September 25, 2013 - Minutes of the Home and School Meeting

Prince Street Elementary School

Home and School Meeting
Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Home and School president Shelley Muzika called the meeting to order and invited all the people present to introduce themselves. She described the way the meetings usually go. Minutes are posted on the website.

Funding Updates

Shelley shared a recent bank statement. We have about $4,500 we raised last year to support our activities this year. We will aim to raise a similar amount for activities next year.

Heather MacEwen is the new treasurer. Our main fundraiser is the Spring Fling, a school and community fun time. Fundraising is not the focus, but we do try to bring in some money through bake sales, ticket sales on a basket of donated items, and similar evnts.

Some of the uses of Home and School funds include Grade 6 closing and some awards, staff-teacher appreciation, recognitions of retiring staff, and sometimes help for families that have special fundraising needs.

Provincial Home and School

Provincial Home and School has leadership training sessions in the fall. These are free and open to help people build skills and confidence to be able to take part in their local home and schools.

The provincial Home and School semi-annual meeting will take place October 15th. We can send up to 5 people from Prince Street School as voting members, and the Prince Street home and School will cover the costs for anyone interested. The website is a good resource to see what other schools do about similar challenges. There are sub-committees doing work on some issues, and you don't have to be involved in your local home and school to be part of a sub-committee.

The provincial Home and School offers annual Parent Leadership Grants. We have benefitted from these in the past. There will be more information about grant programs later in the year.

There will be an Annual General Meeting for the Provincial home and school in April, and there will be resolutions discussed and voted on. Resolutions can be on any topic related to policy that is of interest to parents. Resolutions go to the Minister of Education or to the English School Board, and these officials are required to respond. Home and School is an important voice on questions of policy.

Principal's Report
Erin Johnston

Erin shared a written report, including the up-to-date staff list. There's one change since the Handbook: Kerri Lee Mallard is hired as the A+ teacher. Jaynie MacLean, the Youth Service Worker for this program will be going on a sick leave and someone will replace her.

There are children from Charlottetown Rural and Colonel Gray who take part in the A+ program, which serves kids with some particular needs such as behavioural needs, but it is housed here at Prince Street.

The English Additional Language teacher is Lori Johnston. The number of EAL students is lower this year: just over 30 students.

Data from assessments are in but are still confidential. In October there will be a writing prompt on explanatory writing. The school will do this kind of exercise at least twice, perhaps three times. Exercises will be appropriate to grade level.

Supervised homework support: Anyone can go as long as they get picked up at the end of the session. Last year, there were up to ten people in the Homework Club.

Breakfast Program: Amazing volunteers come in regularly and consistently to support the breakfast program. The need for volunteers usually comes about when Holland College and UPEI students aren't available -- December, May, and June.

Milk: Tomorrow is free milk day, on the Terry Fox Run. Anyone who wants it gets a free milk. The milk supplier gives one free day every year.

Feedback about Meet the Teacher Night: This year's meet the teacher was less structured and formal, and feedback was generally good. There was time to look around and chat. Cupcakes were well received (rather than blueberries and ice cream).

HPV needles were received without a lot of drama.

Our Public Health Nurse in the past was Michelle Miller, and she has been reassigned. We will have a new person assigned soon.

Volunteers: It is hard to keep up with all the volunteers!

"Donna's Den" Library Project: There was an update on "Donna's Den": A former student of Prince Street died of cancer, and her family and friends took up a collection and wanted to do something in her memory, so they created a "nook" in the library. She had worked for M&M furniture who donated washable furniture. The mural is painted by Warren Reeson -- and he added to the mural and included Donna's name. Colleen Mullen-Doyle, Liz Pendergast, and Philip Brown coordinated the project, and there was a good community gathering to unveil the space. There will be a news release.

Grant application last year for PEI 2014 -- Liz Pendergast and Warren Reeson applied. He's going to create a mural along the top of the bookshelves in the library, depicting evolution through time. Work can't start until January 2014, according to the terms of the grant. There will be an unveiling and opening for that in June 2014.

Professional Development Day, September 20: There were options for teachers to choose among, and the educators reported an excellent day.

Coupon book fundraiser: There was concern from one parent about the cash-only fundraiser and children carrying larger amounts of money on the bus on a day when people know they might be carrying a lot of money. It is really hard to deal with cheques that don't work out, and that led to the decision to deal with cash only. Some parents drop the cash off at the office rather than send it with their kids. This saves work and embarrassment. However, the safety challenge was acknowledged.

Terry Fox Run: This is a schoolwide event, scheduled for tomorrow if the weather is fine. Otherwise, it will be rescheduled until the next day.

Puppy Project: This continues. Kids take big responsibilities with the puppies. Eileen Higginbotham runs this program. She gave a session about the project at the provincial Home and School last year, and it was really amazing. She talked about the way that the dogs respond to the kids really sensitively and help them calm down and settle.

Snack Cupboard: There is a snack cupboard for kids who need something to eat, and donations are always welcome. It must be completely peanut free. Any of those peanut imitation products are also not allowed. It is too hard to distinguish them from real nut products.

