TPES PTA Meeting Minutes: September 2023

Takoma Park Elementary School (TPES)
Piney Branch Elementary School (PBES)
Parent & Teacher Meeting (PTA)
Thursday, September 7, 2023 


Meeting Minutes and PTA Information

  1. Upcoming Dates & Announcements
  • Little Scholars After School enrichment clubs at both TPES and PBES
    • Registration opens September 7th at TPES and September 8th at PBES.  
    • Sign-up is open until September 17th. 
    • Applications for PTA funded scholarships are due September 10th through the online form (link will be provided at the bottom of the registration form) 
    • Clubs will begin on October 3rd.
    • Link for TPES: 
  • Important dates:
    • September 13: PBES back to school night (7:00 PM) – Adults only
      • PBES PTA is working with Kids Adventures to secure onsite childcare  for those who need it and will share more information soon
      • Instrumental information session at 6:45 pm
    • September 14-15: TPES Picture Day
    • September 22: EARLY RELEASE (1:20 PM) 
    • September 25: NO SCHOOL
    • October 3: Next PTA Meeting (Zoom), 7:00 PM
    • October 9: NO SCHOOL
  • Hispanic Heritage Month
  • Breakfast and lunch:
  • PTA Equity teams
  1. TPES Welcome 
  • Dr. Zadia Gadsden, TPES Principal & Ms. Joi Hollis, TPES Vice Principal
    • This is Dr. Gadsden’s 20th year at TPES!
    • Despite challenges that happen at the start of each year, TPES had a successful start to the school year.
    • Welcome to new families and welcome back to returning families.
  1. PBES Welcome
  • Mrs. Christine (Chris) Oberdorf, PBES Principal & Mr. Richard Weerts, PBES Vice Principal
    • Mrs. Oberdorf’s 6th year as Principle of PBES!
    • PBES has 602 students (15 more than projected)
      • 9 3rd grades
      • 8 4th grades
      • 8 5th grades
  • PBES is fully staffed with the exception of one long-term sub for special ed, which they hope to fill by December.
  • Ms. Hernandez is planning a Hispanic evening event on October 11th. 
  1. PTA Welcome & Volunteer Opportunities 
  • PTA meetings will be first Tuesday of every month 
  • Kaitlin Caruso, TPES PTA President 
    • Weekly updates are sent with PTA information and opportunities – lots of opportunities for volunteering this year – encourage all to take part.  
    • There are also ample opportunities to volunteer at school – Ms. Paz seeking volunteers for picture day
    • Become a member of the PTA OR renew membership – 
      • Free memberships are available
    • Join the listserv:
    • PTA funds help with supplies, field trips, drives, and more!  
  • Ingrid Gardiner, PBES PTA President 
  1. Introducing Gabrielle Williams, TPES NAACP Rep.
  • This is Gabrielle’s first year as Rep. She will bring family concerns and needs to light.  Will also connect district-wide NAACP priorities to the PTA.
  1. Q&A


