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Watts Happenings Newsletter – Winter 2010 Issue

February 26, 2010

Watts Happenings, Winter 2010, the PTA newsletter, is here!  Learn what the kids are doing, what are the teachers doing, what the PTA is doing, and what YOU can do, too!


  • Fruit in Our Future!
  • From the President
  • Read-a-thon for Haiti
  • Meet Ms. McGill
  • Fundraising News
  • Exceptional Children’s PTA Committee
  • Arts & Culture at George Watts
  • Spring Carnival
  • Media Center News
  • Montessori Middle School Update
  • Support Our Schools (SOS)
  • 2010 Dates to Remember
  • News and Announcements


Fruit in Our Future!
by Alice Bumgarner, Edible Garden Committee Chair

Raspberries! Figs! Cherries! Strawberries!  These and more delicious fruits are coming to the Edible Garden of George Watts in March.

Thanks to a $1,000 grant from NC Beautiful, we’ll be planting a sunny patch of our grounds near the carpool lane with over two dozen fruiting bushes and trees. We’ll also build a new arbor, with climbing kiwi plants, to create a “fruit tunnel” for children to pass under. And throughout the space, we’ll have flowers and plants to attract pollinating birds and butterflies.  Best of all, all the fruit will be ripe during the school year, so anyone can pluck off a piece of fruit before, during or after school.

Here’s how you can get involved: Come out on March 20 to help plant the fruit bushes and trees.  You don’t need to be a gardener to be part of the effort. There are jobs for big hands and little hands. If you know how to shovel or rake, please come out for planting day — so kids can graze on fruit as early as fall.

Also… Ever wonder how classrooms are using the Edible Garden for hands-on learning? As more students come to the garden to do experiments and learn about science, math and literacy, the Edible Garden is evolving into a true Living Classroom. Get a behind-the-scenes look at  In a few short videos, you’ll see Lower El teacher Ms. Vejvoda do a hands-on lesson with 3rd graders about how good soil can be lost when rain and wind cause erosion. And you’ll see how kids make the connection between having healthy soil and making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

November 30, students got a lesson in the Living Classroom from local chef Mark Day on how to prepare delicious food using ingredients they had grown in the garden. Mr. Day’s stories about growing up on a farm, along with the delicious mini-meal he cooked outdoors before their eyes, made the Harvest Celebration very memorable for the children.

Students enjoying their harvest meal prepared with ingredients from the school garden. Groups of classes came outside in shifts throughout the day on November 30 to participate in the Harvest Celebration.


From the President
By Jane Brown, PTA President

Hello George Watts Community,

As this newsletter clearly illustrates, your time, your treasure, and your talent are obvious everywhere at George Watts!  I’d like to thank all of you for making our school a wonderful place for our children to learn.

As you know, the PTA has a mission to serve every child at George Watts.  And to fulfill this mission, the PTA focuses on two primary goals:  supporting enhanced curriculum and increasing parent involvement.  What do these two things mean?

Supporting enhanced curriculum is a catch phrase encompassing all the ways that we can use PTA funds, activities and functions to help our wonderful teachers and administrators provide a more enriched learning environment.  One example is our Edible Garden – our “Living Classroom.” PTA funds, donations, families’ hard work, along with teachers’ energy, interest and commitment make the Living Classroom a rich, tasty, learning experience for our children.  Another example is providing funds for hands-on materials so teachers can host the best possible Science and Technology Night.

Increasing parent involvement reflects our steady focus on making sure that the PTA provides a wide range of activities so families and children can participate in our school community as much as possible.  One of our proudest examples of this is the creation of the Exceptional Children PTA. Smaller details, like adjusting the time of day that programs are offered, also enable more people to participate.  For example, we had a “parent coffee” during an evening PTA meeting, with a presentation by Gracelyn Cromwell, a teacher in Ms. Morgan’s classroom, on how to help your child with reading at home.

