PTA General Meeting Minutes 9-17-2014

By Kathy Sandler,

Highlights from the Sept. 17 PTA Meeting, including presentations by Hunter department chairs and remarks from Principal Dr. Tony Fisher.

The meeting came to order at 7pm.
Paul Radvany, PTA Co-President, welcomed everyone. He said to look for great programming at upcoming PTA meetings - see Hilites for details. The June PTA minutes were passed unanimously. He gave a plug for the Hunter merchandise for sale, including the fabulous new string backpack.
Dean Ketchum, Director of Campus Schools, spoke about how many clubs there are at Hunter, including a new Bridge Group. He is starting his second year.
Dr. Tony Fisher, HCHS Principal, talked about how much has changed in a year. As he wrote in his September e-mail newsletter, at this time last year there was a new elevator promised, but it took a few more months, so students helped move chairs and textbooks up the stairs. There was a new Assistant Principal. And the Director of Campus Schools was doing double duty at another school. 
This summer, we were able to buy office and classroom furniture thanks to the generosity of the PTA. We were able to plan with personnel in place this year. 
Dr. Fisher also announced that the school is dedicated to talk about one value every year over next 6 years. This year’s topic is respect. We need to do it in a way that is appropriate for the school. He closed his remarks with: “We are committed to raising your children as scholars, as athletes, as artists, but also as great people.”
Agenda Item: Discussion with Department Chairs.
Anju Malhotra, Assistant Head of Programming, PTA, asked the panel to introduce themselves and say a few words. The Department Chairs: Julie Reifer, Art & Music; Dr. Tony Fisher (standing in for Lois Refkin, English/Communication and Theatre); Claire Mazzola, Foreign Languages; Robert Gaudenzi, Health and Physical Education; Stephen Young (standing in for Lyubomir Detchkov, Mathmatics); Dr. Philip Jeffery, Science.
Anju asked each department chair to spend a few minutes describing what they hope Hunter College High School students will get from their departments and some of the extracurricular activities that relate to their area.
Summary of remarks:
Science: Dr. Jeffery thanked the PTA for their generous support of programs and their child’s education. He encourages you to talk to your child about science. Children want to get the “right” answer, but the goal is get more informed answers based on evidence. They should gather evidence from their own observations. Some answers over the years may change, because science doesn’t stand still. We want students to find their own questions.
In 7th & 8th grade, students will do science fair projects at home, which will consist of experiments. In 7th grade, they will study life science and environment. In 8th grade, they will study physical science and chemistry. There are research programs in science. They have opportunities for extracurricular activities. 
English/Communication and Theatre: Dr. Fisher read Ms. Refkin’s statement that described the goals: Over the next 6 years, she wants the students to flourish as writers and presenters. In English, there is a focus on creative and analytical writing, reading, and public speaking. There are dramatic performances, electives, newspapers, writing contests, and other opportunities. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” crew interest meeting is coming up.
Foreign Languages: Ms. Mazzola thanked the PTA for textbooks, clubs, and the language lab. She explained that they believe in the communicative approach. They have an in-depth study of one language, with a 4-year language requirement. In the 7th and 8th grade, students focus on study skills. In the 9th and 10th grade, there is a communicative approach (with a reading-based approach in Latin). We want students to attend advanced placement classes –that’s where fun begins! In Latin, they can participate in the quiz bowl. We want students to visit places where the language they are studying is spoken or they can study it. There will be a trip to Italy during Feb. vacation.
Health and Physical Education: Mr. Gaudenzi thanked the PTA for renovating the weight room, dance/pilates/yoga room, and fencing/wrestling space. He reported that they have added fitness into every level of the curriculum. The goal is to have students to have a cognitive understanding of human movement, become leaders, and make decisions that affect themselves and others. In health education, they create a forum for class discussion. They promote respect for listening, and understanding physical abilities and limitations. 
In sports, they won the PSAL awards for one of the top schools for sportsmanship, which he feels is even better than the 16 PSAL championships (unprecedented in NYC history for such a small school). They just started girls wrestling team and had 2 all-Americans. In 8th grade, they give every student the opportunity to swim. We teach CPR and electives in outdoor education, lifetime sports in addition to our basic core curriculum. In Health Education we also provide a forum for classroom discussion that is "safe" for our students to express diverse opinions on sensitive issues.