ID Tags: It is an advantage that Erin doesn't know anyone, so she chases everyone down the hall and asks them to wear a tag, even if they think they are known to the school. It is very important for the safety of all the children in the school that all visitors check in at the office. 

Field Trips: There was an update on upcoming firled trips. Field trips will be combined with curriculum outcomes.

Math assessments: There's a result back in November. Assessments are based on 2 intense days, and during these days, educators learn a lot about the kids. The assessments give info to the Province about what they need to provide support for teachers on -- and also provide good school-based information as a group and as individual students to help bring students along. Sometimes our scores are not necessarily a true reflection of students' marks. EAL students are not on modifications or IEPs -- so it is not allowed to give them any extra support. This is not really fair. It's a snapshot -- one test on one day. It may be a bad day for lots of students for lots of reasons, but it provides valuable information. It is not the be-all end-all.

Welcome to Kindergarten: The school is in the process of applying for a Welcome to Kindergarten grant for $1,000 in support of last year's Welcome to Kindergarten events and process.

Christmas concerts: The regular music teacher is on parental leave and her replacement is here until 2 weeks before Christmas concert. The administration is working through a plan with the music teachers. There are two tentative dates planned (submitted last year), but we're looking at all kinds of different options. Also looking at other venues to hold the concert(s) in the future, but we probably won't go that route this year with so many other transitions. Good discussions are happening.

Joint Occupational Health and Safety is underway and does need a parent rep. Erin will check with Dana Doyle who was on the committee last year.

Wireless Pilot Project

Shelley and Peter filled in Erin on the wireless pilot project when she started as principal. Bell Aliant paid for the year. The year is up. The school asked for it to be donated again. However, this has not yet happened and disconnection could be imminent. The 1st six months came out of Bell's marketing budget, and the next 6 months out of the sales rep's marketing budget. Any first 6 months of services is at a discount ($48) and then goes up to the regular price of $75. Bell Aliant has extended us by another month so we can make a decision. Deadline: October 23rd to switch over if we're going to do so. We would get it under a new name and so would get another 6 months at the discounted rate. A parent suggested looking into the office of a free iPad if you are a new customer. This could be used in a classroom.

Without the wifi, staff accessing the main wired Internet is very cumbersome. It is slow and the network often is not working properly. They can only access computers that are hard-wired here and can't use own devices. TeacherNet is a workaround. Free internet from Bell, Peter Rukavina and a provincial Home and School rep Ken Williams donated time to install 7 modems (which are all ours) throughout the school. There is wifi in most areas it would be needed. Home & School paid about $200. This is permitted as long as there's not interconnection between Dept of Ed system and TeacherNet -- as long as there is a firewall. Teachers must have an access code to log in. This set-up is quicker. Teachers can link up information in the smartboards and LCD projectors. Some staff are using this a lot. Others not so much so.

There was a letter sent to the helpful and supportive sales rep Paul Murray, describing the need for more time to engage more staff. That is still ongoing. Students on laptops could access information on the TeacherNet, supervised by a teacher.

Benefits are tremendous. It would be a real shame not to have it for another year. We need another year to evaluate the effectiveness, including the cost effectiveness.

Service group Telephone Pioneers: Have they been approached for a donation?
Could be a fit.

Is there a lower cost through Eastlink? Do we own modems or routers or both? This needs to be confirmed. Maybe Eastlink would give us a year of free trial.

Wireless is coming, probably within 5 years, to all the schools.

Home and School would decide what we could contribute for the year. This might be done through an executive meeting, since the executive is responsible for doing a budget for the year.

Wish List and Fundraising Decisions

Is there a wish list for items for the school and for classrooms? This would also be on the agenda for the executive.

There is a family in the school in which a parent has a terminal illness. We have had a few situations like this and it has been our tradition to make a donation of between $100 and $125 to families in need. Staff did a very successful potluck fundraiser for the family today.

We need to get bank signing switched over and will then provide a cheque.

In the past, there have been a lot of needs in the school for a lot of different things. The idea with Home and School fundraising is not to buy regular things that should be provided in the classroom by the Department of Education or the school district. Last year, our fund was depleted at the beginning of the year because of a major contribution to playground equipment repairs.

Erin was asked to ask staff to compile a list of items they have on their wish list and how much they cost. Newer staff especially often don't have "stuff" accumulated. Give them 2 weeks to make a list (within reason). Rank their list, please.

Home & School executive will meet with the principal to vet the list.

Government services warehouse: A parent said that there may be equipment that is in storage and that the school could have access to at no cost. You can make appointment and go out and get material. Tressa Peters will get the information for Erin.

PEITF convention is 3 weeks away. Some people might want a budget to buy stuff at the convention. Receipts to Barb. Executive will try to meet soon.

EAs did not participate in the "wish list" in the past, but resource were included. 

Home and School has given out between $2,000 and $4,000 through this fundraising money.

It was suggested we work on annual playground fundraiser to create a slush fund for the next time playground equipment needs work and replacing, because it is too hard to raise the funds within one year. School boards and Dept of Education do not contribute to equipment or repairs. 

Next Meeting: November 6th, 6:30 p.m.

Your feedback is welcome on minutes! What do you need more information about? Contact with comments or questions.