SEJH PSTO Minutes, October 21, 2019

  • (Unapproved; will be voted on for approval at the next meeting.)
    7 p.m., Library
    Attendees: Sara Moninger, Heather Bright, Michelle Cook, Allison Brewer, Ashley Shields, Jenny Nace, Lori Kramer, Renae McKay, Teresa Svec, Mandi Bozarth, Mindy Romero

    Principal’s report

    • Enrollment – Total enrollment this year is at 827 students, up from last year’s 775. Michelle said the increase has been manageable, with most classes still at 30 or fewer students. There are 420 seventh-graders and 407 eighth-graders (an increase she attributed to boundary changes). The 10-plex helps tremendously but that will go away next year.
    • Construction – Work is moving right along, with three-quarters of it complete. The courtyard should be ready by end of month (landscaping is still to be done). The hallway by the art room also should also be open by end of month. Four classrooms were completed ahead of schedule, and a couple of science rooms are almost done. Temperature control for each room has been a really nice addition. The renovated main office/guidance area is scheduled to be done after winter break, when work will begin on the old library, which will be converted into five classrooms and a collaborative area. All Phase I construction should be complete by August 2020. Phase II, which includes work on the band room, the kitchen, and cafeteria, will then commence.
    • Standards-based grades – Some teachers of math and Spanish have adopted a standards-based grading method, which assesses a student based on mastery of the material taught and does not take into account extra credit or other ways students have traditionally been able to earn points. It is very similar to what parents see in elementary school conferences (when, rather than earning a letter grade, students can get a 1, 2, or 3). In these select South East classes, students get a score between 1 and 4 (with 4 being the highest score), based on how well they know the material. If a student does not score a 4, the material is retaught and the student can earn a new score. Michelle said she understands this different method may make some parents and students uncomfortable, but they are committed to finding out why students’ Iowa Assessments math scores dip in eight-grade before rebounding in ninth grade. The benefits, she added, include more accountability and no more “squeaking by.” Teachers will talk about it more and continue to assess the method during professional development.

    Treasurer’s report

    • Renae reported a balance of $3450.91 with fall donations accounting for $818.
    • Step It Up – Allison reported that the fall fundraiser, which was deemed shady by many, brought in $3,200. In comparison, Michelle said that last year’s fundraiser drew $8,500, but noted that one person was responsible for $3,500. With the controversy surrounding the fundraiser and its lack of success, Michelle said she does not want the school to pursue it in the future. Allison said she has spoken with Heather about what to do for the remainder of the year (and next year) and they have discussed options for get motivating students to participate and encouraging parents to donate. There was discussion about whether the PSTO should wait until spring and pursue a different kind of fundraiser, or push off additional fundraising altogether until next year.
    • Venmo or Paypal option for donations – Heather noted that Venmo will take 3%. The ICCSD Foundation will take 5% but that money stays in district, and Michelle pointed out that South East has benefited from multiple ICCSD Foundation grants. Michelle said she can provide more specific info about how the school benefits from donations in general, as that may entice parents to contribute.

    Districtwide Parents’ Organization (DPO) report

    • Lori handed out copies of the DPO’s financial report and summarized discussions from the first two meetings of the year. Topics included district happenings over the summer, the DPO Facebook group (look up “Iowa City Community Schools Districtwide Parents’ Organization”), sustainability efforts, officer openings for next year and how to fill them, secondary PBIS, the playground committee, what the ICCSD Foundation does with its $3 million budget (e.g., School of the Wild, music programs, Avid), and more. Other topics included the Dine Out for Schools program, which has been very successful, and paired schools and charter schools, which the district is still considering for Iowa City.
    • The next DPO meeting will be at South East on Nov. 13 and will focus on assessments; human trafficking will be a topic in a spring meeting.

    Box Tops report

    • Allison reported that directions for using the Box Tops phone app were included in last parent newsletter. Multiple attendees agreed that the app is very slick; users simply need to scan their grocery receipts.

    Hospitality report

    • Mandi talked about the taco bar arranged for teachers during conferences last week and said there would be a potato bar this week. The Signup Genius sent to parents has worked well. Michelle said teachers have requested that food be available between 4 and 4:30 p.m. since the lack of a break during conferences kept some teachers from being able to enjoy the food.

    President’s report

    • Heather noted that South East will be hosting a DPO meeting on Nov. 13. El Bandito’s will do a taco bar for $300 and Hy Vee will provide cookies. She said there are also some gift cards left over from conferences that will be used for salad and dressing. Renae made a motion to approve the expenditures, and Teresa seconded; the motion passed unanimously.

    Current and upcoming events

    • Teacher wish lists – Michelle said she asked teachers to submit a list of things they purchase with own funds (Kleenex, dry erase markers, etc.) and will in turn ask parents to donate those items directly to the school. Other needs include bus passes (which last for 31 days after first use), with transportation for student-athletes identified as a bigger need during the winter months, and gently used sports equipment and gym clothes (tennis shoes, cleats, uniforms, etc.). Michelle said she will include this info in the next parent newsletter, and Heather suggested that bus passes could be included as part of a spring fundraiser.
    • 8th grade party planning – This annual party is held after school on a Thursday near the end of May), but Heather said planning will need to start before the next PSTO meeting in January. The PSTO organizes games and collects donations for prize packages (no more than $50 value), and Heather said the more people who can help, the better.

    New business

    • Mindy shared some kind words for the staff: “Every kid I’ve talked to who goes here is so happy, so thank you for what you do.”
    • Mandi moved to approve the minutes from the May meeting, and Sara seconded it; the minutes were approved unanimously.

    Next meeting

    • The next PSTO meeting will be held Jan. 13, 2020.

    (The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.)