Math: Mr. Young said that in Math, the emphasis at every step is critical thinking. The goal is for the student to have understanding, beyond how to do problems. Methods, ideas, and approaches change. Hunter has a strong collection of math teams. It is not just a super competitive group – it’s for students to see problems they don’t see in the classroom. There is a math publication, called Radicals. There are computer science offerings, and they are starting math and computer science research programs. There are lunchtime sessions for 9th and 10th graders and strong electives for 11th and 12th graders.
Art and Music: Ms. Reifer said art and music are essential parts of your child’s education. It helps students use both sides of their brain. Students develop discipline and control, and this translates into every classroom. We focus on the creative process, teach students to trust in their own ideas, and help them discover strengths and passion. There is ½ year of both art and music in 7th-9th grade. In 10th grade, they can choose a ½ year of art or music, and then they can take electives their junior or senior year. There are AP classes and an opportunity to be in a performance group. Thanks to the enormous financial support, we have been able to refurbish 3 art rooms and 4 music rooms and eliminate the admission charge to winter and spring concerts.
Anju then asked a few questions to the panel.
Question: What kind of parental involvement works best for your department? Do you have any suggestions for the best use of the Internet for your subject area or cautions about the Web?
Foreign Languages: Ms. Mazzola welcomes parental support (but do not do their homework!). For younger children: Be a physical presence when they are doing their homework, let them explain it to you. 
There are great resources on the Internet. For example, you can listen to other languages. Do not use Google translate – we know when students do that.
Health and Physical Education: Students can do research on the Internet, per Mr. Gaudenzi, and this promotes independent learning. For example, students in swimming keep a journal and watch YouTube videos on technique (e.g., breast stroke) and cite their sources. They will analyze the videotape of a swing.
It’s great to get parents at sporting events. We want parents to be interested and ask questions about the curriculum in physical education and health.
Science: Dr. Jeffery said his department urges students to use evidence – by observation/experiment and by also reading. If a kid says something, a parent can ask, “How do you know that?” You may need more authoritative sources than the Internet. They teach students to know whether it is a primary or secondary source (someone writing about someone else’s research). (No experiments are allowed on a pet or a sibling.) You can ask the student questions, such as “what is it that you’re trying to measure, how can you do it reliably? How will you know whether the test passed or failed?”
Math: Mr. Young said that teachers and parents are allies. Communication has gotten much easier via e-mail, homework is on the website. But the Internet can get disorienting. There is a lot of homework, and the teachers are trying to figure out how to manage that across departments. Students need to learn the difference between using the Internet for helping vs. copying. 
English/Communication and Theatre: Students should not use the Internet for assignments unless specifically told to do this. When students use the Internet for ideas, they can use it as a crutch.
Art and Music: Ms. Reifer said if a student has an assignment to go to a museum or review a concert, don’t do it online – they must do it in person. If a student uses an image, they must give credit to the source or they can take their own photo. Music and art may be the best time of your kid’s day, acknowledge it.
General: Dr. Fisher said that each department has an academic integrity statement, and each department can be different as far as whether to use the Internet and other guidelines for homework assignments.
For parental involvement – be curious about the homework, help students organize their time, be open for social/emotional issues, discussion about substances, peer pressure. Keep those same lines of communication with the dept. chairs/administration, we want to hear from all parents (even if they have the same issue). Students should speak to the teacher if there is a problem, then the dept. chair. Be as involved in the life of the school as you can. 
Question: What specific courses and seminars does your department offer and how students apply?
Math: Mr. Young said there are opportunities in 9th & 10th grade to learn Python through a series of mini-lunch courses, which are 4 sessions each, and start in October. If kids want to learn to program on their own, they often get bad habits that we have to fix later. He also listed AP computer science, JavaScript, AP Statistics, and calculus. 
Foreign Languages: Ms. Mazzola said there are AP courses, afterschool Mandarin for college credit, and clubs – including the polyglot club, which welcomes all students.
Health and Physical Education: Mr. Gaudenzi reported more requests for students to be interns. He said it’s a great experience for a teacher to mentor a 12th grade student.
Science: Dr. Jeffery said the 7th and 8th graders start with research and the science fair. In the 9th-11th grade, there are science research programs, but this takes a lot of time, so you need to consider their extracurricular activities. The 9th graders in the research program are assigned articles and meet with a Research Coordinator to discuss what they read. The goal is to see how they understand the scientific process and read charts. 9th graders transition from class/tests to work in a lab at school, keeping records, cleaning up after themselves and communicating about what they’re doing.
