Friday, November 19, 2010

Calling volunteers and specialists

The committees of the PTO have a variety of exciting projects underway, and with that comes requests for help from parents: to write thank you notes, to distribute publicity fliers, to help with school tours. Specialists are also needed: lawyers and accountants to answer questions, web developers who have experience building websites. Details on eight opportunities:

-The school leadership team seeks volunteers to help write thank you notes to silent auction contributors. Please contact Carol Sheldrake-Hernandez, at Carolsheldrake AT

-The Lunch Room committee is looking for ideas for activities that students can do in the auditorium when they are unable to go outside to the playground. Please contact Tara Rullo, at tararullo AT

-The PTO executive board seeks lawyers and accountants who can volunteer time to help with legal and bookkeeping questions. (As a new 501c3 organization, the P.T.O. faces many such questions.) Please contact Penelope Mahot, at penelopemahot AT gmail dot com.

-The Fundraising committee seeks volunteers to sell tickets to the the holiday cruise fundraiser on December 11. Please contact Fiona Noyes, at Fionat2 AT

-The Communications committee is seeking people to help create and distribute fliers and posters to publicize PTO and school events. This project is good for all sorts of people: hands-on folks; managers who make sure work gets done; organizers who can convince people to volunteer; writers; graphic designers; photographers. The committee also seeks people with experience building websites with Apache or the Wordpress, Blogger, Google Apps or Drupal platforms. Please contact Matt Fleischer-Black, at fbhouse AT

-The Grant Committee is looking for names of any contacts at companies that the committee could approach to obtain tax-deductible funds for the school. Contact Ivana Espinet, at

--PS9 Open Houses: Ms. Charmaine Derrell-Jacob, the parent coordinator, would like parent volunteers to "shadow" upcoming tours so that they will be able to take small groups of new families through the school and answer questions. Please contact

--Wellness Committee: Members of the Park Slope Food Co-op can get work credit by participating in the Wellness Committee. Contact Jen Chapin, jen AT for details.

-Kirby Pulver

Committee Spotlight: Grant Writing

The Grant Writing Committee of the P.T.O. first met a couple weeks ago. For researching grants, it formed working groups to focus on three areas: art and music; technology (with a focus on providing computers for the lower grades) and equipment for students with special needs. A fourth group is researching corporations to approach for tax-deductible donations. As part of this, the committee is preparing a file with the school information that funders most commonly request.

"If any parents have expertise in any of these areas, we would love their help. If they feel that their time is too limited, they can just be readers for the grants and offer feedback," says Ivana Espinet, the chair of the committee. "For the research on approaching corporations, if anyone has any connections to companies that we can contact, it would be great if they let us know." Ivana can be reached at ivanaespinet AT

On Monday Nov. 15, the committee applied for a grant to acquire a salad bar for the school, which it prepared together with the Wellness Committee. Ivana welcomes collaborations of this sort. She asks that anyone who wants to pursue a specific grant, or believes that the school should, to please contact her.

The committee's next meeting will be in January.

-Christine Scanlon and Matt Fleischer-Black

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Silent Auction Raises $18K+

Heartfelt thanks to all the businesses, organizations, and individuals who donated food, drink, entertainment, and auction items to October 22nd's Silent Auction to Save the Arts at PS 9. Miriam Alexandra Milord of donated the delicious chocolate cake pictured here. The musical menu opened with the First Street Quintet, featuring P.S. 9 parent and French horn player Gretel Smith. The jazz band 9 to 5 followed. Upwards of $18,500 has been raised to date. Final figures will be available once all the highest bidders have claimed their prizes, which they can do by seeing Charmaine Derrell-Jacobs in Room 112. Monies raised will go toward paying for arts programs run by such partners as Studio in a School, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Ailey Dance Kids Program. Congratulations to the School Leadership Team on pulling together this festive fundraiser at Prospect Park's Picnic House for the third year in a row.
--Karen S Fein

Monday, November 15, 2010

WCBS report on P.S. 9 library

Earlier today, Channel 2 WCBS-TV broadcast a 1-minute-56-second report about P.S. 9's (and M.S. 571's) new library. The story focused on the current lack of a librarian to staff it. WCBS included comments on the situation from the principal, from a D.O.E. representative, and from the library steering committee's chairwoman Rebecca Shulman Herz:

“It’s tragic that the schools can put this much effort into something that's clearly endorsed by the City and still not have the funds to open it up to the students properly,” said parent Rebecca Schulman[sic] Herz.

Parents said they’ve worked too hard to let this book hive go unused. The school’s principal was trying to find the money for a part-time librarian and then volunteers would round out the edges. “I have a little plan. That’s all I can do, get a little action plan in place and try to get someone in for our youngsters,” said principal Sandra D’Avilar.

Until then, the book hive is a bare hive.

The Department of Education had planned to hire a librarian when the school first began building the new library, but have since implemented a hiring freeze. The DOE said they should fill the position soon because enrollment at P.S. 9 will increase this year, allowing them a larger budget.

The D.O.E. statement about filling the position refers to the money that travels to a school for each student it enrolls. Rising enrollment will bring P.S. 9 $200,000 beyond its original budget, Principal D'Avilar said at the P.T.O. meeting on October 12. But that may not help the school get a librarian—that evening, she added that she already had committed that money to hiring another 5th grade teacher, special needs aides, and upgrading technology for the building.

Might P.S. 9 find volunteer retired librarians, or library students, to run the library this year? The obstacle is that D.O.E. requires any library with a DESTINY electronic checkout system to use a certified school librarian, in case the librarian sees a student's electronic records. Using a paper-only checkout system is probably just a theoretical solution, as it would require lots of volunteer labor to run.