Ideas about how to enhance curriculum and increase parent involvement are constantly being formed and re-shaped.  Do you want to see something happen to improve learning and get folks involved?  Don’t keep it to yourself!  Please share your ideas with me, Jane Brown, at or call me at 323-1806.  Thank you!


Read-a-thon for Haiti
by Karalyn Colopy, Communications Committee Chair

February 10 closing ceremony of the Read-a-thon to benefit Haiti.

Through the Read-a-thon for Haiti on January 28, George Watts raised almost $9,400! Thank you, students, families, staff, and friends, for supporting this worthwhile cause.  Your generosity is incredible.  One family even donated their laundry money for the week.

On February 10 the whole school came together again for a brief school-wide closing ceremony. Daniel Auguste and Justin Davis of Family Health Ministries accepted an over-sized check for $9,394, presented by students Layla Musawwir, Quinn Roberts, Naomi Armenta, and America Miranda.   Soon the paper chains of wishes that all the students helped create will be delivered to the children of an orphanage supported by FHM in Haiti.  On each link of the chain is written a different student’s wish or message of hope for the people of Haiti.

Thank you to everyone who helped our school come together to respond to the crisis in Haiti.  For their time and energy in brainstorming, planning, and handling all the logistics, we thank Rosemarie Baker, Melissa Blalock, Evelyn Bloch, Stephanie Brennan, Cathy Carinder, Patti Crum, Pattie LeSeuer, Carolina Musawwir, Melissa Parfitt, Sheldon Reynolds, Quinn Roberts, Mike Rogers, David Smith, and Kellianne White.

In addition to the direct donations that the children collected, we also raised money through a lunch-time bake sale on the day of the read-a-thon. For organizing this sale and donating the healthy, homemade snacks, we also thank Sue Breed, Rachel Galanter, Anne Harbour-Tonn, Julia Hernandez, Sabrina Lamar, S. Marban, Claudia Martinez, Carolina Musawwir, Juana Rangel, Juana Rosales, Virginia Tevepaugh, and Kellianne White.


Meet Ms. McGill
by Katherine McNulty, Communications Committee

Felisha McGill, one of George Watts’ newest teachers, began her teaching career as the owner of her own business, operating a daycare out of her home.  Although her emphasis then was on age 0-3 years, it laid the groundwork for her current career as a pre-K/Kindergarten teacher.  Looking back at her time as a daycare provider, she says she was always more of a Montessori proponent than she realized.  Ms. McGill says she has always leaned towards individualized, child-directed teaching, but it wasn’t until she started at Watts in the fall of 2008 that “Maria Montessori really pulled me in.”  Ms. McGill began at Watts as a student teacher with Ms. Faggart and got her own classroom in January 2009.  In June she will complete her teacher training and in August plans to start a Masters program in Education with an emphasis in Montessori teaching, while continuing to work full-time at Watts.

Ms. McGill grew up in Greensboro and earned her degree from UNC-Greensboro.  Her mother, a retired teacher, and brother live in Climax, NC.  As anyone who knows Ms. McGill will tell you, she is an animal lover and dotes on her two dogs, Reese and Budakai. Outside the classroom, she loves to read (especially mysteries and science fiction) and exercise, so you might find her at the YMCA making good on her intention to start the New Year off right.

When asked about her favorite part of her job, Ms. McGill promptly replied, “I really enjoy working in the Watts school community because the staff and parents are passionate about the children and their learning.  The focus is the children, and that makes it a great place to teach.”


Fundraising News
by Lara Campagna, Fundraising Committee Chair

Just One Check Results

Great job, George Watts!  This year’s Just One Check drive raised $10,231!  This will allow the PTA to support students with updated technology tools, field trips, books and other classroom needs. Thank you!

George Watts PTA Bake Sale and Yard Sale

Love sweets and coffee?  Looking for a lost treasure?  Then mark your calendar: Saturday, May 8 is the George Watts PTA Bake Sale and Yard Sale!  More details coming soon.  In the meantime, if you can help with this event, contact Susan Gurley, bake sale coordinator (683-3075,, Sarah Holsapple, yard sale coordinator (381-9084,, or Lara Campagna, Fundraising Chair (688-8228,

Join Us for the Great Human Race!