In the 10th grade program, students read articles written by scientists, discuss with others, work with the Research Coordinator, and write scientists; if the scientists are in NY, they visit them. The older kids meet with peers doing research and apply for a job working in a lab. There is a Research Symposium in May, where we invite a scientist to come speak. 
General: Dr. Fisher said his daughter goes to a really big school in Brooklyn, and the parents get an e-mail every day. “We try to do a good job of timing communication,” he said. “Look for things on the website.” For example, he said there will be information on theater practicum, and announcements to try out for sports team or performance. “Come to Open School Day and see different clubs. If a question comes up, e-mail the department chairs. We have 1,200 students with that many different interests.” 
Question: What is the approach to the science fair and the goal of projects? 
Answer: The project is an experiment, where the student tests his or her hypothesis. The hardest part is figuring out how they will test their prediction. We discuss it in class, but most of the work is done at home. 
Question: What is the goal of the language program?
Answer: Proficiency is the goal, especially for advanced classes, per Ms. Mazzola.
Question: What should parents do when they need help navigating the website? How much time do clubs and sports take and when do they meet.
Answer: Dr. Fisher will think about website navigation for a future meeting topic (but said you can always ask your child!). There is a lot on departmental pages about clubs and sports. If there are specific things you want to see, communicate with the teacher or dept. chair.
Question: Is there a departmental policy for posting assignments online?
Art and Music: More and more art and music assignments are posted last year, according to Ms. Reifer. Last year was first year with a new website. 
Science: The Science Department posts major assignments (more than 1 night’s homework) and tests. Parents need login credentials to see the student info. Students have Google drive accounts this year for first time. 
Math: Teachers are doing professional development inside and outside the classroom to learn to use the website more efficiently. 
General: Dr. Fisher commented that they have lively discussions with the faculty about whether to post assignments online or tell the students to pay attention during the last 5 minutes of class. (The libertarian ethos of faculty is a long-standing practice at the school.) “We recognize the value of posting,” he said. “I mandate things very cautiously.” He is pushing for the teachers of 7th & 8th graders to post online. 
Agenda Item: The PTA Annual Fund - Seth Hulkower and Giles Hunt, Annual Fund Co-Chairs.
The annual fund represents 80% of the funds that the PTA raises over the year. Seth and Giles showed a presentation called “The Annual Fund by the Numbers” which had these significant facts:
93 = the number of student clubs at Hunter. 
44 = the number of sports teams. We fund sports teams and buses, uniforms, coaches. 
300 = the number of new lockers we funded.
4 = the number of music rooms we renovated last year.
10 = the number of performance groups we funded (including music, theater, free concerts).
4 = plays and musicals performed throughout the year, including Shakespeare, middle school, and brick.
100 = the percentage of students directly benefitting from the annual fund (whether through sports, music, college counseling). 
$0 = the amount of school/city funding for after-school and student activities. The city, through Hunter College, pays for the building and salaries. The annual fund raised $684K from parents last year to cover everything else. 
$10 = the smallest donation to the annual fund – we appreciate!
$10,000 = the largest donation — we appreciate that too! 
$1,400 = the suggested donation to the annual fund (per child). 
53 = Percent of HCHS parents who donated to the annual fund – that means 47% of the parents don’t participate! 
$635,000 = the goal for this year after covering expenses. 
100 = the goal for participation. 
Please contact them with questions at, because they will be contacting you!
Agenda Item: PTA business - Judy Weinstein, PTA Co-President.
The PTA will be printing the directory very soon. It’s also online, but many people like the printed version. You can get it by paying your PTA dues, which you can do at on the Hunter PTA website here. We have raised $38K in PTA dues so far, but the goal is $55K – we need 230 more families to contribute. 
Upcoming Events:
9/30 = Open School Day — You can go to your student’s classes. 
10/9 = Principal’s Coffee at 8:30AM. There is no need to RSVP. 
10/16 = Spirit Day — All students take a field trip to Bear Mountain.
10/22 = Homework-free night.
11/11 = End of 1st quarter.
11/16 = Fall Cultural Banquet, sponsored by CAPA (Chinese American Parents Association) – it’s a really fun evening!
11/19 = PTA Meeting - Look forward to seeing you there!
The meeting concluded at 9pm.