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: