people in. need to engage more people. Pierce and Abushi are very collaborative. Benefiting all of the parents. At the upcoming meeting teachers will talk about plans. Soft fundraising. Don’t want to run a deficit. Teacher grants to make remote learning more robust. To fill in gaps from district and MFEE. Pop up spirit wear pick-up. Send her information about in person sixth grade gatherings in the park.
EAROG – from Jada. Held a full committee meeting. 8 sub committees. Created a point of contact for each committee. Problem with info coming from the district. At the start Dr. Morgan was open and receptive. Now a trickle. Jada is aggregating requests for data from all of the groups – with a goal to have the information in 30 days. Census info. Breakdown by school – race, gender, ward location. Sub committee work in process… busing for equity committee. Looking for info and going deeper into transportation routes to go to contractor. Eurocentric curriculum – Amistad curriculum. Express that the district website does not make it easy to find needed information.
Community Building – How to Raise a Reader on October 26th at 7PM. Marci will re-send the flyers and blurb tomorrow to the distribution.
Curriculum and Special Education. met a few weeks ago. Our next steps – both as advocates for our children and as informed ambassadors to families from the district – desperately depend on some face time with instructional leadership, either Dr. Morgan or Ponds. I am very sympathetic to the demands they both face on their time so would love to piggyback on any existing meetings to get some of that facetime. We want to be a resource to PTAs and parents generally about the district’s academic vision for all students but will struggle to be successful without some face time. Also – we are in convo with EAROG on key issues common to both committees. Thank you for creating the space for the convo to start our meeting.
Finance – Updated charter. Initiatives for the year to educate our community about the budget process culminating in a community event with board of school estimates. With Jon Forte. Meeting again tomorrow. Need to connect with the BOE finance committee. District is too overwhelmed.
SEPAC -ABA parents are all different. Some of the parents are speaking out in support of teachers. Many do want to go back to school . growing concern about being remote. Concerned that the quality of remote will go down. Parents worried about widening gap. Can cause regression or delay. Individualized support. Parents in the dark.
Health and wellness are meeting with MFEE, work in mental health and physical health. Pushing those into the learning.
Meeting adjourned at 9:00pm