June PTA Meeting Notes

The PTA is once again coordinating custom school supply kits for the 2018-2019 school year. Order here.

Letter from PTA president Fred Azcarate on the Principal Selection Process

Fellow Piney Branch Parents


First, thanks to all the volunteers who helped organize a great Pool-A-Palooza on Wednesday night – Thank You!.  Much thanks to everyone that showed up and had a great time in the pool and out of it, especially our Parents and Teachers who swam races for all of our enjoyment.

There are a lot more events coming up – and I’ll detail them in another email I’ll send out later today.  I do want to update everyone on the Principal Selection Process.

As folks know, almost as soon as we found out that Ms. DuBois was leaving the PTA appointed a Committee, Co-Chaired by Dalia Hochman and Lyssia Merriman who have done a great job representing our interests in this process. As part of their work they summarized some of the parent discussion last week, which I will paste in below.

As you know, MCPS Director Eric Wilson came last week and detailed the overall process. Here it is:

1. Job listing posted on the MCPS job site for about a week.

2.  Conversation with parents (which was done at that meeting) regarding characteristics we’d like in a new Principal.

3. Online survey on characteristics (to teachers and staff) open for 4 days (which included 2 weekend days) Thanks to all who were able to get online to fill out a survey.

4. MCPS Staff review of applicants to get to approx. 3-4 to interview

5. MCPS appointment of Parents/Teachers/MCPS Staff to in Interview Panel

6. Interviews of applicants for no more than 30 minutes/candidate. All questions created by MCPS staff. No questions or follow-ups allowed to be asked that have not been created by MCPS staff and pre-approved.  Panelists will see the questions right before the first interview.

7. MCPS staff do a post interview review to get to 1 or possibly 2 candidates that get sent to the Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent and Associate Superintendent.

8. Superintendent makes a recommendation to the Board of Education at it's April 12th meeting for appointment

9. New Principal starts on July 1.


A number of parents (including myself) who were at this meeting were a little taken aback by the process:

1. The speed of the search relative to the start date.

2. Limited (in both time and scope) of parent and teacher input.

3. For most of interview panel the invitation is to watch the proceedings (since you aren't allowed to ask questions) and participate in short discussions after each candidate.

4. The shortness of the actual interviews.


Since that meeting MCPS has appointed an interview panel of 15 people, including 4 members of the MCPS Central Office Staff, 6 members of the PBES Staff, and 5 parents


I was told by the MCPS Director that I wasn’t allowed to know the names of any of the panelists, even the parents (even though I am one of the parents on the panel). He did provide me with demographic information for the panel (though my own race/ethnicity was wrongly characterized).  Based on the information he provided we have no Black or African-American parents represented on the panel. When I was provided with this information, I pointed it out and said this seemed like a grave oversight given that our school has a 36% Black or African American population. I have not heard back but I intend to pursue this issue with MCPS.


PTA parents and leadership have tried to participate in this process by:

* Reaching out to Eric Wilson by email and phone to discuss the search process and encourage a more open listening session for the central office to hear the priorities of parents (which took place on March 7).
* Attempting to insure Black and African American parent representation on the interview panel
* Writing sample interview questions parents would like asked, and delivering to Eric Wilson
* Working with Eric Wilson to promote the survey developed by the Central Office on Facebook and the PTA listserv, as well as encouraging more DirectEd phone calls to encourage parents to take the survey.
* Expressing concerns at meetings with Eric Wilson regarding transparency, diversity, and candidate search best practices

Recommendations made to Eric Wilson on changes to the process including: 

  • Parents and teachers on the panel should be able to write and ask at least one question each
  • Parents and teachers should have access to candidate resumes, writing samples, and other application materials
  • Parents and teachers should be able to identify one another ahead of the interviews, to discuss the priorities of their constituents
  • Interview questions should be dynamic, focusing on past experiences in tricky scenarios
  • Follow-up questions should be permitted
  • Interview length should be longer than a half-hour


We have been successful in some of our efforts (ensuring there was a conversation about actual characteristics we’d like to see in a new Principal on March 7 – the original MCPS plan was simply to take questions on the process they laid out).


The PTA Board views the failings in this process as key equity issues:

1. The interviews are in Rockville (assuming all parents from Takoma Park being able to get to Rockville)

2. The interviews are on a weekday (again a parent will have to take time off of work to observe the interviews)

3. The interviews are from 1-4pm (elementary schools end at 3:50 so parents are responsible for arranging childcare and pickup)

4. We were told that they wanted to have the parents and teachers selected to represent the diversity of the school and yet we are not allowed to know who they have selected.