Q&A – Both TPES and PBES

  • Q: How do we celebrate holidays as a community?
    • TPES does not celebrate holidays due to them often having religious aspects.  Instead, they focus on celebrating diversity, being good people, etc.  
    • PBES similarly stopped celebrating Halloween recently and thinks about alternative holidays.  
      • For Valentines Day, they focus on kindness and friendship
      • Community circles with community members
      • In recognition of challenges parents voice when children celebrate holidays on school days, they’re working hard to be more inclusive and think about those holidays and celebrations. They include them in announcements, etc.  
  • Q: Mental health support for students?
  • PBES 
    • PBES uses Leader in Me program
    • Supplements Leader in Me with MCPS resources.
    • Students typically participate in Leader in Me sessions four days a week (15 minute sessions).  They also have sessions with counselors on well-being and community building.  
    • PBES partners with an outside organization to provide therapy services to students in need.
    • PBES has a well-being committee that meets every two weeks to identify additional needs. 
  • TPES
    • TPES used Leader in Me school last year but didn’t feel it was as well suited for the younger students 
    • This year they are using a program called Zones of Regulation which seems more appropriate for younger children.  Through this program they identify feelings and what to do with them, learn how to manage their feelings.
    • Guidance counselors visit each class each week for 30 minutes
  • Q: How do you deal with extreme heat?
  • PBES – 
    • Follow MCPS protocol
      • Recess after 12:00 noon has to be indoors – so anyone that has recess before noon is outside (and closely monitoring). Anything after noon is indoor
      • It’s not always a district mandate, but they follow the guidance on MCPS website about temperatures
      • MCPS sent someone out to confirm airflow was happening after the building felt warm (after the 3-day weekend)
  • TPES –
    • Are not as strict about following MCPS guidance.  
    • They do not have space for indoor recess but they try their best to let them have activity when they have to move things inside.
    • Sometimes that means just letting them outside for 15 minutes.
    • Rooms at the top of the building do not cool as well but they have empty rooms to move them to.  
  • Q: How can we volunteer?
    • TPES and PBES welcomes volunteers for almost anything (ie reading, sweeping!) but not until October.  This gives time for children to learn the rules, processes, and procedures.  
    • Any volunteer needs to take the child abuse and neglect training
    • PBES has a volunteer coordinator, Victoria Welch
    • The PTAs will also email volunteer opportunities
    • PBES:
      • PBES PTA’s Staff Appreciation Committee is collecting gift cards to host a gift card raffle at  PBES’s monthly staff meetings. Parents can either 1) Donate money and the committee will purchase gift cards to Target/Amazon/etc or 2) Parents can donate gift cards that teachers might enjoy (for example: book store/Starbucks/local restaurants/etc). You might even have some on hand that you wouldn’t mind passing on! You can turn in either gift cards or cash to purchase gift cards to Ms. Welch at the front desk at PBES.
      • PBES families: We are still looking for room parents for a few classes, particularly for Ms. Porter (4th) and Ms. Patrick (5th). Granados, Gazda, Eberly, Serra, Kenney, and Luker could also use one more room parent. Please reach out to Amie Kershner if you can volunteer (
  • Q: School security – 
  • PBES:  The space was not breached last year despite rumors. There was a group that rented out the space through the Montgomery County use of public facilities; it was a permitted event.  Anyone that has specific concerns can reach out.
  • TPES: Also has had no breech.  They are having cameras installed, exterior doors, hallways, to deepen security


  • Q: TPES: How do students borrow books from the library?
  • Kindergarteners do not get to borrow books right away – they have to go to the library twice before they can borrow a book.
  • Ms. Anderson will walk them through the process.
  • After they have experience they will be able to borrow more flexibly.
  • 1st and 2nd graders are familiar with the process so do not need to wait. 


  • Q: TPES: What type of field trips are planned this year?
  • Each grade will go on at least 3 field trips (one might be within the school)
  • 1st grade has one planned for Oct 31st to Sharp’s Farm


  • Q: What kind of English support and ESOL classes are there?
  • TPES made the transition to structured literacy and signs of reading. 
  • During the shift, TPES’s PTA funded structured literacy training.  
  • Teachers are doing an exceptional job with doing phonics and really great reading (RGR).  
  • TPES has English development language teachers and ESOL for all three grades – they are currently testing Kindergarteners.  




  • Q: PBES: How do the pods work? 
  • Each grade has 200 students, so they prefer to break them into smaller groups for lunch and recess.  This helps to make lunch/recess more manageable and to help with planning (specials, lunch, and recess is correlated with teacher planning time)
  • For the most part pods are lunch and recess pods (half go to lunch and half go to recess and then they switch).  There are also specials pods so those teachers can coordinate together. 


