Welcome Letter

September 6th, 2016

Dear OTA Parents,

We wish to welcome both new and returning families back to school at Old Town Academy. We are now entering our sixth year as one of the rising charter schools in San Diego. Last year brought many exciting changes to OTA including our new School Board that parents have voted in, adding Mr. C’s leadership and redesigning the OTA Parent Foundation.

All OTA Families should be proud that their children attend OTA. What sets us apart from your local elementary school?

* Small School Atmosphere

* Project Based Learning

* A STEM Lab with fulltime STEM teacher

* Fulltime Physical Education Teacher

* Foreign language incorporated into the school day

* Robotics

* Music incorporated into the school day

Our principal, teachers and staff work very hard to ensure that our children receive an excellent education. We have heard several parents comment that OTA feels like a private school, without the associated cost.

The OTA School Board is currently comprised of 6 parents, 1 grandparent, 1 non-OTA affiliated member, 1 teacher and Mr. C as well as a shared non-voting student representative position. The board is currently looking for a 2nd non-OTA affiliated member in order to have a good cross section of representation. The OTA School Board meeting schedule is posted under the Important Dates tab on the oldtownacademy.org website (generally the 3rd Wednesday of the month except for December and June). We welcome parent attendance at the meetings.

The OTA School Board met this past June with key staff and performed some strategic planning to help shape what is next for OTA. The plan that OTA will live by is forthcoming in the near future once it is finalized. In the meantime, OTA is focused on a number of important issues:

* School safety: pick up, drop off, door entry, identification and street safety

* Facilities: staying at our current site versus looking at alternative sites that would allow for expansion or a reduced monthly cost. We will also be exploring collaborations for high schools both direct and indirect.

* Curriculum & Education for Staff and Students: including but not limited to Core Knowledge, project based learning, seminar, electives and after school enrichment.

* Communication: via enhanced online access and blogs from both administration and teachers

* Recruitment, retention and collaboration: for families, students and staff

The OTA Parent Foundation is the parent/teacher association and fundraising arm of OTA. It is run by the Parent Council, headed by Monika Hanft. The OTA Parent Foundation goals are to build community at OTA and to fundraise to bridge the financial gap that exists between what OTA as a charter school receives from the state and what is needed to run our school. Every OTA parent is a member of the OTA Parent Foundation. The Foundation meets in the 7th grade room the first Wednesday of the month from 6-8pm and all parents are encouraged to attend. The scheduled dates can be found on the otafoundation.org website.

Community building is an important aspect of OTA. Last year, the Foundation assigned each class to run an event and plan a teacher lunch and both met with great success. Our class events this year are detailed on the next page.

While at times OTA might feel like a private school for what is offered to our children, it is not. It is a public charter school and as such, we are subject to public school funding, which does not meet the needs of all the programs that are offered at OTA. Charter schools in general receive significantly less than SDUSD schools and for OTA. In terms of fundraising at OTA, our goal is “less is more” which means we hold 2 big fundraisers instead of holding multiple small ones such as selling gift wrap, candy etc. The Parent Foundation, an extension of all OTA’s parents, must raise the money to bridge the gap between state funding and the money needed to meet our annual school budget. This year we must bridge a $90,000 gap, which is the equivalent of $360/child at OTA. While no one likes to talk about money, this is a very important topic, both for this year and for the future of OTA.

The Jog-A-Thon will be held on Friday October 21st and is our 2nd largest fundraiser. For this event, our kids are asked to raise pledges for the number of laps they run in the Jog-A-Thon. This event typically raises around $30,000 and is an important contributor toward educational expenses. Bridget Celentino, one of OTA’s founders, has done an amazing job running the Jog-A-Thon since OTA started and has made it the successful event that it is. This year will be a transition year as the OTA Parent Foundation will begin to oversee this event. To do this, we are looking for 1-2 parents to act as this year’s Jog-A-Thon Co-Chairs, with the goal of chairing the event next year. In addition, there will be one parent per class on the Jog-A-Thon committee. Assisting in organizing the Jog-A-Thon is one of the many ways in which you as a parent can help.

The Wine & Dine Gala, held traditionally at the end of April as been the mainstay of fundraising for the last 5 years. Last year we raised $105,000. The Parent Foundation is pleased to bring a Biology program and expand our Robotics program to OTA this year using Gala raised funds. This year as parents, we have some decisions to make. While the Gala has been very successful, it has been at the expense of a shrinking volunteer base. We as parents need to decide if we wish to put on a Gala again with the knowledge that we need to find a way to organize a committee to run this event or we need to figure out another event or way to fundraise. To meet our school budget, a minimum of $40,000 must be raised. In order to address this, we are asking that 2 parents from each class be a take part in 2 fundraising brainstorming meetings to be held on Thursday October 13th and Thursday November 10th, both from 6-8pm in the 7th grade room. I would encourage all parents who would like to help discuss the future of fundraising at OTA attend these meetings. This is one of the most important issues we face this year!

The OTA Parent Council would like to propose starting the year with a donation drive to “Bridge the Gap” of $360/child. The more families can contribute to OTA, the less need there is to put on a huge event that requires so many volunteer hours. Why not pledge and then we can have a smaller party in April to celebrate our success! We are asking that if your family can contribute to OTA, please go to otafoundation.org and click on the Donate button. Can you contribute $360 for each of your kids? Can you contribute $180? Can you contribute $36/month for the 10-month school year? The Donate button will be there all year and donations of any increment will help toward the goal of Bridging the Gap. Whether you participate at OTA via financial contribution, volunteerism or hopefully a combination of both, we need 100% participation to make Old Town Academy an ongoing success.

Want to hear more about how to get involved? Both an email and a handout will be sent out to every class detailing volunteer positions to be filled by each class. These will also be posted on the otafoundation.org website. The OTA Parent Foundation is putting on a Parent Social before Back to School Night on Wednesday September 14th. From 5-6:15pm we will have two Food Trucks in the parking lot to purchase dinner from and all parents to meet and mingle. The OTA Parent Foundation will have a table at the Parent Social to answer questions. During Back to School Night there will be sign-up sheets in each classroom. Come get involved at OTA!

Sincerely,

Monika Hanft

OTA Parent Foundation President

Ken Morris

OTA School Board President