May 15 meeting recap: the auxiliary PTA

On May 15 we met at the Macon library and here's what we talked about:   The Bed-Stuy Parent’s Committee will be one year old in June!

 We’ve learned so much together, and so much has happened since our last public meeting in January. We formed an Executive Board of ten people, clarified our mission, and started the process of becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit. Our big takeaway was that many of our schools have a LOT going on but need increased enrollment and increased parental involvement. 

 At our first party, BSPC members raised $2,000 for microgrants to help pay for the new bilingual library at Brighter Choice on Hart and Marcus Garvey, Lego Robotics training at PS 309 on Monroe and Patchen, and two digital microscopes for the science lab at PS 5 on Hancock St.

 Based on our school visits, conversations, research and feedback from BSPC members, we chose two awesome focus schools, Brighter Choice Community School and PS 309. We have about a half-dozen families enrolling at each of those schools for pre-K in the fall, and we’ll be devoting most of our energies toward helping those two schools. We are meeting with the principals there to identify needs we can help with through raising money, writing grants, and connecting them to programs like the Carnegie Hall Musical Explorers program. One of our major initiatives is to ensure that both those schools have excellent afterschool programs for pre-K students -- a big service gap throughout our district. We’ve written numerous grants to support that program.

One board member who has a son going into K will enroll at PS 335 on Rochester between Bergen and St. Mark's, which was not on our radar last year but will be going forward. That school has arts, karate, chess and already has afterschool for Pre-K students!

 We’ve also been writing grants for creative play from Kaboom! and asked for funding for a pre-K and elementary school fair where District 16 schools can present their strengths. We have done a lot of community outreach, introducing ourselves to groups that have been working for decades to make Bed-Stuy the great neighborhood we all love, including the Brownstoners, Restoration CDC, Bridge Street CDC, Concord Baptist Church, and others.

In the fall, we plan to continue our bedrock activities: school tours and membership meetings with a dynamic fall speaker series. (We asked what kind of speakers you’d like to hear; email Virginia if you have an idea).  

We are going to be talking a lot about fundraising, and doing a LOT OF FUNDRAISING. Why? Because in contrast to PTAs in wealthier parts of Brooklyn that raise hundreds of thousands or even a million a year, our PTAs are lucky if they raise hundreds of dollars a year. This is where we, as a sort of meta-PTA or auxiliary PTA, can really help. We have numerous fundraising initiatives that will require a lot of crowdsourcing as we begin to roll them out, including a community bake sale that we hope to hold in conjunction with the Brownstoners’ awesome annual Bed-Stuy homes tour (modeled after a school in Clinton Hill that holds a very successful bake sale on Marathon Day). Yo Re Mi will do a fundraising class for us on June 4 at 10 a.m. at the Mansion on Stuyvesant and Decatur. We are starting an initiative to persuade real estate brokers to donate a percentage of commissions to us on behalf of their buyers or sellers through a program called Shelter Helps. We will be asking local developers and business owners to contribute as well.  We will be issuing calls to participate in these programs as they get started.

 As soon as we are an official non-profit, we will be conducting a membership drive with a pay-what-you-can membership. This is important because public officials and others we meet always want to know: how many members do you have? Right now, we can only point them to the Facebook page, with over 300 members, and the mailing list, with almost 300 members. That’s not quite the same as actual civic members. Michelle will also be doing outreach to more parents in the district.

Our website has new resources for parents, including a public school primer for parents who need to know where to start. Parent recommendations for local daycares and other family-friendly amenities coming soon.

 Kyle is our volunteer coordinator working on ways we can help local schools. (Example: PS 309 wrote a school song; and BSPC is now helping them make a professional recording and video. Stay tuned for the premiere! ) Volunteering can also be much less of a commitment -- you can stop in and read books to kids or act as a recess coach. This Wednesday May 25th is our first big volunteering event: The inaugural District 16 Science Fair. We are looking for people to help set things up at 4 and a few break things down at 7. The event will be held at MS 383 on the corner of Stuyvensant and Layfayette. Email Kyle to find out more.