Please read the statements below from our SLT parent candidates, and vote during our PTA meeting and Officer/SLT election on May 26th, 2021. (Statements are in no particular order.)

Denell Downum

My name is Denell Downum, and I am the mother of a 4th grader and a 1st grader at P.S. 321. I’ve loved our school since my older daughter came home beaming after her first day of kindergarten nearly five years ago, but this pandemic year has really brought home to me both how special P.S. 321 is and how deeply kids, parents, and indeed our whole community rely on our school.

Over the past four years, I’ve enjoyed volunteering for projects like chaperoning field trips and giving presentations in my daughters’ classrooms, but this year I’ve been inspired to work toward ensuring our school has the resources it needs by serving as a co-chair of the Spring Auction & Gala committee. We’re working hard to raise funds to support music, art, and technology teachers; to provide teachers with grants to buy classroom supplies; to fund enrichment programs like Run for Fun and League of Young Inventors; and to help our school meet the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. (Don’t forget to check out our online auction, open all week until 2pm on Sunday!).

Now I hope to continue giving back to the school and the community by serving on the School Leadership Team.

The pandemic has posed enormous challenges for our school and for our families. As an educator myself, with over a decade of experience teaching literature and writing at the college level,I know just how hard it is to suddenly be forced to change curricula and teaching methods. I lived that experience last spring when my college, Montclair State University, moved abruptly to fully online delivery, requiring me to completely revamp my classes in less than one week’s time. As a parent, I also know the burden (as well as the occasional joy) of supporting my children in their own remote learning, struggling with online platforms that don’t always work and with a learning experience that has been a particularly difficult fit for my younger daughter. 

These experiences, and the lessons I’ve learned from them, would shape my contribution to the SLT, as would my lifelong commitment to education and my deep appreciation for our school.

Marisa Russell

My name is Marisa Russell, and I am the mother of a 1st grader at PS 321, along with a 4-year-old and 9-month-old. In running for a spot on the School Leadership Team, it is my hope to give back to the school community that has given our family so much in the last year.

In my child’s short time at 321, I have been a class PTA liaison, served as this year’s Picture Day chair, and also helped bring author & illustrator Vashti Harrison to 321 in one of our last in-school, pre-COVID events (in my professional life, I work in children’s book publishing). My family has felt immeasurably lucky to not only have our school’s steadfast leadership in complicated circumstances, but to also have had the warmth and compassion of our amazing teachers.  It is clear that over the next few years, it will be vital to support our school as we collectively heal and move forward, and that is why I’d like to join SLT. I’m looking forward to being able to do more for the school community, and it would be an honor to be considered for a seat on SLT.

Shannon Coudurier

My name is Shannon Coudurier, and my daughter Colette is a current Kindergarten scholar at PS 321 and I would be honored to serve as a member of the SLT.

This school year certainly hasn’t been ordinary, but the level of communication, flexibility and collaboration the PS 321 team has exhibited is nothing short of extraordinary. As an educator myself I am hyper aware of the unique challenges schools faced amid this pandemic, and it is clear to me PS 321 has a team of committed change agents who are ready to find creative solutions in service of PS 321’s community and I feel I have many skills, resources and outlooks that could support that work moving forward.

If selected as a member of the SLT I would look forward to brining my 12 years of education based professional experience to the team. I started my career in education as a classroom teacher, where I had the pleasure of working with students ranging from 8th grade to Pre-K. Having spent so many years in the classroom, I am able to create plans and systems that are feasible and sustainable for teachers to execute on, and I have an acute awareness of what teachers need in order to feel and be successful throughout school year.

After 7 years in the classroom I transitioned to the role of Assistant Principal for 2 years and then for the past 3 years I have served as the School Leader of Kings Elementary School, located in East Flatbush. As a School Leader I am afforded the opportunity to drive a myriad of work streams to goal for my 450 students, their families and my staff of 60; all of which are skills I believe I can also bring to SLT. Below are some of the most relevant and applicable:

Operations Leadership

School Culture

Family & Community Engagement

As my daughter’s first year at PS321 comes to a close, I look forward to the potential opportunity to support SLT in their continued cultivation of a supportive and inclusive school community for the years ahead.

Emma Kostura

Hello! My name is Emma Kostura, and I am mom to a 3rd grader and 1st grader at P.S. 321. From the very start of our experience at P.S. 321, I have been beyond impressed with the school leadership, including the staff, faculty, and volunteers who work tirelessly to make P.S. 321 the successful and progressive public school that it is. 

It was when I attended my first Annual Volunteer Fair in September 2017 that I learned how lucky we are to be a part of this generous community. There were dozens of tables, all run by volunteers, demonstrating the myriad of ways that parents and families could get involved. I became a Learning Friend that year, and immediately fell in love with the program. I started meeting with a 1st grade student once a week, in partnership with her teacher, who worked with me to understand where she could benefit from additional one on one attention. Over the course of that year, I had the privilege of working alongside this student as she developed her writing skills and gained confidence in her story telling abilities. I found it to be such a rewarding experience that I became the Learning Friends co-chair at the end of that school year and have served as the Learning Friends Program Coordinator (and volunteer!) since 2018. I have deeply enjoyed working with our dedicated learning friend volunteers and I continue to be in awe of the involvement of our teachers, who are so tuned in to our kids’ individual needs. 

Another favorite experience of mine was volunteering at the Spring Carnival in 2018, where I’m sure I got in my daily steps running around as a floater to fill in where needed, collecting tickets in exchange for prizes, and watching the absolute delight on so many children’s faces as they played games and won trinkets and ate cookies, all while raising money for the school. It was so much fun. I have served as class parent, have chaperoned numerous school field trips, and have mastered the art of the hot glue gun while helping my son’s 1st grade class create an entire city block out of cardboard, paint, and pure imagination. 

Professionally, I am a Philanthropy Officer at UNICEF USA, where I raise funds for the largest child-rights focused humanitarian organization in the world. UNICEF believes every child has the right to survive, to thrive, and to be given the opportunity to reach their full potential. These same principles are at work at P.S. 321 through the admirable dedication of the administration and teachers who show up every day to educate our kids.

I would love to be considered for the SLT, where I can offer my experience and bring my enthusiasm for advancing the school’s goals and objectives, in collaboration with the administration, teachers, and fellow parents. Thank you for the opportunity to share this statement.