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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, December 1, 2011
Through hardship, PTA hopes to bring opportunity to Berne-Knox-Westerlo
By Zach Simeone
BERNE Despite its financial struggles and declining membership, the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Parent-Teacher Association is working towards bringing space education to the district, as it considers dividing the PTA between the district’s two schools.
President Tami Hanley told the crowd at last week’s school board meeting that, in its fund-raising efforts this year, the PTA had collected about a third of what it normally would, and there was mention of splitting the group into two PTAs, one for the elementary school, and another for the secondary school.
Anna Lefkaditis, a PTA board member and wife of school board member Vasilios Lefkaditis, said Tuesday that she has been the PTA’s fund-raising chair for close to three years now.
“I’ve seen a massive decline in funds coming in, and we’ve tried different things, and the economy is just so bad,” she told The Enterprise. “People are just hurting really bad; it’s hard to keep giving with so many things, and I think Irene just threw everyone over the edge,” she said of the tropical storm that caused massive flooding in August.
At last week’s meeting, Lefkaditis said of the PTA, “Because of budget cuts, we have filled in lots of gaps.” (See related letter.)
The PTA, Lefkaditis said Tuesday, considered dividing last year.
“We tried to get it going last year, to set up a separate PTA for the middle-high school, but the person who was going to take it on couldn’t do it because of personal issues,” she said. “It would make it easier because they’re different age groups. What we do for elementary school kids doesn’t always work for high school kids, and vice versa. It would make it easier, support-wise; if certain teachers need something, they go to their PTA…They’re separate schools, and have separate administrators, and things work differently as kids get older, there’s no more homeroom where you can go get the kids, you have to find each individual student, depending on where they are.”
The elementary school parents, she said, have been doing the better portion of the fund-raising, but, being that her children are all of elementary-school age, she is less familiar with the needs at the middle-high school.
Some at last week’s meeting were discouraged to learn that, of the five board members, only three are on the PTA: honorary PTA life member and retired teacher Helen Lounsbury; Maureen Sikule; and Vasilios Lefkaditis the school board’s newest member. None of the district’s administrators are in the PTA, Anna Lefkaditis said.
To the StarLab
Also discussed at last week’s meeting is the PTA’s bringing a StarLab to the district; the “lab” would be loaned to the district by the Dudley Observatory in Schenectady.
“It’s an inflatable planetarium,” said Janie Schwab, executive director of the Dudley Observatory. “They’re wonderful teaching tools. They hold about a class of kids, and it’s an opportunity to really learn some astronomy in a hands-on way.”
The lab, shaped like a dome, has a projector inside that shines a variety of images on the ceiling, she went on.
“There’s actually quite a bit you can do with it,” said Schwab. “It comes with different cylinders. The basic thing is, you can put on just stars; stars with lines; you can use the mythological symbols; or they have Native American constellations. You can also do plate tectonics and cell biology, and there are a number of other things they have, but they’re used primarily for astronomy.”
The StarLab, according to Anna Lefkaditis, would ideally come to one or both of the district’s science fairs for a dose of space education; the elementary school’s science fair is on March 22, and the high school’s is on March 16.
“We’d like to put it in the elementary school gym,” Lefkaditis said, “but I haven’t worked it all out yet.”