PTA: October 2010

A small, but organized group of parents determined to amend the school’s budget met at the theater for the second PTA meeting of the year on October 18.

At exactly 6:01 p.m., PTA President Martha Michael called the meeting to order with the Pledge of Allegiance. After a brief reading of last month’s minutes, Mrs. Michael began by introducing the pressing matter of amending the budget. As PTA is not allowed to spend money on staff events, it was decided that ASB would sponsor all teacher appreciation events. PTA would then match ASB’s contributions by sponsoring scholarships. The members, however, decided that they could sponsor a Character Counts breakfast, as it would honor students through nominations.

The members then began discussing the amount of money these events would cost. PTA would need to fund seven $300 scholarships, as well as $1000 for the Moses Chavez Scholarship. Much of PTA’s funds are going toward senior activities: $400 for Grad Night, $500 for the senior breakfast, $150 for the senior award ceremony, and $150 for the senior baccalaureate. Principal Houts then agreed that ASB would match the PTA’s generous contributions dollar per dollar.

Mrs. Michael then led the group into a discussion of food donations. Every week, a different school’s PTA is in charge of loading baskets, shelving, and handing out food at the Downey Food Bank. Downey’s group members had been assigned the date November 3. From November 1 to 15, the annual school-wide Food Drive would be occurring as well, and it was announced that no Top Ramen would be accepted this year. The PTA had also donated $1000 to the Special Ed gardens, which in turn, had reaped 1250 lbs of produce for the Long Beach Food Bank, one of the few large distributors that take fresh produce.

Mr. Houts took the stage and began by explaining the Great American Shakeout, or the state-wide disaster drill, which took place on Thursday, October 20 at 9:00 a.m. The entire school would file out to the football field, and search teams would be sent out to find the people assigned “injured” or “dead.”

The performance of Downey’s various sports teams was introduced. Football was 1-0 in league, water polo was playing for league the following day, and the Think Pink volleyball game for breast cancer was scheduled for Tuesday, October 18 against Warren, who would be generously participating in the event as well. Mr. Houts, in spirit of greater unity, wants to “tone down the Downey/Warren rivalry.”

Mr. Houts then brought up a hot issue for both parents and students alike—Grad Night. The 2011 Viking seniors will be graduating on a late June 23 due to the fact that the teacher’s union did not want to start school before Labor Day. This has posed a great problem for the administration, as the seniors are now also deprived of their traditional Grad Night at Disneyland. The seniors are pushing to move Grad Night to the week before, but Mr. Houts strongly disapproves this measure for the following reasons: It would be on a school night, and Grad Night is supposed to be an alternative to dangerous partying after graduation.

The expansion of the tutoring program was the next topic for discussion. The students would be able to bring their work and get caught up in a study hall tutoring session. If they failed a test on a proficiency subject, they would be able to go to a class and retake it. The school has a grip on tutoring struggling students, but a main concern was that the school lacked intervention, or preventing the students from becoming confused in the first place.

“We have to sell the material to them 100 different ways,” Mr. Houts said.

The need for a school site council was then introduced. This council, which would meet four or five times a year, would basically go over the budget. This council should commence in November and is open to all interested Viking parents.

Next, Mr. Houts informed the members that the author of “Rewired” came to speak on Columbus Day to an audience of 71 teachers, as schools are now trying to adapt to this hyper-tech generation. The novel discusses the ramifications of using Facebook and other technology for teaching.

Then, after a quick tour of the new library in the B Building, ASB took center stage. Mr. Weisenburger, with ASB members John Franco and Frank Orozco, went over the Anti-Bullying week planned for October 18-22. The nation has seen an increase in teenage suicide due to bullying, and the school, in light of this development, decided to host a Character Counts/Anti-Bullying week. Throughout the week, the dangers of bullying would be exposed through posters and the morning announcements. Staff members were also ordered to keep a sharp eye out for teasing in class and were instructed to talk about and incorporate the anti-harassment message into their lessons.

PTA Vice President Liz Schlegel then began to talk about fundraising. The first way in which PTA decided to increase their funds is by holding a swap-meet. The PTA would help run the city’s swap-meet, which is held every Saturday at the North Parking lot, from a 4:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on November 6. The group has also signed on to School Cents. Until May 15, students and parents alike can raise money for the school by taking their receipts from Lakewood, Cerritos, or Stonewood Mall to Guest Services. Downey receives five points for every dollar spent anywhere at the mall, and based on the total amount of points at the end, the school will receive a share of $50,000 in gift cards. The PTA has also started participating in Ralph’s Rewards. There are sheets that can be scanned with the Ralphs Rewards cards the next time when making a purchase. After that initial scan, a percentage of each shopping trip would be given to the school for the duration of the Community Contributions Term. The letters should be available at the main office or any future PTA event.

Finally, Lourdes Guzman wrapped up the meeting with the note that the Reflections program has extended their deadline to November 15. With a great start to the school year, the members are now anticipating the next meeting, which is on November 8 at 6:00 p.m.