Put on your walking shoes and get ready to have a good time!  Once again, Team George Watts will participate in the annual Great Human Race on Saturday, March 27 (rain or shine) in downtown Durham.  The Great Human Race is a nationwide community fundraiser for nonprofits. The Triangle area race features a 5k competitive run and a 5k community walk through downtown Durham, followed by a big block party with food, booths and live music.

Team George Watts NEEDS YOU and your family to walk, run, get sponsors and just have fun!  All money we raise in the Great Human Race will be used to build a walking track around the school’s playground area.  All participants who raise at least $50 get a free Great Human Race t-shirt.  Other prizes will be awarded to our top fundraisers.

To sign up and join our team for the Great Human Race, contact Stacy Murphy (, 943-8944).

For more information or to donate online:

Last year Team George Watts had a lot of fun! Will you join us this year?


Exceptional Children’s PTA Committee
by Donna Beckmann, EC PTA Chair

My name is Donna Beckmann and I am the chairperson of the newly formed Exceptional Children’s (EC) PTA Committee. You may be wondering why this new initiative is so important to the families of children receiving services as well as to the greater population of George Watts. It is hard for me to explain it so that each of you will understand. I guess I should start at the beginning:

My son Thomas was born with Down syndrome and a heart defect. The first year of his life was spent keeping him alive and thriving. Once he was healthy, there was early intervention to help him meet development milestones. From the day he was born, I was thrust into the world of the disabled. I live this life 24/7 and will for many years to come. I face many challenges raising and educating Thomas. However, working together with other parents and school personnel, I know we can make a difference.

I do not expect all parents to be so heavily involved in the EC PTA, as each child’s needs are completely different and mean something different to each family. The services Thomas receives are all- encompassing.  However, your child or your child’s classmate may be receiving services to help them reach the next developmental milestone or to overcome a delay. Either way, your interaction with the EC PTA and staff at George Watts is critical to the success of all George Watts students, because what happens within a classroom affects each child in that classroom.

The George Watts PTA is leading the way in the Durham Public Schools by being one of the first PTA programs to officially form an EC PTA Committee. We are still in the information gathering stage and looking to all parents for their input as we set the example for all Durham Public School PTAs to follow.

Please consider your involvement in the EC Committee. For more information, contact me at (919) 682-5188 or


Arts & Culture at George Watts
By Kisha Daniels, Arts & Culture Committee Chair

Mr. Al Richardson, a retired civil rights attorney, and Mrs. Stilwyn Brown (not pictured) visited Lower El classes during Black History Month to share a variety of songs from slavery times, explaining the music’s significance as a means of communication within the slave community.

The Arts & Culture Committee has been hard at work collaborating with other committees, Watts staff and NCCU to plan a host of events.

We kicked off Black History Month – February – with an exciting array of activities.  NCCU students helped with planning, performing and volun-teering in classrooms.  Many parents also volunteered to help make the month a success.  The final celebration will be Monday, March 8, when the children will showcase what they have learned.

Looking ahead to Monday, April 19, get ready for our Arts Explosion!  In celebration of creativity, we have planned activities that are sure to bring out your inner artist. Join us for food, songs, art activities for the kids, the Picasso mural reveal and a silent Art Auction — WOW!   So, mark your calendars for a fun filled evening. You will have an opportunity to view over 100 pieces of student artwork and even bid on some to take home.  Can you help with this event?  We need lots of hands on deck to set up and take down the art and to run the auction.

Please help us support our children’s artistic talents. If you are interested in any of these important jobs, contact Kisha Daniels, or 401-9009.


Spring Carnival
by Carolina Musawwir, Parent Involvement Committee Chair

Have you been wondering if the PTA forgot to put on the Fall Carnival this year?

