It seems like the PS 321 PTA does a lot of fundraisers. Why is that?
At many schools in New York, both public and private, raising money to help support the educational activities of the school is one of the primary jobs of the PTA. Because PS 321 is a large school with an economically diverse parent body, the PS 321 PTA aims to have a wide variety of fundraisers so that every family can contribute in the way that is comfortable for them. Some families prefer to buy gift wrap, others books, some like to give directly, and others at events.
The PS 321 PTA also hosts many events that are not fundraisers including potluck dinners, Family Fridays, FamilyArts Night, Green & Healthy Night, and Around the World in 80 Minutes. We also support the activities of the Green & Healthy Committee, the Diversity Committee, and the Testing Task Force, among others.
Why has fundraising become so important to the PS 321 PTA?
Prior to 2007, PS 321 PTA funds went almost entirely to supporting enrichment activities. In 2008, during a time of severe budget cuts, the Department of Education clarified their rules, explaining that PTAs were allowed to fund arts teachers through a grant to the school. In response to this, the PS 321 PTA added an arts teacher grant to its budget. Having arts teachers funded by the PTA helps keep class size down.
How does funding arts teachers keep class size down?
All teachers in public school are allotted one period of preparation time during each school day. At PS 321, these prep periods happen when our kids are with our cluster teachers (art, dance, music, etc). Therefore, there is no flexibility in terms of eliminating these teachers or positions (not that we would want to). If Principal Phillips did not have enough money to fund the current staff (including the arts teachers), her only option would be to cut classroom teachers. She can do this because the DOE allows 32+ children per class in grades 1-5, a higher number than we currently have, or want to have. Another way to look at it is this: For each art teacher NOT funded, one grade would have one less teacher—and so the children in that teacher’s class would be distributed among the other classes, thus increasing class size.
How many arts teachers can the PS 321 PTA fund?
There are six arts teachers at PS 321 that can be funded with a PTA grant. This year we funded three. We also funded 5 full time kindergarten teaching assistants. We hope to do at least the same next year.
Who decides how the PS 321 PTA money is spent?
At the end of each year, the PS 321 PTA officers meet with Principal Phillips to discuss her priorities for the school and her budgetary needs. Together, the 321 PTA and Principal Phillips discuss each line item, from copier contracts, to classroom carpets, to enrichment programs. Once the basics are covered, the 321 PTA determines how much funding remains for the arts teacher grant.