Meet the Candidates for the 2020-2021 PS/IS 217 PTA Executive Board and School Leadership Team (SLT)
Mandatory Board Positions
Co-candidates: Andrea and Eirik Davey-Gislason
Eirik and Andrea Davey-Gislason are the dedicated parents of a 3rd grader and kindergartener at PS/IS 217. Eirik has served on the executive board as co-Vice President for 2 years and was joined by Andrea in the co-VP role last year. Together they have assisted PTA by taking the lead on hosting and moderating meetings and webinars via Zoom and are active volunteers and participants at school activities and events. Eirik has led the “217 Popstars” since joining the PTA and leads the school tour and orientation presentations. Andrea is a Teaching Artist and Choreographer for the National Dance Institute, and Eirik is a Negotiation Instructor and Real Estate Professional.
Co-candidates: Kim Brownell and Alex Kling
As class parents last year, Kim and Alex discovered their passion for sharing PTA wisdom/updates with the families of class 104 to the tune of enthusiastic peer reviews. Now they are taking their aspirations to the larger 217 community by running for the position(s) of co-secretary. A journalist for the past 15 years, Alex is committed to recording facts and disseminating important information (no fake news here!). Kim is a department director and speech pathologist who is committed to intense organization and punctilious grammar. We love the 217 community and want to do our best to keep any and all of us connected and informed, especially during this disconnected, unprecedented year. We promise to do so with accuracy, gusto, and a little bit of humor.
Co-candidates: Oliver Christ and David Hancock Turner
My name is Oliver Christ, and I am running for reelection as a PTA Co-Treasurer. I am the father of Annabella and Lukas, who are in 5th grade, and the husband of Rémie Christ, who serves as a class parent and volunteers at various school activities.
Our PTA supports the school with an annual budget of close to $200,000 for enrichment and in-school programs and runs a multitude of fundraisers throughout the year to generate the required revenue. It is the responsibility of the Co-Treasurers to maintain updated records of the multitude of income and expense streams related to furthering the mission of the PTA. Given the intricacies of keeping the books for the PTA, plus the many rules the DOE imparts upon us, it is important to have a year of overlap between the outgoing and incoming Co-Treasurers. I am grateful to Ben Torrance who implemented a professional bookkeeping system during his tenure and instructed me last year in the rules and best practices of managing our treasury. To ensure the continuity of proper financial practices beyond the current school year, it will now be my turn, if reelected, to pass on those best practices to a new Co-Treasurer.
Professionally, I work for the NYC Department of Social Services where I am co-leading the Center for Technology Ideation. You can find my professional profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/oliverchrist/.
I would be honored to serve the PTA for a second term and work together with David Hancock Turner as my Co-Treasurer to manage the PTA’s finances.
Thank you very much, - Oliver
David Hancock Turner — I’m a musician working in musical theater here in NYC and I have two sons at 217 (2nd grade and kindergarten). I would like to serve as Treasurer with Oliver this year so that I can learn the processes that have been implemented in this PTA and hopefully help maintain and build on that foundation in the years to come.
Additional Board Positions
Co-candidates: Angela Fekete and Sarah Ting
Dear 217 Community,
We would be honored to serve as Co-Vice Presidents for this school year’s PTA Executive Board. While serving as Co-VPs of Events last year, we had the great opportunity to become familiar with the many functions of the Executive Board as well as organize some of our major school events last year including the Monster Bash, Talent Show, Annual Auction as well as other events.
As Co-Vice Presidents, we will continue the ongoing commitment to open communication and partnership between the Board and General Membership. We believe that the PTA Executive Board plays an important role in the 217 Community and as Co-VPs, we would highlight and support the incredible work being done by our heroic 217 Administration and Staff amidst our present challenging circumstances.
