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Watts Happenings – Winter 2011

March 23, 2011

Watts Happenings, Winter 2011, 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.

THE CARNIVAL IS COMING! SATURDAY APRIL 9
games • activities • prizes • music • delicious food

And we can’t wait!! SAVE THE DATE: April 9, 11am-3pm. The Carnival is one of the PTA’s biggest events of the year and is BIG FUN for the whole family. NEW this year: a silent auction with cool valuable stuff. Also in the plan: a climbing wall, bounce house, and inflatable slide.

Can you help with…

  • Planning?
  • Set-up or clean-up?
  • Running a game or activity?
  • Serving food?

To volunteer for the Carnival, please contact Janice McCarthy: 530-8258, JaniceMMcCarthy@gmail.com or Carolina Musawwir: 699-1274, carolina.musawwir@dpsnc.net

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ABOUT YOUR PTA
Get to know other families, teachers and staff, and make a difference at George Watts!

The PTA or Parent-Teacher Association is a volunteer group of families, teachers and staff who work together to make the school a better place for all our students. The PTA organizes, supports, and/or pays for things like field trips, books, classroom supplies, the Carnival, staff appreciation, teacher training, afterschool programs, playground equipment, the Edible Garden, landscape beautification, the PTA listserv and georgewattspta.org. PTA meetings are held every other month.  It costs only $4/yr to become a member (and to renew every year). To join, contact Sabrina Lamar, PTA Secretary (225-0226, Sabrina.Lamar@gmail.com).

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2011 DATES TO REMEMBER

  • March 14PTA Meeting and Primary Concert
  • March 16 – Read My Durham T-Shirt Day
  • March 21 – SIT Meeting and RAD Literacy Night
  • March 22-24 – Benchmark testing (3rd-5th grade)
  • March 28 – No school for students
  • March 31 – RAD Field Trip
  • April 4 – Lower El Concert
  • April 6 – Early release
  • April 8 – Advance Academics Coffee
  • April 9 – Spring Carnival
  • April 11 – Open School / Science Night
  • April 14 – SIT Meeting
  • April 18-22 – Spring Break
  • April 23 – GROUNDS DAY!
  • April 25 – School in session (snow make up)
  • May 4 – Early Release
  • May 9PTA meeting and Elections, Upper El Concert
  • May 16 – SIT Meeting
  • May 17-19 – EOG Exams
  • May 30 – No school Memorial Day
  • June 10 – Last day of school for students

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WHAT’S THE BEST LEARNING ENVIRONMENT FOR A CHILD?
by Jane Brown, PTA President

“Plainly, the environment must be a living one, directed by a higher intelligence, arranged by an adult who is prepared for his mission.” — Maria Montessori

How do we all help in creating this living environment at George Watts?  Our teachers and administrators develop and follow a school improvement plan that outlines goals for our children. Yet they cannot do it alone. The task is too big, the resources too scarce, the need too urgent.

Schools need families to be involved now more than ever. But how can families best help?

To begin to answer this question, the PTA Board and the School Improvement Team (SIT) held a first-ever joint retreat in January.  We met to unite around a common vision, clarify our roles, and develop plans for the future.  We came away with 3 things the PTA and SIT can start doing better together:

1) Educate families about SIT’s goals and work. PTA meetings will be a time when families can learn more about what the school’s goals for improvement are.  So, for example, at the May 9 PTA meeting you’ll learn how the SIT Literacy Committee is working to improve student writing skills.

2) Support SIT goals with PTA funds. The PTA will develop its annual budget with a clear idea of school-wide and SIT committee’s goals, so that we can best put our money towards school improvement.

3) Continue collaboration. The PTA and SIT will continue to work and plan together. For example, in the summer, the two groups will meet again to discuss needs for the upcoming academic year.

Beyond these important practical steps, the January retreat marked the beginning of a new journey for our school community—a journey of partnership among dedicated teachers and staff, enlightened administration, and passionate families to create the best living learning environment for each child at Watts.  JOIN US!

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FUNDRAISING
by Liz Healey, PTA Fundraising Chair

Annual Fund Drive Up to $10K – Almost there! Great news: We have raised over $10,000 towards our goal of $15,000! And it’s not too late to contribute. Write a check to “George Watts PTA” and return it via your child’s folder, drop it off in the office, or mail it to 700 Watts St, Durham, NC 27701. Or you can donate online with PayPal. Go to GeorgeWattsPTA.org and click the “Donate” button on the right-hand side.

