President: Terry Holt
Treasurers: Hemant Verma (Hemant is resigning; see “November Email fraud” report below)
and Aletta Tibbetts (end of year tax review)
Secretary: Roslyn Fitzgerald
VPs of Fundraising: Kate Leary and Patsy O’Brien
VP of Committees: Volunteer! - Open Position
Principal’s report – Kristin DeFrancisco
Kristin continues to meet with the school council, where they are currently discussing the best way to communicate about the new renovation/ build, timeline, pictures, etc. The goal is to communicate via a variety of mediums, including adding an information page on the Hardyschool.com website, directly emailing families, and adding an email address linked to school council members for parents to send questions about the renovation.
Superintendent (Dr Bodie) is expected to sign her approval for a grant to do a landscaping playground study and how to most effectively use the limited land space during the renovation.
The School Department would like to engage in a holistic planning process for Hardy Elementary School’s outdoor space and is requesting funds to conduct a site analysis and feasibility study. The study, to be conducted by a landscape architecture firm, would focus on the main playground, which is bounded by Chandler Street and Herbert Street.
Enrollment at Hardy School has grown rapidly in recent years, and that growth has necessitated a six-classroom addition. This change to the building’s footprint will significantly affect the playground, which is already inadequate for the current population. Because the space needs are urgent, and because the current surface of the playground will be damaged during construction, it would be most efficient to reconsider the Hardy campus and implement changes immediately following construction. In addition to serving Hardy students, the playground is a heavily used community resource.
Given that the Chandler Street playground will be permanently reduced in size, the school council continues to discuss how the Lake Street side of the campus can be used as both an interim and permanent solution to adding more playground space. The goal is for it to be in use by both Kindergarten and 1st grade by September 2018.
Teacher’s report – Laura Ribeiro (5th grade):
Teachers continue to ask about the overhead projectors and when they will be installed (which were purchased last school year through funds raised by the silent auction). Cedrine Bell and Terry Holt said we continue to wait on installation through the town of Arlington, even though we have all the equipment ready. The work involves both a handyman component (mechanical installation) and an IT component, and both people must be insured through the town of Arlington to ensure accurate installation (and there is currently a shortage of qualified Town employees, hence the delay). Terry and Kristin will follow up on this.
Treasurer’s report – Hemant Verma
We made $12,103.76 in sales at the Book Fair, of which we earned $2,349.52 in cash plus $627.36 in books purchased directly from the fair by the librarians. The cash we earned will go toward future book purchases.
A bonus was the “penny jar” that Cedrine Bell added this year, which generated an additional $90 for the librarians to use to buy books. Margaret plans to label those books as gifts from Hardy, 2017.
Discussion of November Email fraud Incident and Executive board Response - Terry Holt, Kate Leary, Patsy O’Brien, Roslyn Fitzgerald, Hemant Verma
On Thursday, November 9th, our treasurer, Hemant Verma, received an email. The email was designed to look as though it came from our president, Terry Holt, asking for a bill of $4000 to be paid that day by wire transfer. Hemant made the payment. Shortly afterwards, the perpetrator requested an additional payment. At that point, Hemant called Terry and the fraud became clear. Hemant immediately contacted our bank (Bank of America) the afternoon of November 10 and filed a report with the Arlington Police Department (APD). He has also filed reports with the FTC and the FBI.
The APD acted with admirable speed to freeze the receiving bank’s account. $1500 had been withdrawn. The account is still frozen and the APD has let us know it’s very unlikely that the withdrawn $1500 can be recovered. The investigation is ongoing, and the APD is working in concert with other law enforcement agencies. It is unclear when/if these funds will be recovered anytime soon. The delay could be months, but the PTO remains hopeful. We are very grateful to the APD for their swift action and excellent work on this investigation, and for their continued attention to it.
The PTO executive board has been examining our policies and working to implement safeguards to protect future PTO volunteers against any financial vulnerability.
As a result of the lessons learned from being the victim of an online fraud scheme, Hardy PTO has initiated the following to ensure funds are secure.
- Contacted police department and bank -- Arlington Police reported we may be able to recover $2000 or so of the $4000 lost as mentioned above.
- Removed all personal email addresses from the Hardy Elementary School website.
- Ended all online payment of bills.
- Moved to a paper-check system for paying all bills.
- Written best practice protocols for treasurer process.
- Are in the process of writing up a description of the PTO Treasurer Team position and its time constraints for legacy purposes.
Future steps the Executive Board would like to take:
- Closing down the corporate bank account we opened (we changed banks in August to take advantage of online banking/modern technology.)