5. The PTA has had to initiate every conversation regarding our questions about the process. The only proactive communication we received was being asked to spend PTA funds to provide a specific list of snacks for the interviews in Rockville.


In my opinion this search has not been the most transparent or inclusive process and significant mistakes have been made in the implementation. Despite that, I’m sure the PBES teachers, staff and parents on the panel will do all we can at the interviews next week (March 21 from 1-4pm in Rockville) to get the best possible Principal for our school.


The good news in all of this is in all likelihood we will know who our new Principal is by April 12 (though they won’t start until July 1).

As always, if anyone has any questions, comments, suggestions for me please feel free to contact me at anytime.


In solidarity,




Fred Azcarate

Piney Branch Elementary School PTA


Danilo - Madsen 5th

Alexander - Richie 3rd

Ana Natalia - Pre-K, TCS



Characteristics of a Piney Branch Future Leader


1.     Our future leader must understand what makes Takoma Park and Piney Branch unique. Examples include the rich diversity of our student population, a school that serves students across only three grades, and a school that serves many students who speak English as a second language.

2.     Our future leader must have deep experience developing a positive, safe, and orderly school culture and climate where all children feel emotionally and physically safe, and where they are given opportunities to practice restorative approaches to conflict resolution.

3.     Our future leader must have successful experience being a strategic advocate within a large school district and “managing up” in a big bureaucracy. This means, in practical terms, advocating for physical space upgrades and maintenance, ensuring small class size, supporting our teachers, and navigating other district-wide mandates and policies - an especially important skill set for Piney Branch’s new principal since a five-classroom renovation is planned for the near future.  

4.     Our future leader must demonstrate sensitivity to issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and have experience with open, transparent, and vulnerable conversations with students, parents, staff and other stakeholders.

5.     Our future leader must have a clear vision of what excellent teaching and learning look like in practice for students in Grades 3-5. S/he must have experience supporting teachers in their efforts to reach such a vision. S/he must have experience building a school culture where children feel inspired and develop a love of learning.

                6.     Our future leader must be collaborative and partner with other building administrators, teachers, parents, and students, and with the administration and staff at neighboring Takoma Park Elementary School and Takoma Park Middle School.

Restorative Practices at PBES
Ms. Greenberg presented on the Restorative Practice approaches PBES is embracing. See her presentations slides here!

Upcoming Events:

March 14, 5-8pm Pool-a-Palooza
Pool party and fundraiser for supporting the pool

Sign up now!

Make a Splash and Volunteer to make Pool-A-Palooza a success!

March 16 (set-up) Readathon and Book Fair

March 19-20, GeoBowl competitions

Meet the Acting Principal, Vince Fazzalare!

Mr. Fazzalare started his teaching career at Takoma Park Elementary, back when Sam Abbott was the mayor of Takoma Park and the city was working on passing the Nuclear-Free Zone ordnance. He went on

to teach at a number of local elementary schools, before beginning to specialize in early childhood education. He moved on up into administration, where he served as Assistant Principal before retiring in 2010, and has stayed active in acting roles ever since. At the community meeting on Tuesday, January 23, he described his latest appointment as a homecoming. Mr. Fazzalare encouraged parents to drop by to talk with him about anything on their mind, and particularly emphasized having sit-down chats in h

is office rather than bus stop fly-bys. He really wants to get to know the issues of the

school and the people too. As for himself, he's from a large Italian family in Philadelphia, he lives in Silver Spring, where he loves to cook and garden, especially roses. He's also a passionate reader. Mr. Fazzalare emphasized that he holds himself to high standards, and that sets the tone for his relationship with teachers, students, and parents too. Please make a connection with him soon!

Letter from the PTA President

Past letters are archived here.

January 16, 2018
Fellow Piney Branch Parents:
 Just wanted to relay a couple of updates regarding some important issues/meetings:
 1.     Important meeting [update, Tuesday, January 23] – 7:00 – 8:00 pm in the Media Center to discuss the impending Principal transition. While we haven’t been informed yet about the substitute Principal, I hope that information will be forthcoming at this meeting or right before. Eric A. Wilson MCPS Elementary School Director for our School will be in attendance to answer our questions regarding this transition. He’ll be joined by Principal DuBois and Assistant Principal Greenberg.
2.     Update on the new elementary school for the Down County Consortium. While there is still no information on the MCPS site, the City of Takoma Park has populated information on the process and background documents here:
The City of Takoma Park staff representative to this committee raised a number of process and substantive concerns that resulted in a letter from our City Manager to Superintendent Smith. Here is a copy of that letter:
These concerns and additional questions will be discussed at the Takoma Park City Council Meeting tomorrow – the meeting begins at 7:30, I believe these issues will come up at the work session scheduled to start at 8:30pm – so maybe some of us can go right to the City Council meeting from the PBES meeting tomorrow night!
3.     I know a notice went home with 5th graders today. The incoming 6th grade parent meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 22 at 6:30pm at the TPMS Cafeteria (snow date – 1/29 at 6:30pm)
As always, thanks for your support. Please feel free to let me know of any questions or concerns you may have.

