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2009-01 January Minutes

Atkinson PTA
Minutes for 1/13/09 meeting

Attending: Gabriela Goldfarb, Lydia Hernandez, Jim Laden, Gretchen Dursch, Tally Armbruster, Trish Vawter, Karla Zirbes, Teresa Wirsching, Elliott Young, Barb Frank, Laura Mason, Anne Myrthue, Sheri Campbell, Amy Jo Mooney, Tyler Whitmire (Stand for Children), Chris Gutierrez

Auction -- Jim Laden:  Focused on getting volunteers & donations in the coming weeks (especially vacation homes), pushing attendance starting in February. Jean Hansen is lead on donations.

Playground Cover -- Jim Laden & Gretchen Dursch:  Jim explained that the playground shelter committee decided that it is necessary to do further outreach to get input on siting and design of a shelter, but especially to confirm how many people really object to having their children play in the rain, what about putting shelter over the basketball court, etc. Most of all, want to provide a way for all members of the community to weigh in, not just the vocal few. Gretchen conveyed the information that Atkinson is listed on a PPS list of schools that would receive a playground cover because there is a state mandate for all schools to have shelters – it won’t be optional. That’s why PPS is planning to pursue this and included all schools that don’t already have shelters. Schools that already have shelters are not included. Gretchen will be in touch with the lead school board member to get more information and report back in time to incorporate that information in the questionnaire. The big question is when a bond measure will go on the ballot and if it would pass.
Parent Workshops -- Gretchen Dursch:  Gretchen and Betse Thielman are working on setting up speakers/workshops on various topics. If someone is interested in suggesting topics, contact Gretchen or Betse.
Visit by Governor Kulongoski and other dignitaries:  Tomorrow (1/14/09) Room 109, with its leaky roof, will be the focus of a press conference w/the Governor, Superintendent Carole Smith, and other state and federal officials to highlight the need to invest in school infrastructure. As part of the event, a large-format letter to President Obama is available for members of the Atkinson community (parents, kids, teachers, administrators) to sign, wishing him luck and urging him to help schools.

Outreach Committee – Sandy Carter Templeman:  Outreach Committee has held a couple of meetings with some of the Asian parents to find out what type of support they would like both to participate and to increase the population at the school that has dwindled in recent years (the lack of bus service is the main cause).  The parents would like the Educational Assistants to go to area preschools to do outreach and recruitment and make presentations. Now is the time to allocate funding because now is when kindergarten roundup is happening. The EAs know which preschools to target. Jim cited interpretation line item of the budget as a place to get funding. Sandy will put together proposal, with help from Sheri on the budget aspect. Gretchen suggested having a parent accompany the EA – that would be most persuasive. Sandy noted that the lack of community is evident in planning for Lunar New Year; no parents are showing up because there aren’t very many of them.

Stand for Children Presentation – Tyler Whitmire, Portland Organizer:  Passing around flyers about the President’s Day rally in Salem, 12p to 1p, a bus will be departing from Glencoe School [Elliott Young and Karla Zirbes are looking into organizing a Stand for Children chapter at Atkinson and getting buses to go from Atkinson – see below].
Tyler provided an overview of Stand’s role as a membership organization (2,000 across the state) that advocates for kids in the political process at the state level. Want to get 5,000 people to the rally (got 3,000 in 2006); rally underscores groundwork laid earlier during political campaigns that helped get pro-education candidates elected. Rally reminds legislators that they can’t forget their promises. That said, budget forecast is terrible, PPS forecasts a $22 million cut for next year. The upside of the bad economy is that now is the best time to change the system for getting and allocating revenue, so that corporations pay more, and a rainy day fund is established to cushion schools during hard times. Elliott Young agreed coordinate tracking  Stand’s other priority is improving teacher quality by pushing for mentoring programs, and Stand helped secure funding from the legislature for 1000 new teachers to get funding; Portland didn’t get it. Other emphasis is early childhood education.

Exploring local Stand Chapter - Elliott Young, Karla Zirbes are convening 1/14/09 at 8:45a at Petit Provence to organize Atkinson parents to secure long term funding; exploring how/whether to work with Stand for Children. Also want to focus on recruiting more participation by fathers at Atkinson. Will look outside of the “usual suspects” who are already tapped out with other Atkinson activities, try to recruit new participants from Atkinson community.

Principal Chris Gutierrez – Budget perspective:  Chris reviewed the “Messages for parents and community members”, memo developed by the PPS budget department. This year there will be no cuts, but next year’s situation is serious. The principal, Rob Stewart, and the PTA Co-Presidents Sheri Campbell and Gabriela Goldfarb have set up a process to meet weekly and communicate accurate information as quickly as it is available to the Atkinson community. We want the same info to go to everyone at the same time. We will use our much-more-comprehensive email list, organize meetings to get input. Do not want inaccurate rumors to circulate and cause confusion and concern. If people start hearing rumors, please contact Sheri or Gabriela. One big question for Atkinson is what our student population will be next year; may be higher because people are pulling their kids out of private schools.

Elliott asked whether we cannot proactively organize and identify priorities for cutting/saving programs or positions. Sheri clarified that Chris is going to have to cut an EA position next year because PTA did not include in this year’s budget the EA position we’ve been funding in recent years. Trish asked about having a paddle bid at the auction that would be earmarked for an EA position. Sheri suggested analyzing past priority-setting exercises to get insights. For February meeting, present that, and latest about what we do and don’t know. Gabriela talked about the fact that the budget we approved in October contemplated that we would come back and reconsider our decision in March, after we knew the results of the auction and (now) taking into consideration the results of the survey Jim will do and info Gretchen will get about the bond measure funding a shelter. Sandy expressed concern about how to go back to Latino community not getting their priorities met.
Chris explained that priority has been keeping resources in the classrooms; Sheri noted that Chris absorbed cuts w/out eliminating librarian, music program, etc. Gretchen suggested Chris convening a priority setting meeting. Sheri said doing meetings at drop off, at pick up, and in the evening would work; but we need to know what the message is. Elliott explained that he wants to understand better how the district makes the decisions. Sheri suggested that we contact Glencoe Stand to co-sponsor an event, and get a school board member or budget committee member to come. Trish asked Chris about his statement that he was committed to not funding staff with PTA funds; would he reconsider and come to the PTA, given the current economic situation. Chris talked about his philosophical objection to parents funding positions. Sheri reiterated plan to maintain tight communications of what decisions Chris is contemplating in a timely way. Anne Myrthue underscored the importance of getting people to Salem, Trish the importance of getting people to Atkinson.

The meeting adjourned at 8:10p.