Academy for International Studies
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
AIS Media Center
ATTENDANCE: Helena Nitowski (Principal), Sonia Holmes (Co-VP of Student Enrichment), Eric Schmidt
(Co-VP of Student Enrichment), Jim Poulos (Co-VP of Community Involvement), Jenn Warren (VP of
Volunteers), Barb Coleman (Co-President), Carolyn Onorato (Co-President), Cyndi Smalley-Markovitz
(Treasurer), Meg McLoone (Co-VP of Community Involvement), Heather Rivers (VP of Fundraising),
Robin Suarez (Secretary), Pam Tassiello, Kathryn Hodgdon, Heather Melody, Gerrie Price, Jiz Condosta,
Irene Aspras, Michelle Starros-Keenan, Marguerite Mains, Danielle Caldwell, Meredith Miller, Sunil
Suryawanshi, Lisa Shook, Kenney Shook, Ellen Lyall, Kathy LaValley, Robin Stanton, Vicki Gottwals,
Call to Order
The meeting was called to order by Barb Coleman and began at 7:15 PM.
Approval of Meeting Minutes
The September meeting minutes were disseminated to the meeting body for review. Pam Tassiello made a
motion to approve the minutes. Eric Schmidt seconded. All were in favor.
Principal Nitowski reported. There was a good turnout at the Open House. People used the buses. There was a
problem with the server so the movie will be on the website if you want to view it again. Parents are working
hard to limit the disruptions to teaching by not taking their children out early from school. She discussed the
Outcome Action Plan that all Danbury schools are working on. The goals are to: raise academic levels in E/LA,
increase parent involvement by creating a parent engagement policy, decrease the number of office referrals for
behavior, and monitor student attendance and early dismissals. The teachers have completed their academic
testing. This will help them target the students who need academic assistance and those who would benefit from
enrichment. The participation in the summer reading program decreased this year. 150 students did not return
their summer packets. They are trying to figure out why and are looking for ideas to increase the participation.
DRA scores drop when children do not read over the summer. The biggest drop is from First to Second Grade.
DRA testing occurs in September, January and May. There will be a DRA Parent Workshop at Shelter Rock
School on October 28 from 7:00-8:30. The “new student lunches” have gone well. The students feel welcomed
and the transition is going well. Mr. Ho and Mr. Mauro will hold a band and strings demonstration. On
September 21, the school celebrated the International Day of Peace. John Farrell came and sang with the
children. It was a very emotional day. They had a moment of silence and a UN wish for peace. Mrs. Cardillo
sang with the children as well. Meg McLoone had students say “may peace prevail” in various languages with
the school. Each grade level participated and decided what peace meant to them. There will be a joint citywide
concert for grades 3-5 on November 13. Mrs. Cardillo set some concert dates for the year. Kindergarten and
Grade 4 will have their concerts in December. The dates will also be on the website. The bus company is
working on the bus issues. A bus alert group will be set up by Mrs. Nitowski and Mrs. Aponte. They will send
out an alert if the bus will be later than usual. You must contact Mrs. Aponte if you want to add your cell number
to the list on the School Messenger System. Fire Prevention assemblies are coming up. The new on-line lunch
system is working well. It is easy to make payments on line. We have parent volunteers to help run the salad bar
at lunch time. The head of the food service wants to be there on the first day of operation. Hopefully, he will be
available soon so they can open the salad bar. She will activate the alert system the night before early dismissals
to remind parents. Walking Club is going well. Mrs. Teagarden is looking to add winter activities to the
program. Mrs. Nitowski will ask Mrs. Teagarden when the next Flu Shot Clinic will be.
Meg McLoone and Jim Poulos (Co-VP’s of Community Involvement) reported. The food drive collected 300
pounds of food and was distributed to local food banks, Daily Breads, and a women’s center. On November 13,
there will be a “Joining Hands Around the World” concert. The whole school community is invited. The song
“Many Different Languages” will have the lyrics changed to match the culture of AIS. DVD’s and t-shirts will
be sold. Mrs. LaValley will coordinate a project using an interactive site called “Wikkispace.” This project will
get children in touch with other children internationally. Sonia Holmes reported about a clothing drive that will
take place from October 11-31. P.S. Aeropastale will donate a new coat to a person in need for every coat that is
collected. Donation bins will be in the front hallway. West Conn will have a clothing drive in November.
Mentors from West Conn and Manhattanville College will coordinate an after school program that will knit
scarves. A pamphlet will be sent out about this. Jim Poulos and Miguel Barreto from Creative Connections are
working on a grant targeting countries in the rain forest. They are hoping to get $2,000 in a mini-grant and begin
the program in January. Students from Manhattanville College are working on an art exchange with a class in
Japan and want to get students from AIS involved. West Conn is hosting a weekend (October 8 and 9) that
revolves around Jane Goodall. They will be celebrating 50 years of research and the Roots and Shoots program.
There will be trainings and lectures from 8:00-9:30 on October 9.
