PTO stands for Parent Teacher Organization. All Ward School parents, teachers, and staff members are AUTOMATICALLY members of the PTO. There are no membership dues or requirements. (Periodically, solicitation letters are distributed. These are for voluntary donations only and have nothing to do with membership. There is no change in membership status associated with various contribution amounts.
The PTO organizes events and activities for the Ward School community. The PTO raises money in order to increase the $’s per student spent in and outside of the classroom and to fund the events, activities, and services organized by the PTO. Funds spent in the classroom are allocated in compliance with the Newton Public Schools Elementary Equity Policy (“Equity”). See Section #7 of this Fact Sheet for a discussion of Equity.
PTO meetings are open to any Ward parent, teacher, or staff member who wishes to attend. Meetings are usually held once a month. Exact times and locations are published in the school newsletter (the ForWard and via email). Involvement! The key to a successful PTO is involvement. This can take many forms, from volunteering for one hour on Color Day to taking a major Board position.
The PTO Board consists of Co-Presidents, Treasurers, and Committee Chairs. This group meets monthly to plan and fund activities and events. How does one get on the Board? At the end of each school year an announcement is made in the school newsletter that the PTO is looking for people to fill Board and Committee positions. At that time, anyone interested can contact any current Board member to express interest. All of the Board positions have specific duties outlined in the PTO By-laws (this is available on the Ward School website). The PTO Committees, in conjunction with the Board, organize Ward community activities and events, and explore topics of interest to our families.
How does one serve on a committee? Similar to the above Board participation process, anyone interested in serving on or chairing a committee for the following school year expresses their interest to the Board members at the end of the current school year. The Board coordinates to make sure all the committee chair positions are matched with those interested. In order to be a member of a committee, look for the Volunteer Opportunities Form distributed at the beginning of the school year. This form and information sheet briefly explains the volunteer activities at Ward and the ways to participate. Those who would like to participate should fill out the form and return it according to instructions. Room Parents coordinate activities in individual classrooms, and act as liaisons with the teachers.
A Committee Head chairs individual events and activities with the support of the volunteers. Some of these events are created spontaneously to meet a pressing need and some are historical, with participation determined by the volunteer forms submitted.
Activities and Events: Some of the activities and events hosted by the PTO are listed below:
New Family Reception
Fall/Spring All School Clean-up Day
Election Day Bake Sale
Walk for Hunger – Ward School Contingent
PTO Morning Coffees
CARE Committee – Community Serves
Creative Arts and Sciences
Understanding our Differences
The PTO posts a monthly calendar of events in the main entrance hall and on the Ward School website, as well as via the ForWard or email. PTO sponsored events are paid for with your donations and the proceeds from fundraising. Financial Information - General: From 1998-2001 the PTO operating budget averaged $27,000 per year. PTO revenues averaged $34,000 during this same period. The budget is distributed at the beginning of the school year with a current PTO Board roster. As excess funds accumulate, special purchases are made depending on the needs of the school and compliance with the Equity policy (see Section 6). For example, during the 1999, 2000 school year, 12 iMac computers and 2 printers were purchased for $13,000. Two additional printers were purchased using AT&T points.
The Budget: Major budget spending categories and average allowances are as follows: Classroom set-up funds - $6000. These funds are divided amongst the teachers and specialists at the beginning of the year to defray classroom costs that teachers often pay for themselves. Each teacher/specialist has full discretion over how to spend this money. Creative Arts and Sciences: $9,300. A series of musicians, storytellers, historical theatre performers, science experts, etc., come to the school each year to work with specific grade levels or perform in front of all of the students. Examples from 1999-00 include the Poet in Residence for Grade 5, Audubon Ark animal workshops for Grade 1, Stargazer’s Apprentice Astronomy Workshop for Grade 2, and Odds Bodkin, a storyteller/performer for all grades. Curriculum Enrichment: $3000 The principal manages this category, which consists of responding to teachers requests throughout the year for books, materials, kits, etc. as needed. Teacher Workshops/Staff Development: $2000 The Principal manages this category, which pays for professional workshops and seminars that teachers request to attend. Principal’s Discretionary Fund: $2000 The Principal uses these funds to pay for items that she considers important. Last year, examples included scholarship money for field trips or other school activities and partial funding for training teachers in the Wellesley Social Competency Program (Open Circle). Smaller Spending Categories: $7000 This includes items such as: Child Assault Prevention Program (CAPP) - $700, Fifth grade graduation - $200, Newspaper and Magazine subscriptions - $400, Postage and Printing - $500, Project DARE - $300, ForWard - $425, School Directory - $500, Space Summer Scholarships - $800, etc. See Exhibit III for the 2000-2001 budget in full detail. Equity: The Equity Policy ensures that all children in the public elementary schools in Newton are supported by the same $/student allocation in the classroom. The City of Newton provides a dollar amount per student for in-classroom, curriculum related support. The PTO is allowed to supplement this student allocation. Equity funds are those used to enrich or supplement the curriculum. The current categories determined by the Newton Public Schools as “equity” categories are:
Art display boards
Classroom set-up funds
Creative Arts and Sciences
Principal’s Discretionary Fund
Teacher Workshop/Staff Development
Understanding Our Differences
Literacy Fund and Music Fund
All other PTO budget categories are not subject to this limit. One category that is not part of equity is technology. Each school may spend any amount it deems appropriate on computer hardware and peripherals up to the Newton School Department goal of one computer for every five students. However, supplemental software (that which is beyond the “predetermined software bundle” loaded on a new computer), technology training, maintenance, and support ARE considered equity items and are subject to the limit set by the formula. Please contact the PTO Board Members for additional information. PTO tax exempt status: The PTO is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The PTO attained its tax-exempt status in December 1998, but it was retroactive to June 1996 when the PTO Bylaws were approved. Copies of the budget, bank statements, tax exempt documents, By-Laws, etc. are available to any member of the Ward School PTO. Contact the current PTO presidents at the email addresses or phone numbers listed in your school directory if you would like a copy of these documents.
As part of the Education Reform Act of 1993, School Councils were created at each school across the Commonwealth. The Council offers a way for parents, teachers, and other members of the community to work together in an advisory capacity to the principal. The state describes School Councils by saying:
Every public school in the Commonwealth must establish a School Council. School Council consists of the principal, parents elected by other parents, teachers elected by other teachers, and other public members who are not parents. Principals serve as co-chairs. Each council is free to determine the size of its membership, but must have at least as many parent representatives as teachers (plus the principal). No more than 50% of the council’s membership may consist of members of the public who are not parents, teachers, administrators, or students of the school. School councils are subject to the open meeting law.
School Councils are responsible for assisting the principal in setting educational goals, identifying educational needs, reviewing the school building’s budget, and preparing the school improvement plan. The school improvement plan is to address issues such as class size, professional development, parental involvement, and school climate.
The Ward School Council is an elected group of four parents, an elected group of four teachers, the principal, and community members appointed by the principal. School Council meetings are held four to six times each year and are open to the school community.
School Council Election Process
Teachers and parents are elected by their peers and serve a one, two, or three year term. The PTO Co-presidents and the Newton Teachers Association representative conduct elections each spring to replace departing parents and teacher members. The principal appoints community members with an attempt to bring to the council a spirit of diversity that is reflected in the larger Ward community.