In solidarity,


Fred Azcarate

PBES PTA President

Danilo – 5th, Madsen

Alex – 3rd, Richie

Panther Pride Appeal

Thank you to the families who have made generous donations! We raised almost $6,000 of the $10,000 goal.
The Panther Pride appeal is focused on funding three big priorities for the 2017-2018 school year:
  • $5,000/yr for the pool, including swim lessons in gym class and math mania
  • $3,000 for cultural assemblies throughout the year
  • $2,000, this year we would like 4 teachers from PBES to attend the National Math Conference in DC.
If you would still like to give, here is a link to pay online (add Panther Pride to the memo please)
Kelly Young
VP of Fundraising

Recent Events:

PBES Fathers & Fitness, Tuesday, September 19, 8:30-9 a.m.:

Calling all fathers (or uncles, grandfathers, or male friends/guardians/mentors)!
Bring your child and join the PBES community on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 8:30-9:00am, for some low-impact fitness fun as part of our annual Fathers and Fitness event.
Please wear comfortable clothes and sneakers for an AWESOME workout at school!
Once you arrive, follow signs to your workout!
Please join the PTA Health & Wellness Committee in thanking MAD Fitness for leading this session for the second year in a row. MAD Fitness (www.madfitness.us) is a mother-and-daughter Takoma Park fitness center. We appreciate their partnership!
Fathers for Fitness is a countywide MCPS event that is part of part of the national movement Dads Take Your Child to School: www.dadstakeyourchildtoschoolday.com.

Back to School Night, Tuesday, September 19, 6-8:30pm:

Join your teachers, PBES leadership and the PTA for an introduction to the school year and classroom discussion.

Join the PTA for this school year, today

Whether you are new to PBES or a veteran panther, please joint the PBES PTA for the 2017-2018 school year. The all-volunteer power of the PTA helps our kids, our school and our community in ways large and small: 
  • Before and After School Clubs. 
  • Supplemental academics, like the Geo-Bowl. 
  • Underwrite field trips. 
  • Social Events like Bingo Night, Gingerbread Night, International Night, and the Student Talent Show where families come together, have fun and share their diverse backgrounds. 
Fill out the online membership form and pay dues online via PayPal.
You can also print out the hardcopy membership form and submit cash or a check in your child's Take Home Folder. Checks should be made out to PBES PTA. All donations are tax deductible.
--For more information, contact Alex Ruttenberg or Janice Simsohn Shaw

2017-2018 School Supply Lists are here!

See everything you need for all grades right here.
(Students in the new 4th grade Center Program at PBES will receive a different supply list).

Meet the new PTA Board :        

PresidentFred Azcarate
Executive VPAlly Piazza
VP of Fundraising  -  Kelly Young
VP of CommunicationsAriel Woods
VPs of MembershipAlex Ruttenberg & Janice Simsohn Shaw
Treasurer Lynn Mandell
Secretary Anat Shahar

Donate gift cards for PBES families!

Ms. Kennedy, school counselor, is always accepting gift cards in modest denominations ($25) to local stores (Giant, Safeway, Aldi) to give to PBES families who need them.

Ready to volunteer?

You must complete the training course first: Training for MCPS Volunteers

Panther News. Read all about it!

Follow this link for the latest edition of the newsletterSeptember Panther News

To submit material to the newsletter, please contact the PBES PTA VP of Communications. The newsletter goes out at the beginning of every month.

                    December Panther News
                    November Panther News
                    October 2016 Panther News
                    September 2016 Panther News 
                    August 2016 Panther News
                    June 2016 Panther News
                    April 2016 Panther News   
                    March 2016 Panther News
                    February 2016 Panther News
                    January 2016 Panther News
                    December 2015 Panther News  
                    November 2015 Panther News
                    January 2015 Panther News
                    December 2014 Panther News
                    October 2014 Panther News       

Current Bylaws

At the January 15, 2013 PTA meeting, the general membership voted to approve changes to the PBES PTA bylaws suggested by the Bylaws Committee. These bylaws have been approved by the MDPTA. Click here for a copy of the bylaws.