Silent Auction Coming April 9 An exciting new fundraiser this year will be our 1st ANNUAL SILENT AUCTION on Saturday, April 9, during the Spring Carnival.  Come bid on a week in an oceanfront beach house, a suite at the King’s Daughter’s Inn, pet sitting or baby-sitting, and much more. There’ll be something for everyone, so put it on your calendar!  Questions? Ask Randy Chambers (rachambers@gmail.com) or Liz Healey (redhead27701@yahoo.com or 688-7546), PTA Fundraising Chair.

Fundraising More Important Than Ever With the budget for public schools facing DEEP cuts next year, financial help from the PTA is VITAL. Thank you to everyone who has donated this year!

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$$ IN THE CLASSROOM
by David Smith, PTA Treasurer

One way the PTA can immediately help our school is by providing funds for small yet important needs that teachers encounter during the year. The PTA recently funded the following requests, totaling $1,029.44:

  • Coach B: a sub so she can attend a conference
  • Ms. Vejvoda: timers, plastic animals/plants
  • Ms. M. Davis: Black History Month books
  • Ms. Watson: Montessori materials
  • Ms. Crawford: camera for her class newsletter
  • Ms. Brogden: plastic binding combs (not lice related!)

And many more requests are coming in. In addition, the PTA has bought 3 boxes of copy paper to help get the school through difficult times (and more paper is still needed!). Thank you to all who have made this possible through your financial support.

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SCHOOL NEWS
by Karalyn Colopy, PTA Communications Chair

Introducing Ms. Robinson
In December, Ms. Kisha Robinson joined the staff of George Watts. She is our bookkeeper and data manager and replaces Ms. Belinda Hayes, who retired in November.  In this role, many families know her because she helps students sign in and out when they arrive late or leave early.  You may also know Ms. Robinson as a parent.  Her daughter Neveah is a 2nd grader in Ms. Brogden’s class.  Originally from New York and a mother of three, Ms. Robinson welcomes everyone with a warm smile.

When Your Child Is Absent… Ms. Robinson offers this advice: Be sure to send a note to school to explain your child’s absence within 3 days of his or her return to school.  If you do not send a note, the absence will have to be recorded as “unexcused.” Don’t let this happen!  Excused absences include illness, injury, medical/dental appointment, death in the family, court proceedings, religious observance, and educational opportunity.

FAREWELL MR. REYNOLDS!  See You Soon!
George Watts bid a fond farewell to Assistant Principal Sheldon Reynolds at the February 14 PTA meeting.  George Watts families and staff filled the gym to show their appreciation, while Lakewood Montessori families and staff also joined in the event to welcome him as their new Principal!  After enjoying an hour of fellowship and a delicious dinner, the “roast” began, with words from staff, parents, and students of all ages.  Lower El students reminded him that they’ll see him soon at Lakewood in a few short years!

Congratulations!
Ms. Cynthia Webb (EC Facilitator, teacher and Administrative Intern) recently passed the School Leadership Licensure Exam, which qualifies her to become the assistant principal or principal of a school.  Congratulations, Ms. Webb!

The Dream Is Alive at George Watts
Friday Feb 25 was the final school-wide celebration of Black History Month.  Lower El Teacher Ms. Meneca Davis led the assembly in the gym.  First up was a step team of 3 Duke undergraduates from Phi Beta Sigma, a fraternity founded in 1914. They explained the historical roots of step dancing, and they gave an exciting, upbeat, rhythmic show that got everyone cheering!  Next GW Music Teacher Ms. Suggs introduced Mr. Jesse from Duke, who sang Lift Every Voice and Sing. Ms. Suggs explained that the song was written by James and John Johnson in the early 1900s in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and has become the African American national anthem. The audience stood in respect during Mr. Jesse’s beautiful rendition. Next was a book drawing. Several students in each grade level who had turned in their author bookmarks were picked to win books by African American authors.  Also, one lucky teacher from each grade level won a copy of President Obama’s recent book, Of Thee I Sing. Thanks to the PTA for paying for the many wonderful books! The assembly ended with Mr. Rogers’ Upper El students giving a moving performance about Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, explaining its significance and passionately reciting the speech itself.  Ms. Davis noted that George Watts is indeed an example of Dr. King’s dream coming true.

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RAISING DISABILITY AWARENESS
by Donna Beckmann, EC PTA Committee Chair

October is Disability History and Awareness Month. A resolution passed by the NC General Assembly in 2007 requires all local school boards to provide instruction on disability history and awareness in October.