We also aspire to support the 217 Community through a focus on the wellbeing of our children, 217 staff and families throughout the coming months. This may be by helping to facilitate important dialogues, raise issues of concern, find ways to build connectivity, provide for the tactical needs of our teachers through the donation of supplies, or by other means. In addition, we would like to identify innovative, thoughtful, and supportive ways to raise funds to support our 217 Community.
Sarah Ting & Angela Fekete Collective Parents of Two 2nd Graders & Kindergarten
Vice-President, Middle School
Candidate: Yitza Martinez
Hello there, my name is Yitza Martinez. A Roosevelt Island resident for over 32 years and also an alumni of P.S /I.S 217. I'm the parent of two middle schoolers, my daughter Persya, who is in 8th grade and my son Noel in 6th. I'm running for middle school Vice President, and I’m thankful for the nomination I received. I normally sit in the background during the PTA meetings and listen to what's going on in the school. Seldomly giving input due to fears that my concerns or questions will be brushed to the side. Well the fear is gone and it's time I stand up. Not just for me, but also for those parents who feel the same way and have not been given the opportunity. Also, I want my kids to see that when something is important, no matter how hard it may be, that real change happens when you take action and not just sit on the sidelines. I have great relationships within the school with all staff and should have no problem working with them to get the middle school the attention it deserves. I treat everyone with kindness and respect. If I get elected, I promise to give it my all and give parents the platform to be heard. Although my demeanor may not show it, I'm very approachable and eager to hear about concerns or new ideas that you may have for our middle school. I like to help people and as a mother, I will do anything for my children and their peers to be happy. I hope I can do the same for you.
Thank you for your time, Yitza
Co-candidates: Amanda Brown and Stacey Ornstein
Amanda Brown is a full-time mom to two girls, a first grader and a three year-old. She has been a resident of Roosevelt Island for four years. As a parent at Roosevelt Island Day Nursery she chaired the annual gala, and participated as a class parent and general fundraiser. Amanda was class parent for her daughter’s kindergarten class at PS/IS 217 and spearheaded the kindergarten Thanksgiving breakfast. Prior to having her second child, Amanda spent 15 years working in book publishing at Little, Brown and Company. She is eager to put her skills to greater use by running for co-VP of events with Stacey Ornstein. Stacey Ornstein is excited to run as co- VP of Events with Amanda Brown. Having attended most PTA and SLT meetings the past year, and active at school events and activities, Stacey is looking to take on a more hands-on role this year. Having previously formed and spearheaded Wellness Councils at two previous schools, hosting a number of school-wide events— from Capoeira to a school garden club, Stacey hopes to put this experience into the PTA, whether virtual or in person. Stacey has a 2nd grader and kindergartener at PS/IS 217 and is founder and director of Allergic to Salad, a youth culinary program.
Melissa Godwin and Kate Orozco
My name is Melissa Godwin, and I would like your vote for the position of Co-VP of Membership for the PS/IS 217 PTA. I am eager to contribute to the school (and broader Roosevelt Island) community to support the school’s continued excellence through this challenging period. Beyond offering an extra pair of hands to help with whatever tasks are necessary, I am excited to act as an advocate for the school, to spot and anticipate issues, and to help solve problems.
In my professional life, I am an attorney at a large international law firm. I have worked extensively with both for and non-profit boards, and have significant experience working with the NYC DOE. I come from a family of educators, have previously worked for an educational consultancy and publishing company dedicated to improving elementary school mathematics education, have acted as pro bono counsel for a large NYC charter school, and have served on the board of the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery for a number of years. My daughter, Esperanza, is in Fifth Grade.