  • Q: PBES: Are there opportunities for enrichment in 3rd grade, especially for kids that were pulled out for math and reading at TPES?
  • There is no pull-out program for 3rd graders
  • However, when they did the articulation they worked closely with staff at TPES to ensure students have academic peers in their classroom that are also suited for enrichment 
  • In 4th grade they begin to offer course distinction 


  1. TPES Budget


  • Treasurer: Amy Swift
  • Budget was passed/approved during the meeting
  • Biggest fundraiser is book fair
  • Expenses 
    • Can not pay out reimbursements unless it has been approved in a budget.  If something comes up they can do an amended budget which is presented to the membership for a vote.  
    • Expenses include cultural assemblies, teacher and specials support, field trips, health and wellness, scholarships for enrichment clubs, equity &  inclusion programs (Rainbow club, Hispanic Heritage month, Multi-cultural assemblies, books that represent the diversity of our students)..  
    • $43,000 in expenses planned.  $33,000 funds expected to be raised.  This is a net loss of 10,000 but there is a cash balance of 24,000.  The goal is to use the money to benefit the school.
  1. PBES Budget


  • Treasurer: Rachael Pierotti
  • Budget passed/approved
  • Income from:
    • Carryover
    • Fundraisers – Panther appeal, readathon, club scholarships, gear
    • Small business sponsorships and small grants
  • Expenses:
    • $19,000 of the budget goes to programming that includes costs of swimming (swim lessons during PE), club scholarships, equity fund, special events (STEM night, geo bowl, etc)
    • Also staff support, PTA operating expenses, panther gear, etc


General PTA Information:


TPES PTA Executive Committee: 

President: Kaitlin Caruso 

Executive VP: Claire Dean

Treasurer: Amy Swift 

Executive Secretary: Anna Juarez

Membership Secretary: Lesley Perry & Christine Kahler Smith 

VP of Communications: Joyce McDonough

VP of Membership: Mercedes Castelo 

VP of Fundraising: Diana Hickey van Houwelingen

VP Equity: Jon Frederick

County Delegate: Christina Davis 

NAACP Representative: We still are looking for a volunteer! 


TPES Key Volunteer Teams:


One-time volunteer opportunities – Be on the lookout this year for emails! 

  • Book Fair (sign up for shifts)
  • Readathon (tally up minutes)
  • Staff appreciation (deliver meal, coffee, etc.)
  • Garden and atrium beautification
  • Field trip chaperones? 
  • School Fun Mornings – fall, winter, spring (supervise fun activity stations so teachers can prep reading/math together as grade level team) 


Regular (weekly or bi-weekly) volunteer opportunities: 

  • Classroom volunteer (work with classroom teachers, often during reading or math) 
  • Room Parent



For all volunteers: MCPS Volunteer Training and support guide – please complete this before you are scheduled to volunteer:


2022 Read-a-thon

Final Update:

We’re excited to announce that with the conclusion of the Read-a-thon, the students have done an AMAZING job and totaled 287,627 minutes read, meaning the school has smashed the overall goal of 200,000 minutes read! Our students are incredible!

And while the Read-a-thon for 2022 may be officially over, we hope you continue to encourage your kid(s) to dive into a book and discover the joys of reading.

We now hope you will take time to donate to the Read-a-thon in honor of the students for all their hard work, and share the donate link with any family or friends who would be willing to contribute to the Read-a-thon fundraising effort.

We are excited to launch our 9th annual Read-a-thon event! It is our largest fundraising event and it gets the children excited to read!

In Read-a-thon, a child reads for a month to raise funds for the Takoma Park Elementary School PTA.  Read-a-thon runs March 4 – March 31, 2022.  Please encourage your child to read today!

On this page, you will be able to find more information about our Read-a-thon event.

Read-a-thon Donate ButtonTO DONATE:  You may…

  • Make a check payable to TPES PTA and put in the take-home folder or mail to TPES PTA at
    7511 Holly Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912
  • Put cash in an envelope addressed to TPES PTA in the take-home folder
  • Pay online at (the deadline to donate is April 22)

We hope that you enjoy Read-a-thon as much as we enjoy presenting the Read-a-thon.  Your participation is crucial to the success of Read-a-thon.  Happy reading!