Well, of course we haven’t forgotten… We just decided to make it a Spring Carnival instead!  And we can’t wait!  The Carnival will be held on April 17 and we hope to make it our biggest and best one yet, with lots of games, great food and fantastic entertainment.  This is one of the PTA’s biggest fundraisers of the year and great fun for the whole family, as many of you already know.  But, if you are new to our school or just one of those unfortunate few who have never attended a George Watts Carnival, here is a little acrostic poem to summarize the event:

Mark your calendar: APRIL 17
You don’t want to miss this event!


Media Center News
by Katherine McNulty, Communications Committee

The 2009 Book Fair, December 7-11, was a resounding success.  Ms. Ham reports total proceeds of almost $7,000 including $1000 in cash profits, $1100 in book credits to improve the Media Center’s collection and almost $1000 in direct gifts to individual classrooms.  This is $752 higher than in 2008!  Considering today’s economy, such an increase might be surprising, but Ms. Ham credits extended book fair hours and greater use of the fair for holiday shopping.

Sherlock Holmes (Kay Ham) celebrates Storybook Character Week in the Media Center with students Emily Utz, dressed as Mildred Hubble in the Worst Witch series, and Stephanie Wells, dressed as Miss Spider from James and the Giant Peach.

In addition to the fair, there have been many school-wide literary events this year at Watts, including Poetry Month (November), Storybook Character Week (January 19-22), the reading marathon for Haiti (January 28) and the annual upcoming Read Around Durham (RAD), which will take place the entire month of March.  The RAD goal is for the school community to read 333,333 minutes during the month.  Ms. Ham stresses that this is a school community event and a family affair as well.  In addition to reading to their children, parents and caregivers can request a coupon booklet from the Media Center and log their own reading minutes.  Scheduled RAD events include the kick-off assembly complete with literacy student cheerleaders, several silent reading sessions, book bonnet and t-shirt creation sessions and the bonnet/t-shirt parade on Literacy Night (March 22), before it all culminates in a RAD field trip highlighting Durham landmarks.


Montessori Middle School Update
by Molly Reingruber

The dream is coming true! This fall, up to 75 students will start 6th grade here at George Watts.  Meanwhile, the Lakewood Montessori Middle School building will continue to be renovated.  The 2010-2011 school year will be an important transition for 6th grade staff, who will move with the children in 2011-2012 to the new building at 2119 Chapel Hill Road, also known as the Lakewood YMCA building.  The building itself should be ready by the middle of next year, but the students will remain at Watts for the whole year, to make the transition easier.

The new middle school for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders is a magnet school linked to Watts and Morehead. This means that students from Watts and Morehead will have first priority in the lottery.  The school will be small—only 100 students per grade—but it has more than enough slots for every child at Watts and Morehead.  Remaining slots will be filled by lottery applicants who list Lakewood as their first choice.

The new school will provide an education based both in Montessori principles and the NC Standard Course of Study. It will provide arts and physical education, Academically and Intellectually Gifted services, and Exceptional Children services.  Although many details of the curriculum are not decided yet, many parents are choosing to send their rising 6th graders to the new school because they want them to continue their Montessori education.  Some aspects of Montessori education include project-based learning, community service, entrepreneurship, and environmental education. Parents also believe that a small school will provide a strong community to nurture the children during these years when they will be changing rapidly.

Students at Watts and Morehead are already starting to build a community.  Teresa Van Acker, a teacher from Morehead, hosted a pool party for 5th graders before school started, and Upper El classes of the two schools have begun a pen pal program.

All parents and teachers are invited to join the Lakewood Montessori PTA to support the new and exciting school.


Support Our Schools (SOS)
by Angie Douglas, SOS Committee Chair

Thank you to all of our volunteers, teachers, parents and friends of Watts for making SOS a huge success this year. The teachers who worked at Durham Bulls games brought in $3100 for classroom materials, and the school will get $1500 from Duke Football games for school and office supplies.