Jenn Warren (VP of Volunteers) reported. The lunch volunteers schedule is set. If you want to help out in the
Media Center, Mrs. LaValley will be holding a general tutorial meeting in the Media Center on October 4 and 7
at 10:00 am. She is still looking for a person to coordinate babysitting services for the PTO meetings. After
school programs, high school students, and Girl Scout troops are all possible ideas to look into. Heather Rivers
will contact any person/group name that is given to her.
Eric Schmidt and Sonia Holmes (Co-VP’s of Student Enrichment) reported. There is a box in the front hallway
for the Recycling Program. Cell phones, digital cameras, and cartridges can be recycled. This program will run
for the entire year. We need labels for the Sunny D program. The school will get 20 books for every 20 labels
collected. The Nike Grind Sneaker Recycling Program will begin on October 11. A box will be in the front
hallway for this as well. Many cultural events are being planned and are still “works in progress.” Missy Cole
will continue to coordinate the Box Tops program. Kathryn Hodgdon will continue to coordinate the Campbell
Soup labels program. The fish tank will be placed in Mrs. Woodruff’s Fourth grade classroom. The equipment
is coming soon. The fish eggs will arrive in November.
Heather Rivers (VP of Fundraising) reported. The Square 1 Art project is currently taking place. The children
are drawing their illustrations in art class. Clare Orloff is the chairperson. She will send information out and ask
for volunteers to help with this project. Parents can order in early November and the products should be returned
by December 10. The cookie dough fundraiser may run from the beginning of November to November 17. The
cookie dough will be delivered December 14. More information will follow. Jenn Lebron is looking for
entertainment for the Silent Auction Dinner.
Cyndi Smalley-Markovitz (Treasurer) reported. She disseminated a September transaction spreadsheet for
review. She discussed the possibility of having a link on the website for fundraising programs that the school is
involved in (i.e. a link that would go directly to Target to sign up for their program). There was a discussion
about having laptops available for parents to sign up for the Target credit card during parent/teacher conferences.
Heather Melody reported that the AIS Directory will be out soon. She reported about the September citywide
meeting. Dr. Sal discussed the increase in enrollment in all schools. Some full-time and part-time teachers were
hired. They discussed the possibility of starting a charter school in Danbury and creating an extension of AIS
(middle school magnet) to alleviate the increase in enrollment and the lack of space. Michelle Keenan reported
about the October citywide meeting. They discussed how to best use the facilities in Danbury and how to
improve the schools. The demographic report indicated that Shelter Rock had a 56% increase in enrollment. The
charter and magnet middle school ideas are on hold. The use of the Emmanuel Lutheran building was discussed.
Funding issues continue to be a big issue. The middle school situation is a hot topic. There is no space for the
children. Sodexo will begin to offer home-style meals. Fundraiser sales need to follow guidelines. There is a
$1.75 fee when you add money to the lunch account online. PTO’s must have tax-exempt forms. PTO’s must
carry insurance. Each PTO must pay $25 to citywide. The next Board of Education meeting will be on October
13 and the next citywide meeting will be on November 1. They are looking for businesses to adopt schools in
Danbury. The Summit Program will be discussed at the next Board of Education meeting on October 13. Please
attend to show your support for this program.
Robin Stanton reported about Spirit Wear. Order forms can still be turned in if you want to order any spirit wear
at this time.
Meg McLoone discussed the Odyssey of the Mind program. This is a creative-based, problem-solving, team-
building worldwide program. There can be 5-7 children on a team. There are 5 problems and each team selects a
problem to solve. It is a child-based program. Team work, positive reinforcement, budgeting, and time
management are skills that are addressed. There is a competition in March. Connecticut World Day is when
each team watches each other’s performances. If you win first or second place in Connecticut, your team gets to
go to the World Competition, which takes place in Maryland this year. A one-time fee of $135 is needed to
become a participating school. $100 per child is needed to participate in this program. There will be a sign-up if
you are interested in this program. There will be another meeting to learn more about this program.
Heather Rivers reported about the Silent Auction Dinner. Volunteers are needed to help out selling raffles and to
get items to be donated from surrounding towns. It will be on November 5 at Anthony’s Lakehouse from 7-11
pm. Jenn Lebron is the chairperson for this event. Kathryn Hodgdon will send letters out to businesses to see if
they will donate gifts cards or items. A letter will be going out explaining that each grade level will be assigned a
continent. Parents can choose to donate $1 or an item to the grade level basket. The continent assignments are as
follows: K – Europe, 1 – North America, 2 – Asia, 3 – Africa, 4 – Australia, and 5 – South America. Baskets
from each continent will be used for a silent auction and there will be various raffle items as well. You have until
October 15 to hand in items. They are looking for a big company/organization to donate money. Kathryn
Hodgdon has the list of which stores have already been contacted. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
The next PTO meeting will be on November 16.
Sonia Holmes made the motion to adjourn the meeting. Heather Rivers seconded. All were in favor. The
meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM.
Respectfully submitted by, Robin A. Suarez, PTO Secretary