I am Kate Orozco and I would appreciate your vote for the position Co-VP of the Parent Teachers Association for PS/IS 217. My two children, Thomas and Penelope are enrolled in the 4th grade and kindergarten, respectively. I am involved in the Island community as Chairperson of Island Kids Inc. Island Kids is non-profit organization that exists to provide high-quality enrichment programming and social support to the children, young adults, and families of Roosevelt Island. I would very much like to extend my community involvement and experience to the school district as an advocate for our children in resolving issues and creating additional opportunities for them through education, sports, the arts, and activities that help them gain self-awareness and confidence. I am a working mom that has been in the financial services industry for about 20 years. Currently, I serve as Chief Operation Officer of an asset management firm located in the city. I am a member of the Board of Directors, a member of the Global Operating Committee, and I proudly serve on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I am responsible for the operational aspects of the firm, including budgeting and financial statements. Issue resolution and acceptance is my specialty.
Candidates for SLT Parent Member
My child has been a student at PS/IS 217 since the 1st grade and is now in 3rd grade (remote). I wish to serve on the SLT to work for its increased transparency and responsiveness to parents. Specifically, as an SLT member, I would:
work to ensure that the SLT foregrounds equity
work to ensure a trauma-informed and culturally-responsive curriculum
support students and families in the IEP process – this should be a cooperative process rather than an adversarial one
insist that the SLT conduct all its meetings in compliance with the Chancellor’s Regulations and New York State Open Meetings Law –all members of the school community must be given prior notice of the meetings so that they can attend
provide updates to the school community of proceedings at the SLT meetings in an inclusive and transparent manner
Thank you. Gavin Healy
During my past 15 years as a journalist, I've gone cruising with Justin Bieber, vintage shopping with Lorde, and Zooming with the Dalai Lama--and endeavored to bring sensitivity and curiosity to each and every one of these encounters. My primary journalistic focus, however, has been on issues of culture and social justice, a frame of mind I would bring to bear as a potential member of the SLT. It is perhaps an occupational hazard for me to be curious about the behind-the-scenes workings of things, but I rarely have a chance to get involved in those workings and help steer their course. I see the SLT as an opportunity to do just that for a community of which I feel so grateful to be a part. This year in particular, I am interested in creating ways to continue to foster a sense of community at 217--farflung though we may be--and in seeking out ways to center voices and perspectives at our school that need to be centered more in the culture at large.
MEERA MIRZA My name is Meera Mirza, and I am the mother of three boys born approximately two years apart—two currently attending PS/IS 217 and the older one who has aged out and moved on to middle school—who are wildly different in their personalities, interests, passions, academic strengths and weaknesses, ability to concentrate, demeanor, confidence, and favorite or least favorite foods, I’ve learned that I’ve needed to be flexible and nimble. Also proactive and reactive, ready to stop on a dime, change course if necessary, and just be a relentless, positive advocate and role model for my kids, and all kids. I am easily adaptable and reliable.
These are some of the qualities I’d like to bring to the SLT if I’m so honored to be selected. It’s my firm belief that if my kids’ school—in its entirety—thrives, then my kids have a much better chance of thriving as well. Although I have not taken that course with my children, I fully support those parents who have chosen to send their kids to in-person school and will work tirelessly and collaboratively to ensure the success and safety of all students, staff, teachers and administration.
I’ve been actively involved in the school since 2013, when my oldest son started kindergarten. I’ve been a class parent, a frequent and eager volunteer for countless school activities and trips, a trustworthy and dependable advocate dedicated to the success of the school in all facets. Let’s do this together. Let’s try to build mountains out of molehills and strive to provide our kids a warm, nurturing, safe, academically excellent school experience.
I thank you for your consideration.
Warm regards, Meera Mirza
I’m running for a position on the SLT because I’m committed to public education and the education of our children. I’m an educator as well, in the English Department at Queens College, which is part of the City University of New York. I firmly believe that public schools, from pre-k to college, should be fully funded and should provide students with a thoughtful, well rounded, and supportive educational experience that meets individual students’ needs. I’m proud of the education our students are receiving at 217, and as a member of the SLT, I’d look forward to participating in conversations that continue to prioritize the creative teaching, attention to social/ emotional learning, and integration of the arts in our children’s education. As a parent of a kindergartner and third grader, this seems like a good time for me to be more involved and do my part as a member of the 217 community.