The PTA Read-a-thon Committee Co-Chairs

Sara Lewis and Chris Campbell

Fall 2021 Little Scholars Program

Attention parents! Below is a link to the Fall 2021 flyer for Little Scholars programs. Registration is now open. Scholarships are available and more information on classes being offered and dates are located in the flyer.

Takoma Park Fall 2021 Flyer

PTA Teams With sang•froid Distillery for Fundraiser

Help support local schools while enjoying locally made artisanal spirits! Our fundraiser is off to a great start. Join your friends and neighbors and check out Sang•Froid distillery this week!

The Takoma Park Elementary & Piney Branch Elementary PTAs are excited to be partnering with sang•froid distilling for a fundraising event from Sunday April 11 until Saturday, April 17. The schools will receive 10% of all sales from every order with “PTA”in the comments. Sang Froid Distilling is co-owned by a parent of two children at Takoma Park Elementary and is located in Hyattsville.

As a bonus, they crafted a special bottled cocktail, a Negroni made with trifoliate oranges that were picked right here in Takoma Park (you may have seen these unique citrus fruit in yards and parks – they have the three-inch thorns on the trees!).

You can order here just put “PTA” in the comments when you order. For this special fundraiser, we have 3 options for pick-up:

  1. Pick-up at the distillery on Saturday, 4/17, 12pm – 4pm at the distillery, 5130 Baltimore Ave, Hyattsvolle, MD.

  2. Pick-up in Takoma Park on Sunday, 4/18, 12pm – 4 pm at 807 Davis Ave, (home of TPES PTA President, Meg McDonald).

  3. Home delivery (free of charge!) by the PTA on Sunday afternoon/evening, 4/18 between 3 pm – 5 pm. Make sure to add your address to the comments for this option.

*Please note: all items contain alcohol and individuals must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume.

2021 Read-a-thon Videos

As a way to encourage students to participate in this year’s Read-a-thon, we will be posting videos daily of books being read aloud. These videos can count as minutes your child has read and toward our overall goal, so use these if you want, and don’t forget to log into your child’s Canvas account and log their minutes each day.

Videos will be posted in reverse chronological order, with the most recent day at the top.

March 26 (English, Spanish)

March 25 (English, Spanish)

March 24 (English, Spanish)

March 23 (English, Spanish)

March 22 (English, Spanish)

March 21 (English, Spanish)

March 20 (English, Spanish)

March 19 (English, Spanish)

March 18 (English, Spanish)

March 17 (English, Spanish)

March 16 (English, Spanish)

March 15 (English, Spanish)

March 14 (English, Spanish)

March 13 (English, Spanish)

March 12 (English, Spanish)

March 11 (English, Spanish)

March 10 (English, Spanish)

March 9 (English, Spanish)

March 8 (English, Spanish, Amharic)

March 7 (English, Spanish)

March 6 (English, Spanish)

March 5 (English, Spanish)

March 4 (English, Spanish)

March 3 (English, Spanish, Amharic)

March 2 (English, Spanish)

March 1

2021 Read-a-thon

Final Update:

Thank you to everyone who has helped to support the 2021 Read-a-thon!  We hope your child had a great time reading during the month of March.

Now that the Read-a-thon is over, the minutes have been tallied and we are pleased to report that students read for nearly 140,000 minutes this month. The money we raise from the Read-a-thon will go towards funding much-needed school supplies like PPE for teachers and students as well as helping Ms. Anderson, the TPES Library Media Specialist, recoup lost, damaged, or outdated titles from the media center that sorely need replacing.

Donations can be made online at Please donate and encourage friends or family to donate by Friday, April 16thAny amount, whether it is $3 or $300 helps.  Thank you!

Read-a-thon Video Page

Watch people read books aloud as a way for your child to earn minutes.

We are excited to launch our 8th annual Read-a-thon event! It is our largest fundraising event and it gets the children excited to read!