The Exceptional Children’s (EC) PTA plays an active role in helping George Watts meet this requirement. This past October, EC Committee Chair Donna Beckmann attended each of the weekly Professional Learning Communities (PLC) meetings, where grade level teachers meet for professional development.  She offered the teachers ideas about how they could help their students learn to relate to others who have a disability. For example, they could have their students try to complete tasks while blindfolded or without using their thumbs.  Also, she suggested that in dealing with parents of children with disabilities, the teachers try to put themselves in the parents’ position.  For example, consider how they phrase statements to parents and always start with something positive. Every parent wants to hear something nice about their child whether they have a disability or not.  Remember that exceptional children are children first – not children with disabilities; our similarities are greater than our differences.

Rounding out Disability Awareness Month, the EC Committee hosted a booth at Root Fest, where guests were challenged to find the radish in a basket of vegetables while blindfolded and to fill a pot with soil while wearing socks on their hands. Everyone had a lot of fun and realized just how important those thumbs really are.

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EDIBLE GARDEN: 5 Ways Our Edible Garden Helps Make Kids Smarter and Healthier
by
Alice Bumgarner, PTA Edible Garden Chair

1. Kids are tasting more vegetables and fruits — and learning how to cook them. Tasting what’s growing in the garden is so essential, but it’s also a challenge to incorporate into the school day. At our school, tastings have happened as school-wide “celebrations” and also as individual classroom activities. This year, for example, classrooms gathered lettuce to make salads for a mid-afternoon snack. One class harvested broccoli for a recipe a teacher brought in. Other classrooms nibble from the plants as they pass through the garden on their way to recess. This spring, we’ll be trying something new. More on that soon!

2. Kids move more. Outside in the garden, kids can stretch, move and soak up some sunshine vitamins. But the biggest boon to students’ health? The .25-mile walking path that we installed during the garden expansion. As part of the school’s wellness plan, classrooms are asked to do a lap on the track before starting recess. It’s one way for all teachers – not just Coach B – to help kids reach the daily recommended level of physical activity, 60 minutes. A growing body of research shows the connection between physical activity and academic performance (not to mention the health benefits of exercise). So anytime a teacher encourages a run around the track, she or he is helping kids get smarter.

3. It’s a learning lab. You may have heard about the garden-based curriculum GW teachers created last summer for Lower El and Upper El students. But teachers don’t need customized lessons to encourage learning outside. Journaling, measuring, making real-world observations, conducting experiments, gathering specimens – it’s all possible in a garden.

4. It brings food equity to our community. We’re finding more and more ways to share the bounty. Over winter break, for example, 20 or so students and their families came to harvest spinach and carrots. We took loads of it to Urban Ministries’ soup kitchen, so the chef could turn it into a meal.

5. It builds community. The garden builds community every time a small group comes together to work on a bed, for example. But it builds community in a broader sense, as well.  So far, through the garden, we’ve forged partnerships with groups like Bountiful Backyards and SEEDS. We’ve worked closely with nutritionists from DINE for LIFE. We’ve helped and been helped by Duke students who want to make a difference. We’ve received grants and donations from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, NC Beautiful, Whole Foods, Burt’s Bees, Cabot Farms and our own school alumni group Friends of Watts. (And our PTA continues to provide the critical financial and volunteer support that sustains this program.)

With all those people and organizations helping to lift up our school, we’ve accomplished a bazillion times more than we would have alone.

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ARTS & CULTURE: Afterschool Arts, Improv Theater, and Summer Arts Camps at Watts
by Kisha Daniels, PTA Arts & Culture Committee Chair

The Arts & Culture Committee ended a successful fall session of Explore Afterschool Arts Enrichment in November and has just begun the new spring session on Feb 21. Explore is still enrolling participants, so please call 862-8866 to sign up if you are interested. The fall program was wildly successful, with more than 85 children.  Your generous contributions made through the PTA provided scholarships to more than 20 families!

In the spring, we are looking forward to a fun evening of family improvisation theatre hosted by the Common Ground theatre.  This event will help to raise additional monies for scholarships for the spring and summer arts enrichment programs. Look for more information to come home in backpacks very soon about this event, as well as the wide variety of summer camps (full- and half-day) that will be offered at Watts.

