Last week’s BSCO Listening Sessions proved productive and engaging. Parents, Board members, and BSE administrators were on hand to chat about our year, our budget and our long-term goals. Below is an annotated list of topics covered and feedback received.
The general consensus was that this year’s change was a success, both in timing, simplifying of awards and the switch to emphasizing total participation over individual goals. Other factors mentioned:
The lowest tier ($50) created the unintended issue of having so many kids pulled out of class that the last few felt left out.
maybe move to after school
maybe class with highest participation
all school instead if individuals reach goal
Scheduling always tight in the fall between Columbus Day, Outdoor School, conferences, and Monster Mash
JAT is currently looking for a third Lead
Everyone agreed that this is an impressive and successful event. Concern was voiced over the sustainability of planning such a time-consuming event, and both volunteer and donator burnout. Ideas thrown around included:
Move to a smaller event
auction only, no dinner?
less auction items?
less often (every other year)?
If scaled back then think about something more low-key as well for those that don't love big events
expand to include other community members, such as international night? wine tasting? Picnics?
Worried about it being accessible for everyone as it can get very expensive
Lower ticket prices to bring in more people and make it more accessible without suppressing other potential revenue opportunities
10 people are organizing this year instead of five, so there’s less stress and working better
Child care option? Would help bring more people to the event as well
Hire an auction planner?
Make prints of kids' projects for those who are outbid for the original
Attendees were treated to a sneak peak of the 2016-17 draft budget. Small changes included:
Increased Jog-a-Thon budget, decreased Bridge the Gap (overall fundraising totals remain the same, just reorganization of goals)
Added a committee discretionary fund for small expenses/improvements for different committee budgets
Increased teacher fund for specialists (they currently don’t receive as much as classroom teachers)
Decreased teacher grants (as teachers aren’t spending this due to solid financial support in other BSCO budgets)
Increased garden budget (one time) for repairs and replacements as well as Author Visit (for more competitive author-- next year only)
Intentional choice to spend down reserve by at least $11k. Depending on Auction totals, this may increase, possibly with the purchase of a wall mounted projector in the gym and more inquiry-style playground equipment
Generally, the group felt positive about the continued emphasis on educating the masses on what the BSCO budget entails/funds. Other feedback gained:
Feel it’s a good message to be honest about totals but still make effort to spend down reserve
Appreciate that Bridge the Gap is only if needed
Even if donations goes down a little, community will step up the next year
Concern about art spending, since feedback in survey asked for more STEM
Teacher Fund, PYP training, field trips and mature grants are separate separate line items; teachers feel well supported so don't need as much in Teacher Grants budget
Want more experiences for the kids-- such as lego club or hour of code or two artist in residence
Various terms can cause confusion-- carry-forward, excess, reserves, etc.
Money not spent each year means money not spent on own kids, therefore parents less likely to donate
Depending on Auction totals, BSCO could close the year with anywhere between $100k-130k. The Board communicated that our goal (and safest fiscal position), would be to go into a school year with half our operating budget ($75k) in reserves. This would create a safe and reasonable cash flow, allow for the initial upfront spending in September, as well as provide technology purchases to be made as early as possible to ensure tech is up and ready in September.
The Board is currently contemplating items to spend down this difference, ensuring that parents can donate with confidence that money given will be spent in a timely manner on their own children. Options for spending down include wall mounted projector, free Monster Mash/Carnival, IXL, and inquiry-style playground equipment. Here was the public’s reactions/opinions/ideas on reserve spending:
So happy Monster Mash and Carnival could be free
General concern for people who can't afford these events. Not certain they are willing to step forward and say they can't afford it
Combine free MM and Carnival with canned food drive or clothes closet support or other community drive
If free, Carnival would have kids from school register and get a bracelet in Friday folder, which helps with fire marshall, prizes, etc.
Really glad to see IXL back
Send options/ideas for spending in emails/newsletter, make a choice, give public a chance to give feedback and then move forward
Make access to field above school ADA compliant so can add more classrooms up there
Several committee lead positions are open for next year, including a new Talent Show lead. Generally, the attendees agreed with the decision to keep a Fifth Grade Showcase, allowing anyone who wants to participate can do so in fifth grade.
Some discussion also ensued about being sure that our events/activities remain accessible for leads. It’s awesome to have super-star volunteers, but often that creates an expectation that makes finding their replacement difficult. Our events/activities should reflect what volunteers can reasonably give and that will change year to year, lead to lead.
Here’s a listing of other feedback/concerns out there.
Favorite improvements include the principal chat and board meeting updates on the blog
Being sure to include options for working parents
Irritation over body of articles no longer shown within the email (now a listing of links). Subscribing to BSCO’s blog emails can alleviate this concern, as the entire article would then be sent straight to your inbox the day it is published. Directions to do this will be included in the next BSCO Newsletter.
Concern about staplers working, glue sticks, pencil sharpeners, etc., when doing production work. Janet and Renee have already sent in an office supply order, as a result of this discussion.
Combining PYP Night with Science Fair is removing a STEM event when the survey said parents want more STEM. Also concerned about event being a long night for young children and that PYP Night is taking away from Science Fair.
A huge thank you is due to the parents who took the time to join us last week. We were honored to see you there and hear your ideas. Questions/comments about this Listening Session recap or any BSCO goals can be directed to Hannah Donohue, BSCO President.