November 2023 PTA Meeting Minutes

Takoma Park Elementary School (TPES)
Piney Branch Elementary School (PBES)
Parent & Teacher Meeting (PTA)
Tuesday, November 7, 2023 from 7-8pm on Zoom
Meeting Minutes

Agenda included: (1)Upcoming Dates & Announcements (2)Dreambox Presentation by Samikia East (3)Wait Until Eighth Presentation by Amber Rieke (4) Treasurer’s Reports and Budget Votes

7:00 PM: Meeting Kick-off  – Kaitlin Caruso, TPES PTA President 

Upcoming Dates & Announcements (Read by Joyce McDonough, TPES VP Communications) 

Takoma Park Elementary PTA 

  • The Dolphin Drive Begins! (Please refer to Diana to make announcement) 

November is coming and it’s time for our annual Dolphin Drive!  This year we aim to raise $10,000 for the PTA.  With your support we can continue to provide programs and opportunities for our students at TPES.  Be on the lookout for more information about how you can participate and show your school spirit!  Go, Dolphins!

Flyers and envelopes will be coming home with children in the Dolphin folders, if not already. Envelope: write the child’s and teacher’s name on the website. Donations also accepted at

  • Bring in Magazines for the Counseling Office 

Students will be creating collages to help identify emotions and understand zones of regulation by cutting out examples of people experiencing different emotions from magazines this week. Please send in magazines with people that could be useful for these collages.

  • TPES Open House: Friday, November 10, 9:30-11:30AM

Some classes will do their normal activities, others may have special events. Teachers will determine the format of the event and how parents will engage.

  • Reminder: Respect Road Signs

As a reminder, there is no left turn at the exit of the school parking lot onto Holly Ave during school hours. There has been additional congestion at drop off/dismissal, including buses not being able to drive through, due to cars trying to turn left onto Holly Ave from the TPES parking lot.  

  • Small Things Matter and TPES/PBES Annual Coat Drive 

The school is partnering with Small Things Matter for its annual Coat Drive! The drive runs until November 15. Please bring new or gently used coats to the designated box in the main office during school hours. All PBES and TPES families are invited to get coats on Tuesday November 7 at the TPSS Coop and again at a later date (to be announced soon).

  • TPES will have Hearing & Vision screenings from November 6th through the 9th from 9:30am to 3pm. The school is in need of several volunteers to help the health room staff escort students from the classrooms to the screening location and back. Please let Ms. Paz know if you are available to assist during this important screening ( 
  • There will be HALF DAYS on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week and NO SCHOOL November 22-24, 2023. 

Piney Branch Elementary PTA 

  • Panther Appeal Update: Thanks to All Who Contributed

Appeal is over, a big thank you to everyone who donated! Your support makes everything the PTA does possible!.  We are getting close to our goal and hope that our silent auction gets us to the $10K goal

  • On November 9 the PTA is hosting a Community Celebration from 7-8:30 pm, where we will thank our PBES Family and Friends for their support and participation in our vibrant community. There will be a silent auction, raffle, pizza, and a “Why I Love Piney Branch” group art project. The PTA needs volunteers for our PBES Community Celebration on November 9th! 

The event will have a group art project for students, a silent auction, pizza and raffle prizes! Bidding for silent auction items will close online at 630pm the night of and continue in person at the event.

Please fill out this SignUp Genius if you are able to volunteer. 

  • Feedback Needed: After-school Programs

Please complete this survey  to help the PTA plan future after-school programming. We are interested in your feedback, whether you have participated in the past or are interested in participating in the future.

  • Thank you to Adanna Johnson for volunteering to serve as an NAACP representative for PBES! 

We are looking for one additional NAACP representative to share responsibilities with Adanna. The NAACP representatives attend monthly meetings (or ensures PBES representation at monthly meetings), share important information from the Parents’ Council with the school community, and help to plan/support outreach events/activities at PBES. Please reach out to Sara Lewis ( if you are willing to serve in this capacity.

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

7:10 PM: Dreambox Presentation and Q & A

  • Samikia East, Staff Development Teacher, TPES
    • Link to presentation
    • Dreambox is a digital math program that K-3 students have access to at home and at school that complements the Eureka curriculum.
    • Empowers teachers and parents with actionable data
    • Students are encouraged to use it at home without assistance.
    • Role of the Learning Guardian
      • Ensure technical compatibility: PC, laptop, or ipad. Up to date browsers: Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or Ipad app. Not compatible with android tablets, iphones
      • Username, password, classroom id comes from teacher. Student will know their picture password.
      • 5+ lessons per week, to be completed both at home and at school. Set this expectation with student.
      • Support best practices: student is the only person playing on the child’s account. It’s ok to make mistakes. Use Help and hint buttons. 15 minutes per lesson; turn on volume
    • Creating free Dreambox Math Family Account
      • Some lessons at home, some in class. This account will help know what’s been done at school
      • Login to the child’s account. Select Set Up Parent Access link. 
      • Cannot create account from ipad app
      • Enter email and create a password for parent account
      • Forgot your password link is on the login page
      • Once logged in, parent can monitor child’s progress
    • Priority for Eureka worksheets or Dreambox? To work out with the student’s math teacher. Dreambox sessions are short. May rotate what the student does each evening.
    • All data kept in house by the teacher.
    • Very little data is linked to student’s account; secure
    • Is there an offline version? Can choose to do the Eureka workbook instead of Dreambox. Research shows 5+ lessons per week can improve results. Students not on screens every day at school; MAP growth scores increased with Dreambox use.
    • How do Eureka and Dreambox relate? Both are Common Core based. Eureka may not get to all concepts covered by testing; Dreambox can
    • Logins were sent home previously; Ms. East will remind teachers to send again.
    • Joyce McDonough comment: Just wanted to name for PBES families, especially our 4th and 5th grade families, that TPES PTA purchased subscriptions for all K-3 students to address learning loss during the pandemic but the program can be used for older students. It’s an adaptive program that adapts to the skills and needs of your child.
    • Dreambox is adaptive depending on where the student is. Goes through K-8 skills
    • Tutor Me: TPES is not supporting the program this year.

7:25 PM: Wait Until Eighth Presentation and Q & A

  • Amber Rieke, Health & Wellness Committee, TPES PTA
    • Fellow parent; presented last year on Wait Until Eighth
    • Conversation started last year and picking it back up
    • Wait Until Eighth is a national campaign 
    • Focused on smartphones because of social media/internet access
    • Many studies coming out about social media and mental health of youth – suggest not helpful and could be harmful; health advisories released by APA and other organizations
    • Seeing increasing issues with tech at school being a distraction; mostly smart watches
    • links to research on how smartphones are changing childhood
    • Organization set up a pledge to sign to agree not to give child a smartphone until at least 8th grade; helpful to have the norm to avoid the peer pressure of other families giving smartphones.
    • Considering setting up something similar for TPES and PBES families; open to ideas on how to address the pressures. Ensure that it is something that is sustainable into the middle school years.
    • – survey to submit ideas and provide feedback. Please complete by November 26. Will circulate in PTA newsletter and elsewhere. 
    • Amber’s email for additional questions
    • Resources for parents of high school age children? Many resources on the wait until 8th website

7:40 PM: Treasurer’s Reports & Budget Votes

  • Amy Swift, TPES PTA Treasurer
    • Votes: 
      • Using Square and PayPal charity accounts for collecting payments, both in person and online links
        • Motion passes
      • Increases to budget expenses
        • General Expenses
        • Outreach & Social Events: buying merch, fund events
        • PTA Administrative: copier expenses, CPA for tax processing
        • Subtotal School Programs: 
        • Staff Support: water cooler, etc.
          • Motion passes
    • FInancial Review completed and submitted to Free State PTA
  • Rachael Pierotti, PBES PTA Treasurer
    • Changes
      • Panther appeal is complete, except the silent auction; over $8000 collected so far
      • PBES received a grant
    • Expenses: Aquarium, staff support, pta operations b/c paypal fees
    • Book fair closed but will see the funds next month; not income for the PTA.

7:55 PM: Closing Remarks 

  • Kaitlin Caruso, TPES PTA President 
  • Reminder that next meeting will be held on Tuesday, December 5th