It is our hope to make the summer programming a real community endeavor.  We are looking for innovative, energetic and fun adults (teachers, teacher assistants and parents) to get paid to develop and teach summer classes! What’s Your Passion? Is it Singing, Chinese cooking, Gardening, Carpentry, Basketball, Hip-Hop, Painting, Foreign languages, Photography, Writing, or Video-gaming?  We want YOU to develop and teach an Explore class at Watts this summer! If you have an idea for a summer class, you want to contact us. Explore pays really well ($30-$60 an hour depending on enrollment) and you get a chance to explore your inner creative self!  Contact Kisha Daniels, kdaniels@nccu.edu, 530-7690.

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SCHOOL GROUNDS: Amazing Things Happen When the School, PTA, and Community Work Together
by Kellianne White, PTA Grounds Committee Chair

Over the five years that my family has been at George Watts, I’ve seen a lot of improvements to our grounds.  We came here in 2006, the year when the PTA Grounds Committee applied for and won a major grant from the Durham Open Spaces & Trails Commission, valued at over $50,000 (including matching funds raised by PTA and volunteer labor). Through this grant as well as additional awards from NC Beautiful, Keep Durham Beautiful, and Durham’s Urban Forestry Division, our school has since received many trees and shrubs, 90 azaleas and over 2500 plants and bulbs, as well as paving stones, materials for timber walls, and nine benches, all of which you can see in the front and side yards.

As for the back of the school: Did you know that in 2006 there was no play equipment that met safety standards for children under 5 years old?  Primary classes were not permitted to play on the existing equipment, but instead were limited to a barren courtyard (the area that is now our edible garden).  Through the DOST grant, the Grounds Committee had unsafe structures removed, and bought and installed a new play structure, rated safe for children as young as 2 (but still fun for older kids!). This is the structure closest to Dacian Ave. (pictured above) where Primary students now get to spend their recess.  More major improvements came in 2010: a walking trail, erosion-controlling boulders, and vegetable gardens, thanks to the school’s Wellness Committee and the PTA Edible Garden Committee.

So much work has been done, and George Watts has many wonderful parents, teachers, and community supporters to thank.  But there is more to be accomplished.  Please consider sharing your gardening and landscaping skills by joining the PTA Grounds Committee.

And come to our next Grounds Day, Saturday April 23 to be part of what makes George Watts Montessori a school to be proud of.

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STUDENT PERSPECTIVES
Student reporters in Mrs. Crawford’s Lower El class went to work for this issue of Watts Happenings.  Thank you Avi Tomulet, Emily Hall Utz & Jaden Henderson!Bullying Advice

Dear Avi,
What should a student do if he sees someone bullying another student?  What should you do if you are being bullied?
–A Concerned Parent

Dear Concerned Parent,
I think bullying should be stopped A.S.A.P. (as speedily as possible), but only if it gets really rough.  Otherwise, I think people are too dramatic about it. Like sometimes, jokes can be taken too seriously. If I saw someone being bullied, I would probably run to help them. If it got dangerous, then I would go get a teacher.  The same thing goes for if I were being bullied. I would try to scamper away and get a teacher.
Stay safe, Avi

What’s It Like Being a Teacher?  Interviews with Grade Level Teachers
by Emily Hall Utz and Jaden Henderson

Mrs. Amanda Watson, Primary

Emily: How do you help the students in your class?
Mrs. Watson: I help my students in a lot of ways. The main ways are by giving them lessons and helping them with their workplans. Sometimes I help them tie their shoes, and get packed up and help them make good choices.
Emily: What do you like best about your job?
Mrs. Watson: The thing I like best about my job (especially in kindergarten and pre-kindergarten) is seeing how much the children grow in a year and getting to watch them learn how to start reading and how to start doing math and all of those things.
Emily: What is the worst part of your job?
Mrs. Watson: The worst part of my job is not having enough time in the day to get everything done.

Mrs. Meneca Davis, Lower El

Emily: How do you help the students in your class?
Mrs. Davis: I generally try to find out where they are and from there we can begin working on what they need to work on improving. Once I figure out what they need to improve, I put works like that on their workplans and in the classroom.
Emily: What do you like best about your job?
Mrs. Davis: : I love getting to see the students everyday. I love getting to learn about them, making connections with them and watching them grow up into the people that I know they can be.
Emily: What is the worst part of your job?
Mrs. Davis: Meetings. I dislike meetings.

