At The New Century School, parent involvement is one of the key’s to the school’s success. As part of and in support of the larger TNCS community, parents contribute their time and energy in meaningful ways each year. As a way to galvanize all of this good effort toward meeting specific goals, the TNCS Parent Council was established during the 2016–2016 school year.
Five years on, the organization is going strong and continuing to hone its mission. In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, TNCS has remained open, and the Parent Council did not miss a beat. That’s due in no small part to the leadership of new Parent Council President, Tilly Gurman.
Ms. Gurman has organized members and operations on a variety of virtual platforms, and meeting attendance has grown now that participants can join from anywhere. TNCS Class Parents are required attendees and report meeting proceedings back to the other families in their child’s homeroom, but any member of the TNCS community may attend, and this even counts toward their requisite volunteer hours. (Have you attended a PC meeting and forgotten to log your hours? Log them here or sign into Blackbaud.)
Mission and Goals
The stated mission of the TNCS Parent Council is to: “Cultivate and sustain community at The New Century School across students, parents, teachers, staff, and the larger community” by:
- fostering communication between all TNCS constituencies
- providing support to the teachers and administration
- assisting with fundraising initiatives that will further foster community
- coordinating school events that connect people across TNCS
- engaging with the larger Baltimore community
To accomplish these worthy objectives, the PC assembled a group of committees, including Community Engagement, Special Events, Antiracism/Social Justice, and Fundraising—more on those in a bit.
Parent Council 2020–2021
First, let’s dive a little deeper into Ms. Gurman’s vision for the 2020–2021 Parent Council:
I’ve been involved in the Parent Council since we started at TNCS 5 years ago, and until the class parents were involved, there were only three or four of us. So I wanted to find ways to grow participation and engagement as well as make it more inclusive. At the same time, it’s important to temper expectations because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and we shouldn’t make too many demands of parents who are potentially already overwhelmed.
She explains that she came to be president as rather a natural consequence of having always been a part of it as well as having experienced the preprimary, primary, and elementary divisions at TNCS as her children have progressed through. When TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan approached her about taking over the PC helm, she weighed the decision carefully against all of her other life obligations but ultimately found it to be the right choice. “I’ve had the experience on the parent side through much of the life cycle of the school so far, and we plan to stay for the foreseeable future so we feel a commitment to the community. It’s such a supportive community, and somehow I’d like to contribute to building on that and strengthening it for even once we’re no longer in the school,” she said.
One thing that is remarkable about this year is the emphasis on human connection. Perhaps we’ve all had less of that since the shutdown, and the PC is one place to enjoy a bit of camaraderie—Ms. Gurman sees to that, starting each meeting with a “temperature check”, which has nothing to do with a thermometer (for once) but is more of a gauge of participants’ state of mind, as well as an ice-breaker activity or two. At the November 11th meeting, she also reminded attendees to be self-compassionate:
We’ll be reporting out about what’s going on in the different committees, but I want to get across the idea that we are at a time when things are likely to change and evolve, especially if another shutdown happens. Let’s be kind and gentle to ourselves, so when this happens, we’re here together as a community. When we’re thinking about the different activities that we’re going to be planning, let’s always link it back to how can the activities that we’re doing bring us closer together as a community, and help us be there for our kids, too.
Another current that runs through this year’s PC is the sheer enthusiasm about the PC. An average of more than two dozen people are attending each meeting and that’s among a pool of fewer than 200 families. Moreover, participants are willing and eager to get to work on planning and implementing the various PC initiatives. Ms. Gurman attributes this to multiple factors: explicit outreach about joining the PC; the already-mentioned convenience of virtual meetings; the increased access to the school’s innerworkings; and, of course, the altruism inherent in the TNCS community driving members to want to make a difference. “It does feel like this year people are more actively volunteering to lead the various activities,” she said.
In the near future, she’d like to have committee-specific objectives and operating procedures drafted that tie in to the overall PC mission so that there’s an infrastructure to support and sustain what she hopes will continue to be robust attendance for years to come.
And with that, let’s see what those committees we keep mentioning are all about!
Parent Council Committees
Would you like to join one of the amazing, purpose-led, and very fruitful TNCS Parent Council Committees? No matter what your strength, there’s a place for you! See the nifty planning calendar at this link for tentative dates and check you Blackbaud official school calendar for confirmed happenings. Email email@example.com or add your name to the list here to join!
