By Anya Bochman
Photos courtesy/Christine Amoresano
The Salem Drive School Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of Whippany is an organization of parents, teachers, staff members and volunteers who strive to make a positive impact on the school’s education while creating a safe and healthy environment for the students to thrive.
Meeting roughly every month, the PTA is led by President Christine Amoresano, of Whippany. A mother of three, Amoresano works as a senior project manager at a construction company and has been an active member of the PTA for ten years before deciding to run for the role of President.
In her time with the PTA, Amoresano has served as chair for the school’s Jaguar Publishing Center and has been coordinator for such school events as Hot Lunch and Fun Day.
All officers of the PTA meet at least five times a year to plan PTA meetings, as well as raise and pursue resolutions for issues that concern the entire Salem Drive School community. The officers also recommend and evaluate PTA programs and activities while soliciting input from the school.
As president, Amoresano corresponds with Salem Drive’s parent community via email, and acts as primary liaison with the district principal and superintendent. She likewise oversees all committee chairs and committee businesses, represents the school as a member of the PTA Advisory Committee and participates in the Salem School Safety Committee.
Vice President Michelle Propfe is a middle school science teacher in Morristown and mother of two and is actively involved in several committees and initiatives in her school. She is a co-leader for her daughter’s Brownie Troop and was the Room Parent for the girl’s first grade class.
“It’s nice that we are all very close as officers of the [Salem Drive] PTA,” Propfe said. “If something needs to be done, we help each other out.”
Propfe’s duties include acting as coordinator for “room parents” (a sort of classroom aide) and assuming presidential responsibilities when needed. Of the busy schedule of working, raising children and serving as PTA Vice President, Propfe credits her career as an educator, which allows her more leeway.
“It gives me a little more time, and I try to get as much done as possible once the kids go to bed,” Propfe said. “You just have to keep going,” she added, laughing.
Treasurer Janine DeMarsico is entrusted with keeping all the accounts for the Salem Drive PTA, writing its reimbursement checks and acting as primary liaison with the bank and accountants.
Recording secretary Nina Stanton is a mother of two children, the youngest of whom is in the second grade. Outside of her PTA responsibilities, Stanton works as a property underwriter and runs the in-town Division 6 Boys team. In her role for the PTA, she records meetings’ minutes and chairs a committee.
Corresponding secretary Kim Landers is also a parent and had attended Salem Drive School herself as a child. Landers works full time as a special education teacher; she is also a Brownie Troop Leader, runs the in-town’s pre-K soccer division and is a member of the Republican Committee for District 6. Landers writes and keeps track of all official PTA correspondence.
In addition to these roles, the committee chairs of the PTA are responsible for organizing their individual committees
and corresponding with volunteers, holding meetings and communicating with Amoresano to publicize events with flyers or sign-up websites. They are also tasked with providing detailed documentation to the board including receipts, spreadsheets for accounting and copies of all contracts and information provided by vendors in a timely manner.
The members of the various committees work at events at the school, such as classroom parties or serving lunch, and often operate “behind the scenes” to facilitate programs by managing membership or working on Jaguar Publishing Center books.
The PTA hosts five different assemblies per year, as well as a number of fun runs. On April 4, Amoresano had just finished supervising the latest Jaguar Fun Run and was pleased with the “huge” turnout that allowed the organization to exceed its fundraising goal of $10,000. Next year, she foresees less fundraising and more focus on educational activities.
“The Fun Run was great,” Propfe said. “The kids and teachers really enjoyed themselves.”
In addition to the runs and assemblies, the PTA also hosts an annual bingo night, with a general attendance of over 200 people. Children participate in fun activities such as “escape the school,” earning the chance to win small prizes.
For one of the past year’s assemblies, the PTA was able to secure NASA astronaut Don Thomas to speak to the children about space and scientific exploration. As a mission specialist astronaut for NASA, Thomas has flown on four different space shuttle missions and has spent 44 days in space. During his presentation, Thomas discussed his lifelong journey to become an astronaut, what it was like living and working in space, and shared some of his favorite views of planet Earth taken from space.
“It feels rewarding to help the school out and help my own child out academically,” Propfe stated. “The students have met astronauts and authors; as parents, we get to really enrich lives and help our children enjoy school.”
Another event in March featured children’s book author Audrey Vernick, who is a native of New Jersey. The PTA helped coordinate an essay contest, with the winner getting to eat lunch with Vernick.
“The school assemblies and events are expensive,” Amoresano commented. “We fundraise in order to help with things like bringing in outside vendors.”
The PTA is responsible for raising funds towards custom handmade books for each child in the Jaguar Publishing Center. The Center publishes approximately 300 books per year – one book for every student attending Salem Drive School. The process entails a theme for each year, such as cultural heritage; the teachers and PTA members choose from a progression of the students’ work on the theme over the course of the school year and bind the selected works in a specially-made book. Making the books is a collaborative process between teachers, the PTA and parent volunteers. The work involved includes ironing, typing, sewing and illustrating for a finished product for each child at the end of the school year.
Additionally, the PTA sponsors all classroom parties, as well as funds and runs a hot lunch program for the school.
Celebrate With Books is a PTA-sponsored initiative that encourages parents to purchase a new hardcover book off the official list of suggested titles and donate it to the library, thereby expanding its collection. Participating parents can then have the opportunity to read the book during a Read-a-Thon in their child’s media class.
The organization handles teacher reimbursements by allotting a stipend for out of pocket expenses by teachers, as well as providing needed materials in the classroom.
“In addition to doing things for the kids, we also do stuff for the staff,” Amoresano said. “We host one breakfast and one lunch per year, as well as allowing each teacher a stipend to be reimbursed for classroom supplies.”
For the fifth grade, the organization fundraises separately, a fact Amoresano ascribes to a desire to make the last year students spend at the elementary school special. The PTA purchases books for the students, as well as throws them a commemorative pool party. The PTA also donates to a scholarship fund for a select student leaving the school.
“Each of these things requires volunteers behind the scenes,” Amoresano says of the many endeavors undertaken by the organization. “There are many things to consider, such as coordination with outside vendors.”
All the women involved with the association are managing their roles while simultaneously working fulltime or taking care of their households. Amoresano, who in addition to her job is also a Room Parent for her daughter, manages to carve out time to go on vacations, or to concerts to see her favorite singer Bryan Adams.
Asked about the busy schedule required by the organization along with the fulltime jobs held by most of its board members, Amoresano perhaps understates the commitment by saying “there’s a lot of balancing and juggling in between.”
To spread information about its many activities and fundraisers, the PTA uses its official website, to a limited extent. Other methods of reaching out include a newsletter to keep parents and teachers updated on upcoming events, text message blasts that about half the school’s parents are signed up for, and old-fashioned mailed forms.
“The PTA is a major component in communication between the parents and teachers,” Amoresano says.
The PTA president cites community support as a major factor in the success of the organization.
“We have had a great outpouring of support this year; parents are very engaged and many have volunteered their
time,” Amoresano said. “People are very willing to help, so that we are able to host all the big events that we do.”
“The teachers and principal are also very supportive,” she continued. “That really helps in having the parents realize the importance of the PTA.”
Propfe explains that she can see the result of her work for the PTA in her own children’s progress.
“When my daughter comes home and she is excited about something new she learned, that makes me feel proud,” the vice president said. “It’s hard work, but ultimately very rewarding.”
This year, the Salem Drive PTA is having a “hassle-free” fundraiser online. Donations can be made directly at www.my.cheddarup.com/c/sdsdonation.