Mrs. Ayana Crawford, Lower El

Emily: How do you help the students in your class?
Mrs. Crawford: I listen to them and try to figure out what they need to become a well-rounded individual. Sometimes that means instruction, sometimes it’s tutoring, mentoring, listening, counseling or preaching and sometimes, it’s just love.
Emily: What do you like best about your job?
Mrs. Crawford: I love watching the kids grow and learn. When kids realize that they are doing things that they couldn’t do before or they never thought they could do; it makes me remember why I became a teacher. It gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
Emily: What is the worst part of your job?
Mrs. Crawford: Having to deal with the politics or business side of education and the people who put the business before the kids.

Mrs. Cathy Carinder, Upper El

Emily: How do you help the students in your class?
Mrs. Carinder: I try to give them tools to help them solve problems.
Emily: What do you like best about your job?
Mrs. Carinder: The kids.
Emily: What is the worst part of your job?
Mrs. Carinder: Getting up in the morning.

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PTA Membership: What’s It About?
-Sabrina Lamar, PTA Secretary

If you’ve been to any recent PTA events, you know that participation is very strong at George Watts.  You’ve seen the gym bursting with throngs of people – adults and children. This is a wonderful thing. However, we have fewer registered PTA members now: 90 this year, compared to 155 last year – a 42% drop!  What’s going on?

Maybe people don’t know the value of joining the PTA. Everyone, member or not, is welcome at PTA meetings, activities, workdays, celebrations, etc. So what is the point of filling out your annual registration form and paying your $4 annual dues? Here are some reasons to be proud of your official George Watts PTA membership, or to join now if you haven’t already:

  • The PTA provides an essential structure for parents and teachers to work together to support and enrich our school, by providing resources, programs, and information. The fruits of the PTA are everywhere around the school – inside and out. And our PTA simply can’t exist without registered members!
  • George Watts PTA has non-profit status because we are officially affiliated with the National PTA. This means we can accept tax-deductible donations.  This is VERY important for fundraising!
  • Strong PTA membership shows others we care. With continued budget cuts, we’ll have to find external funding for large school initiatives (e.g., equipment).  Being able to demonstrate strong PTA membership could make our grant applications stand out in the crowd. When donors see George Watts as a community that is well-supported from within, they’ll see us as a good investment.
  • Child advocacy. That’s the #1 mission of the State and National PTAs. When you join the PTA, you support not only the George Watts PTA and our students, but also the National and State PTAs, who give all children a voice in policy-making at the State and National levels.

Moving forward, the George Watts PTA should roll out a strong membership drive early in the school year, and really try to connect with families who are new to the school. Better engaging our community of teaching staff would also strengthen the PTA community.

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JOIN THE PTA BOARD

On May 9, the final PTA meeting of this school year, we will elect PTA officers for the 2011-2012 school year: President, Vice-president, Treasurer, and Secretary.  We are also looking for new chairs for the Communications and Family Involvement committees.  Please consider serving in one of these positions.  Here’s why you might want to go for it!:

  • Impact Your Child’s Education. You’ll know what’s going on at your child’s school and how you can make a difference.  You’ll be part of the solution.  You’ll witness positive change up close and personal.  And you’ll demonstrate to your child the importance you place on education.
  • Give Back. You’re grateful for the education your child gets at George Watts and for the hard-working people who make it possible.  You’ll give something back to the school.
  • Get Connected. You’ll build and experience community working alongside fabulous teachers, staff, and families.
  • Grow Yourself. You—yeah, you!—have unique skills.  Watch them grow as you put them to use for an important cause.

What’s it take? Your enthusiasm and interest in the school.  Also, it helps to be available Monday evenings for PTA board meetings once a month (9 board meetings per year) and for school-wide PTA general meetings every other month (5 general meetings per year).  Time commitment outside of meetings varies by position and month to month (generally 4-10+ hours per month).

What are the roles?

  • The President serves as the official PTA representative to all partners and leads the board to make financial and programmatic decisions.
  • The Vice President serves as a key resource for the PTA Committees and represents PTA when needed.
  • The Treasurer works with all partners on revenue and expenditure tracking and reimbursement.
  • The Secretary serves as the key contact with the State and National PTA, including conducting the membership campaign and taking notes and distributing minutes for PTA meetings.
  • The Communications Chair serves as the point person for PTA committees to funnel information to families, using flyers, newsletters, stickers, web, email, and phone messages.
  • The Family Involvement Chair develops and plans programs to foster community spirit.

For more information about being a PTA Board member, contact Jane Brown at janefrancesbrown@gmail.com or 323-1806, or any current PTA Board Member.

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