There are still ways parents and friends can help our school:

  1. Keep clipping Box Tops symbols, because each one is worth 10 cents. Our school has already earned $250 this year from the Box Tops program. The next deadline for redeeming our Box Tops is quickly approaching, so please be sure to send yours to school soon.
  2. Another way to earn money for the school is by sending in TYSON frozen food labels – worth 24 cents each.
  3. Campbell’s soup labels, also known as “Labels for Education,” will bring in 1, 5 or 50 points per label.  The school can use these points to buy educational equipment.
  4. Last but not least, don’t forget to send in your used ink and laser cartridges. For every 10 we collect, the school earns $30 towards more ink and laser cartridges or office supplies from STAPLES.


!!  2010 Dates to Remember !!

  • March 8 – Black History Month final celebration, Potluck dinner, PTA meeting, and Primary choral concert
  • March 10 – Early Release
  • March 15 – Healthy Kids Workshop
  • March 20 – Fruit Planting Day in the Living Classroom (Edible Garden)
  • March 22 – Literacy Night (and RAD finale)
  • March 27 – Great Human Race
  • April 5-9 – Spring Break
  • April 12 – Open School Night
  • April 14 – Early Release
  • April 17 – Spring Carnival
  • April 19 – Arts Explosion!
  • May 5 – Early Release
  • May 8 – Bake Sale and Yard Sale
  • May 10 – Final PTA Meeting of the year


News and Announcements

~~Healthy Kids Workshop March 15~~

Parents, if you are concerned about children’s health, you will want to attend an informative workshop on Monday, March 15, 6:30-8:30 pm.  NC Action for Healthy Kids in partnership with Durham Public Schools is presenting “Parents Take Action for Healthy Schools,” a free skill-building workshop.  The session will be held at the DPS Staff Development Center, 2107 Hillandale Road.  A healthy dinner will be served.  Sorry, no childcare will be provided. Registration is required – for more information or to register, see

~~Teacher and Teacher Assistant of the Year!~~

Congratulations to Ms. Lauren Vejvoda for being named George Watts Teacher of the Year.  Ms. Vejvoda teaches Lower Elementary and is the teacher liaison for the PTA Executive Board. This is her third year as a teacher at Watts.
Congratulations to Mrs. Amber Crispell for being named George Watts Teacher Assistant of the Year. Mrs. Crispell teaches in a Lower Elementary classroom. She has been at Watts for two years.

Thank you both for all of your hard work. We appreciate all that you do!

~~George Watts Spelling Bee~~

After school on Jan 13, enthusiastic George Watts students competed in our first school-wide spelling bee.  Thanks to all the participating students, volunteers, and teachers and parents who came to support the spellers! Special thanks to parent JJay Levy and AIG Facilitator Patricia Saylor for their hard work in organizing this event.

Congratulations to the grade level winners: 1st grader Jonathan Knapp, 2nd grader Maggie Gaddis, 3rd grader Katie Parler, 4th grader Cordelia Gilligan, and 5th grader Esmeralda Espinosa.  On January 20, these five students competed in our school-wide final competition.

Congratulations to Katie Parler for winning the final!  She will move on to the Regional Spelling Bee to be hosted by Duke University on March 6.

~~A “Posada” at George Watts~~

Learning about the holiday celebrations of different cultures is not only one of our state educational goals – it’s also fun!  On Friday December 18, our students got to experience the Mexican tradition called “las Posadas,” an end-of-year celebration that involves reenacting the Christmas story and the family’s search for shelter.  Some of our Mexican families volunteered to come to our school and share this tradition with us.

Parents sang traditional songs for children during lunchtime and gave each student a gift bag of typical goodies – oranges, peanuts, sugar cane, jicama, and animal crackers.

Thank you all to who generously contributed to make this event so special!

~~Have Email?~~

The George Watts PTA listserv is a great way to get and share information with other parents and teachers.  To sign up (or check if you are already signed up), contact Karalyn Colopy, PTA Communications Chair at  Or check for news at

~~Snow Make-up Days~~

  • Make-up for Feb 1 was Friday, Feb 19.
  • Make-up for Feb 2 will be Friday, Mar 19.
  • Make-up for Feb 3 will be Thursday, April 1.
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