In Read-a-thon, a child reads for a month to raise funds for the Takoma Park Elementary School PTA.  Read-a-thon runs March 1 – March 26, 2021.  Please encourage your child to read today!

On this page, you will be able to find more information about our Read-a-thon event.

Read-a-thon Donate ButtonTO DONATE:  You may…

  • DONATE ONLINE NOW. We are only accepting online donations/pledge submissions this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The deadline for donation is April 16, 2021.

We hope that you enjoy Read-a-thon as much as we enjoy presenting the Read-a-thon.  Your participation is crucial to the success of Read-a-thon.  Happy reading!

The PTA Read-a-thon Committee Co-Chairs

Sara Lewis and Chris Campbell

Key Dates for Fall 2020


– “MyMCPS Classroom” Training 

Wednesday, August 19 at 7pm: new & kindergarten families

Thursday, August 20 at 7pm: all returning families

(please see email from Dr. Gadsden or post on our list for more information)

– Kindergarten Back To School Night 
Thursday, 8/27 at 7pm (Zoom info TBA)
 Virtual Open House for all TPES students
Friday, August 28 from 3pm to 4pm
– 1st & 2nd grade Back To School Night
Wednesday, 9/2 at 7pm (Zoom info TBA)
– Joint PTA Meeting for TPES & PBES
Tuesday, September 1 at 7pm
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 827 5571 6748
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Meeting ID: 827 5571 6748
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Technological Support for New and Returning Families: Zoom meetings on August 19 and August 20

Technological Support

Whether you are a new or returning family to Takoma Park Elementary and/or Piney Branch Elementary, we hope you’ll join us for a Zoom meeting with parent Stacy Kosko to review the MYMCPS Classroom online platform and some ways it will be used this year. We’re offering two trainings based on level of need.

Wednesday, August 19 at 7pm: new & kindergarten families

Thursday, August 20 at 7pm: all returning families

Topic: New Families “MyMCPS Classroom” Training

Time: Aug 19, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 931 9338 3681

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Topic: Returning families “MyMCPS Classroom” training

Time: Aug 20, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 970 3295 9874

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Meeting ID: 970 3295 9874

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Building Family Connections for the 2020-2021 School Year

Family Connection

– The PTA would like to give parents the opportunity to connect with one another for the sake of learning pods, child care, and sharing resources during the pandemic.  To accompany the lists that were shared by the school, the PTA has created temporary Google Sheets for each grade level so that parents can enter basic contact information in order to communicate with other parents in their child’s classroom.

– From now until 9/1, we’re hoping you’ll help us spread the word about these google sheets where parents can share information, if they choose. This will be especially helpful for kindergarten and new families as they begin to build connections within their neighborhood and community.

– If your child has been assigned 1st grade, room 4, click on the 1st Grade link below and along the bottom of the sheet you can find tabs identifying each room. Find your child’s room and enter in the information if you wish to reach out to other parents in the room. We hope this will be a starting point for parents to possibly coordinate learning pods, child care, etc., during the coming school year.


Once students are assigned to a teacher and classroom parents are established, we will close these lists. These sheets will be available until Tuesday, September 1.

Classroom groupings (without teacher) from Dr. Gadsden:

Kindergarten Classes


First Grade Classes


Second Grade Classes


Google sheets for sharing family information with peers

A message from Ms. Paz about login and password information…


Many parents are reaching out to me, trying to get the log in and password for their children.

Log in is the student’s ID number.  Passwords are going to be distribute

at a later time, before school starts.

If you need your child’s ID number, feel free to email me directly at; or text to; 301 910-6145.

Once I know when the passwords are available, I will send a notification.

Thanks…and please be safe.

Stay well!


Johanna A. Paz,

Administrative Secretary to

Dr. Zadia T. Gadsden,


Takoma Park Elementary School

7511 Holly Avenue

Takoma Park, Maryland 20912

240 740-0980