- Opening up a new account at a small local bank that has earned our trust in the past. Hardy PTO will be opening a money market account to earn interest on funds in the account. We will also be opening a standard business checking account.
- The new account will require 2-signatures for every check.
- The capability to make payments online will be closed down. We will continue to be able to access account information online and move money between our money market and checking accounts as needed, but there will be no outflow of money from our account via electronic banking.
- The Hardy PTO PayPal will be transferred to the new bank, and electronic payments will continue to be accepted. Two executive board members will have the login, for additional oversight.
- All wire transfers and online payment will be shut down. To use such conveniences will require actual physical presence and authorization in the bank.
- All files and records will be kept, and a quarterly financial audit performed by someone outside the Hardy executive board. PayPal accounts will be part of the quarterly financial audit.
- We are seeking a volunteer who is not on the executive board to receive a mailed copy of the PTO bank statement as an additional safeguard.
- The debit/ATM card can be used at the ATM, but it will no longer be used to make payments. Event coordinators must request checks two weeks before they are needed, to allow time for them to be mailed to vendors. If this deadline is not met and the treasurer is unable to issue a check in time, the event coordinator will need to use a personal credit card and submit an expense request. Reimbursement will be expedited and issued promptly.
- Cash-handling procedures will be tightened. After an event, volunteers count the cash as a group and record the amount on a cash form, and everyone initials the amount. The treasurer deposits money from events right away. Another board member should verify that the deposit was made by asking for the deposit slip or by viewing transactions online.
- We are bringing on a new treasurer team to fill this role. This role will from here forward require two volunteers. Our bylaws give us guidance on replacing eboard members, and reads as such:
6.8 A vacancy occurring during the term of an Officer shall be filled for the un-expired term by the person who received the next highest number of votes for the position being filled. If there was no other person running for the position, then the position shall be opened up to any Member of the PTO in good standing. A majority vote by the Executive Board would then determine the person to fill the position.
In light of the changes in the PTO protocols, Hemant Verma indicated that he will resign from the treasurer’s post, as his work hours do not permit the flexibility or attention that this role requires. He is willing to provide the support needed for a smooth transition to the next treasurer. We are grateful for the time that Hemant has volunteered and thank him for his service.
Kate Leary and her husband, Andrew Malone, have offered to fill the role of Treasurer/s. The PTO will consider all nominations and decide in an e-board meeting before the January PTO meeting.
Questions and suggestions in response to the incident:
- A parent made the comment that even though they understand the decision to move to an all-paper system with two signatures, is there an electronic account we can use instead that requires two e-signatures? The executive board has considered this, but for legacy purposes, we want something very simple to implement and follow. Additionally, other PTOs around the country have been targeted in similar scams and the response we have been advised is to make it a paper system.
- The executive board will consider all nominations and vote before the January meeting. Kate explained that she feels she has a very good understanding of the process (having researched extensively the ways to modify and safeguard our banking procedures). If elected, she will step down as co-VP of fundraising.
- A parent asked if there are any concerns about having a husband/wife team managing the two-signature checks? E-board responded that if voted in, Andrew would act as co-treasurer but wouldn’t be allowed as a signatory on checks. It would require treasurer and president signatures.
- Daniel Jalkut offered to be the volunteer who receives a mailed copy of the PTO bank statement (as described in point 8 above).
- As of time of writing, no other nominees have stepped forward to fill the treasurer role.
VP’s Fundraising Update – Patsy O’Brien
The shopping night at Helena’s raised $300; thanks to those who attended.
Silent Auction - is scheduled for March 3rd at Town Hall. All funds will be going towards the Hardy playground (Chandler side renovation). Since our outdoor space affects not just Hardy but the entire community, Patsy asked that people think about reaching out to any contacts in the community who might be interested in being part of this event, especially in regards to getting donations. Patsy and Annie Clark-Lauer have found that almost all businesses they’ve reached out to have been willing to donate because they appreciate the publicity and chance to be involved in this extensive community.
A parent asked the question: why is the PTO contributing funds towards the playground when this should be the Town’s responsibility? It’s true that although we’re not responsible for funding, we’d like to show the town that we are invested in the playground renovation. With a 70% increase in enrollment since the playground was last renovated combined with a decrease in usable land due to the building addition, it’s more important than ever before that we get this right for future students. As described in prior notes, we should know by February if funding has been approved for a land-use feasibility study (approx $50 000 cost).
Another parent asked a question about the timing of the playground renovations: If the Chandler playground renovation (as recommended by the feasibility study) isn’t expected to be completed until 2022, what is going to happen with the playground between now and then? One of the school council members stated that there will still be a smaller, functional playground on the Chandler side that can be used in conjunction with the plan to use the Lake Street side to build another structure for K & 1st grade.