Antiracism/Social Justice Committee
Co-chaired by TNCS parents, Jay Golon (who describes the trio as a “happy triumvirate”) Daris Johnson, and Allison Binder, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
- Facilitate discussions (e.g., discussing podcasts/magazine articles, hosting guest speakers) regarding raising antiracist children
- Curate a list of children’s books and television shows promoting diversity for the TNCS community
At their first meeting, Mr. Golon explains that they talked about antiracism in general and what it might look like to be antiracist families concerned about social justice at TNCS. “Early in the life of the committee,” he said, “we’d like to conduct a family climate survey about how welcome and included folks feel at at TNCS and then use that to plan some other things. We also talked about creating a resource for all families from preprimary up through middle school of books, movies, and media of any kind focused on anti antiracism and social justice.”
That’s just to start, and Mr. Golon says, “If you weren’t able to join us the first time around, it will be very easy for you to slide right in the second time, so please please join us!”
Community Engagement Committee
Chaired by TNCS mom Amy Hastings, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
- Coordinate low-risk activities supporting local non-profits (e.g., preparing bagged breakfasts/lunches for local day shelters, coat and clothing drives for sister school Wolfe St. Academy)
- Coordinate Adopt-a-Family for the holidays (through Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance)
- Coordinate a clean-up of Patterson Park for Earth Day
“Our goal is to identify ways for TNCS families to engage the community that surrounds the school,” explained Ms. Hastings. “This committee will strive to support local organizations and uphold TNCS values.”
The Coat Drive for TNCS’s sister school Wolfe St. Academy is happening now—please share the warmth with our neighbors in need by donating new and gently used coats, mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, socks, etc. for children and adults of all ages! See our ongoing Facebook event (through December 11th) here.
And stay tuned for an announcement about the upcoming Adopt-a-Family! Note that this is a chance to do double community engagement—make your purchases from local businesses, like aMuse Toys in Fell’s Point, to support them while helping out a family in need!
Special Events Committee
Co-chaired by TNCS moms Debbie Casanova and Isabel Kuoh, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
- Generate participation for this year’s TREX challenge (recycling competition with schools across the country) and facilitate culminating Earth Day celebration activity
- Orchestrate teacher appreciation efforts
- Coordinate other possible events (e.g., Pancakes & Pajamas, bilingual kids’ concert with 123 Andrés)
Ms. Casanova’s teacher appreciation efforts went into effect right away, as she set up a round robin–style Sign-Up Genius for parents to choose a week to shower teachers with gratitude—they have kept our children happy, healthy, and learning all of these long pandemic months, and that has not been easy. Especially when many have to teach both live and virtually!
Describing their first meeting as a committee, Ms. Casanova says:
We spent a lot of our time talking about concrete events that are coming up but also giving some thought to how do we stay connected, how do we create community, and how do we do it in such a way that virtual families feel just as involved as on campus families. We also talked a little bit about how we have to have a few events ready to go in case the school does shut down and we all go virtual, just so we can all maintain some sort of connection and community that’s going to become even more important.
Another big one for this particular committee is the second annual Trex Recycling Challenge. You can read all about it from TNCS’s participation last year in TNCS Has NexTrex Recycling Challenge in the Bag!.
(Or, if you want the Cliff Notes, just start collecting the items shown below and email firstname.lastname@example.org with your tallied weight, then drop the plastics off at Harris Teeter, Safeway, Home Depot, or other locations! Check that location is still participating during COVID-19 restrictions.)
We’ll have lots more info on this year’s TNCS Trex Recycling Challenge and how it will roll out, but in the meantime, start collecting that bubble wrap!
Co-chaired by TNCS moms Lauren Davino and Sarah Andrews, this TNCS PC committee exists to, for example:
- Facilitate dining out at designated local restaurants with a percentage going to TNCS
- Coordinate silent auction of select items from local businesses
This can-do committee has already pulled off one successful fundraising dinner with TNCS parent–owned The Land of Kush, who so generously allocated some of each TNCS-generated sale on November 11th back to TNCS. See the results for yourself!
Thank you, Naijha Wright-Brown and Gregory Brown!
Another super easy way to earn funds for TNCS is to sign up for educational rewards with Harris Teeter. With their Together in Education program, TNCS earns a percentage of each purchase when TNCS families link their VIC cards and shop Harris Teeter brands using TNCS Code 3528. (Caveat: You must re-link your card each year; it does not automatically update.)
More fundraising dinners are in the works throughout the school year as well as a first ever TNCS silent auction! (Let them know if you’d like to make a donation to the Silent Auction, which will be curated in Arts and Culture, Sports, Spa, and other packages.)
In closing, the 2020–2021 TNCS Parent Council “gives parents agency to feel like they have a role in what their kids’ school experience is going to be like this year,” said Ms. Gurman. With so many uncertainties, it feels good to be hands-on in and possibly even what goes on in their day-to-day lives.
Parent Volunteer Coordinator Alicia Rojas also offers encouragement: “Even if you can’t join monthly meetings but want to share your gifts and get involved, please contact us. Many hands make for light work.”