We'll let parents know if there's anything they can do to help, beyond fundraising enough to free up funds for a librarian. (That's around $50,000.)

For anyone who's not yet seen the attractive new space, the WCBS report does include a few brief glimpses. But better to stop by yourself at Wednesday evening's open house, 5-8 p.m.

More coverage here at The Brooklyn Paper website and here at The Local blog of the New York Times.

-Matt Fleischer-Black and Christine Scanlon

Sunday, November 14, 2010

School year’s first house concert raises $600—parents experience a lovely night out

On Saturday night, some P.S. 9 parents launched a series of house concerts in impressive fashion—entertaining a full room while raising over $600 for the school. Professional musicians Stephan Crump and Jen Chapin (parents of kindergarten student Maceo) host the benefit shows. Each event consists of drinks, dinner, dessert and two sets of music: one by the organizers’ group, The Jen Chapin Trio, and another act that features a P.S. 9 parent.

Saturday night’s concert showed that these gatherings can be a delightful chance to talk with other community members and enjoy wonderful and revelatory music. The Jen Chapin Trio started the night with their acclaimed mix of jazz and folk music, highlighted by powerful songs inspired by Jen’s and Stephan's children. The audience enjoyed a brief break for dessert and refills of wine (much of it donated by Fermented Grapes on Vanderbilt Ave.). Then P.S. 9 parent/guitarist John Cab├ín and his group Brother Hijinx played a funky mix of original songs and covers—a standout being their rendition of William DeVaughn's “Be Thankful for What You Got,” which spurred an audience clap-along.

At every event, childcare is available, making it simple for parents to attend. The children are fed dinner and spend time doing activities with their schoolmates at Jen's brother's apartment in the same building.

The night demonstrated that P.S. 9 has some very talented parents—and that a vibrant community surrounds the school.

Remaining dates: Saturday, January 15th 2011, featuring the Jen Chapin Trio and Pyeng Threadgill......Saturday, March 5th, 2011, featuring the Jen Chapin Trio and Candice Anitra......Saturday, May 14th, 2011, featuring the Jen Chapin Trio and Andy Friedman (to be confirmed)

Tickets are $60 per couple and $35 for individuals, available at Brown Paper Tickets. A sell-out will raise approximately $700 for the school. —Kirby Pulver

Friday, November 12, 2010

Catch the buzz: the Book Hive is open!

Students sitting in the newly opened Book Hive.
At the Book Hive ribbon cutting this morning (L-r): Borough President Marty Markowitz, Principal D'Avilar, Councilwoman Leticia James, M.S. 571 Principal Santosha Troutman. (Photos: Faye Rimalovski)

After lying dormant for a couple of decades, P.S. 9’s new library is open! This morning, the building’s second floor was abuzz with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the rebirth of the library as the Book Hive. Principal D’Avilar opened the proceedings, saying: “Dreams do come true—all you need is determination, dedication, passion, resourcefulness, and love.” Behind her, the room's hexagonal benches and orange tables (resembling a honeycomb’s cells) were lit up by 60 feet of windows. Surrounding the principal was a student delegation that included 2 representatives from every P.S. 9 class.

City councilwoman Letitia James and Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz funded the half-million dollar, four-year project. In homage to the many volunteers who devoted countless hours, Ms. James read the opening paragraphs of the children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, in which an abandoned stuffed rabbit becomes real: "When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real." Mr. Markowitz encouraged students to enjoy the turning of a book’s pages and the smell of a volume’s spine. First grader Zoe Maidman, fifth grader Selah Alexander and two students from M.S. 571 each cut a yellow ribbon stretched between bookcases. Then Principal D’Avilar gave Kiki Dennis, a P.S. 9 parent and interior designer, a crystal plaque for designing the library and overseeing its construction.

The entire community is invited to visit the library at an Open House on Wednesday, November 17, from 5 to 8 pm. Refreshments will be served and attendees encouraged to leave tax-deductible donations in a library-fund box. (Please come see it. And please bring your checkbooks!) A full-time librarian has not yet been hired, due to lack of funds. For now, retired librarian Dottie Schwartz will help run the library as a volunteer two days a week. Ms. D’Avilar hopes to hire a part-time librarian for the remaining three days.

–Karen Fein

Check out before and after photos of the library's space at the Book Hive website. News 12 broadcast a story, "State of the art library without librarian" (Cablevision subscription required). Below are pictures of today's program:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Book Hive (in words)

From The Book Hive Fact Sheet, by the Book Hive Steering Committee, chaired by Rebecca Herz:

Schools served:
PS 9 and MS 571

Number of students served:

Square footage:
2,150 feet

Current number of volumes:

Planned eventual number of volumes:

Current technology (purchased):
• DESTINY Automation System
• Follett Panther Barcode scanner
• 9 desk top computers
• White board with integrative Mimio functionality
• Assistive Technologies -- word processing and communication device work stations and charge carts, headphones
• 2 printers/copiers
• Document projector
• Mobile projector
• Poster maker
• Laminating machine

Additional planned eventual technology:
• 36 laptops on laptop cart with charger
• 2 printers/copiers
• 50” flatscreen TV

Introducing P.S. 9's Library: The Book Hive

Come one, come all, and see P.S. 9's new library on the afternoon of November 17. Refreshments will be served. Then: look at the new books! Enjoy its sleek and fabulous design! See the results of much hard work by parents! Enjoy this landmark moment in the life of our school! And get ready to return. A Chinese saying: "To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one."*
*Alas, we couldn't look in a book to verify the origin of this saying.