Old Business – Terry Holt
There was a misunderstanding about the deadline for reimbursement being December 1st, when the teachers thought it was December 15th. Terry reiterated that teachers will, of course, be reimbursed even if they miss the deadline. The deadline is simply an incentive for teachers to submit their forms early in the year to help with PTO budgeting and avoiding a rush of activity at the end of the school year.
Student directory update – Pete Gast
Pete Gast and others in the team are working to distribute the student directory as soon as possible, hopefully before Christmas break. He noted that it may contain fewer families’ information than in previous years because the new date collection system was problematic for some parents to use. It is unclear at this point if it’s just a new learning glitch, or something that needs to be redeveloped? Many existing Hardy parents were unaware that they needed to re-enter their information, even if they had submitted it in previous years.
A discussion was conducted, questioning the necessity of a school directory, in light of many people reaching each other through social media. For example, how many people do we think are intentionally withholding their information? Pete stated that most of the people he talked to had no problems with submitting their information, but forgot or didn’t realize they had to. Terry talked about trying to make it more useful for families rather than just including basic contact information. For example, parent Rachel Krebs is trying to put together a resource book for new parents that would contain school and community information and be distributed at the beginning of the year. Someone also asked whether the directory could be accessed electronically rather than just a paper copy? Pete stated that in the past they’ve been reluctant to have personal information on the internet for security reasons, but that this might be revisited as an option in the near future if secure enough.
New Business – Terry Holt
Holiday appreciation for Hardy custodial staff
It was decided that the PTO will distribute cash gifts this holiday season for custodial, cafeteria and office staff to thank them for their ongoing service. Suggested amount was $50 per person.
International Festival – Aimee Miller
The first planning meeting was held on 11/28. Town Hall was reviewed as a possible location but we will ultimately use Hardy gym and kitchen because it allows more flexibility regarding serving food. DATE CHANGED TO SATURDAY FEBRUARY 3rd from 2-5pm
- We are actively planning and organizing Country Tables (Doris-Team Lead), Fashion Show (Hetal-Team Lead), Performers (TBA) and International Cafe (Aimee)
- We are looking for someone to manage or be the “team lead” for the Performers.
- Folks who are still interested in helping please email Aimee or fill out form on the website: firstname.lastname@example.org-
- Budget request of $1500 from PTO funds. We came up with this amount as this is similar to the amount Thompson school requests.
So far, we have these countries represented:
India (Chhabra, Hetal, Viwanathan)
Philippines (Lim-Millers & Palmteer)
Korea (Diana Lowe)
Japan (Yoko, Saiko )
China/Taiwan (Chia-Pei Chen, Li)
Sweden (Patrizia Vannini)
Israel (Guy Fishman)
Lithuania (Sarah Carnes)
Spain (Laura Smart/Fitch)
France (Cedrine Bell)
Portugal (Sue Shoesmith)
Brazil (Mariana Benvenuti)
Australia (Roslyn Fitzgerald)
A motion was put forth to grant up to $2,000 to fund the international festival. Motion was seconded and approved unanimously. It is the PTO’s intention to keep the cost as low or no-cost as possible. It’s a community builder, not a fundraiser.
Gate lighting - Terry Holt and Cedrine Bell.
Scheduled for December 11th at 6pm. No rain date. The things that need to be taken care of by volunteers are: ornament supplies (yarn, scissors, crayons, hole punches, laminator). Check that we have enough hot cups. In advance, plug in coffee urns and laminator outside. Check closet for extension cord, lights.
Movie Night – Arts and Books Committee
January 19th in the gym. It will be a low-key event, although we still need to find out if we need a license to show a movie.
Enrichment – Cedrine Bell/Stewart Ikeda
The enrichment committee continues to plan a number of events within the $6,000 yearly budget. Stewart noted that for many events, the committee could use more procedural guidance about how to reach out to school staff/admin, help with scheduling, and how to work it into the existing curriculum.
Upcoming events include: Kidstock theatre program (K-2), Beantown jumpers, a local author event, STEM (5th grade) and Spy Pond Service Learning unit.
Laura Ribeiro asked that we avoid scheduling any event within 2 weeks of MCAS as teachers are very focused on preparing students during that time.
November Thanksgiving collection - Anne Coleman
Thank you to all who contributed; the event was a great success and we received many donations.
Holiday Hardy STARS program - Sarah Evans
The program is going well and there have been many donations.
Winter Weather Wear Drive – Michele Phelan
People have until December 14th to continue to bring donations of all gently used winter weather clothing for adults and children.
NEXT PTO meeting will be January 9th 2017 at 6:30pm in the school library.