Welcome to the 2017-2018 School Year

To Cornell Parents, Students, Teachers, Staff, and Our Entire Community,

We embark on another exciting year of learning and growing together! cornell

We encourage you to read our welcome letter from the 2017-2018 PTA Board.

Our goals as your Cornell Elementary PTA are to enrich the experience of our children, energize our community, and support the families, teachers, and administrators that make Cornell such a great place. And, of course, to have fun!

We hope you will come here regularly to find out what’s happening in the Cornell community and how you can participate in our volunteer efforts and fun activities.


Latest News & Features

Open Positions 2017-2018

We’re currently recruiting individuals for the upcoming school year.
Click here to learn more and to volunteer and join our team!

  • One, Two, Lace up Those Shoes! And Get Ready for the Coyote Fun Run!
    Coyote Fun Run Chair, Jennifer BasurtoOne, Two, Lace up Those Shoes! And Get Ready for the Coyote Fun Run!

    One, Two, Lace up Those Shoes! And Get Ready for the Coyote Fun Run!

    When Cornell parent, Jennifer Basurto, was little, she made sure to take part every year in her elementary school’s Run-a-Thon. “I was one of those girls who outran most of my classmates in grade school,” she says. “There were only one or two boys who could beat me! And I could go far! So, each year, I couldn’t wait to show what I had at our annual Run-a-Thon. Even as an adult, I can remember going door-to-door to collect pledges. I was so proud that running was a way I could help my school.”

    Jennifer’s memorable experiences putting her speed and stamina to work for her own education is good news for Cornell; four years ago, she founded the school’s annual Coyote Fun Run, and she’s been helping our kids put their own sneakers to the pavement to help the PTA ever since . . . with a unique twist. “The first Coyote Fun Run at Cornell was in 2014, when my daughter Leah became a fifth grader here. But I had already started one at my oldest son’s school when we lived in Berkeley, so I had thought a lot about run-a-thons! Here at Cornell, the parents on the event committee were given creative license and flexibility to shape the event, so I thought, ‘why not try to have a run-a-thon during some school days instead of how they’re usually done, as a big event on the weekend?”

    Ready, Set, Go! Cornell Kids at the Fun Run Starting Line

    Here’s how the Coyote Fun Run works: Each year, during Coyote Fun Run Week, Cornell kids use some of their Physical Education class time to run laps. Most students are given fifteen minutes to run as many laps as they can (kindergarteners and first graders get ten). When the kids complete their laps, parent volunteers tally and record them. This year, each child will earn a ribbon for taking part in the event. Each ribbon will indicate how many laps each student has completed, and students can collect their pledges after the run, either using paper forms handed out in Friday Folders or on-line, via the Fun Run website: coyotefunrun.org. Parents can also volunteer for the event by cheering students on, or handing out water and oranges slices while they run. Sometimes, Cornell teachers even warm up and run with the students!

    “It takes a lot of work, but really, that ‘in school’ model has been solid from the start. The first year of the Fun Run, we raised over $5,000 for the PTA.” Now, with the help of Cornell parents and Fun Run Committee members, Holly Castrillón, Ping Fahn, Kirsten Piroth, and Natasha Puchner-Doppler, as well as the endless enthusiasm of our own Coach Joel (who helps coordinate 23 separate class runs during Run Week!), the event makes more money than ever: “This past year we almost doubled that amount!”

    But, as Jennifer points out, the Coyote Fun Run is not just about fundraising. “It’s also about the really important goal of promoting fitness,” she says. And so far, that point has been made loud and clear since the event started four years ago. Every year, about 550 kids join in for the event. “Last year,” says Jennifer, “the kids ran a total of about 6,800 laps! That’s like running from Albany to about fifty miles north of the California-Oregon border. It’s really amazing.”

    Cornell Student Kai Tanner’s Reflection on the 2016 Fun Run: “This week I liked the coyote fun run. I ran 12 laps. I also ran very fast.” Congratulations, Kai!

    And there’s no doubt that Cornell kids love the Coyote Fun Run tradition. Each year, Cornell teachers email Jennifer to forward her reflection assignments that their students have written about participating in the event. “The kids write about how they never thought they could run so far or collect so many pledges,” Jennifer says. “It’s a real experience of pride for many of them, and they look forward to running again the next year. It reminds me of the fun I had with my own run-a-thons when I was little. It’s the main reason why I organize the event every year.”

    For this year’s Fun Run, which will be held May 15th-19th, Cornell students have more than the opportunity to get moving for the school to look forward to. Extra recess and a Popsicle party will be awarded to classes who run the highest average of laps in three grade categories (Kindergarten/1st, 2nd/3rd, and 4th/5th). In addition, every child who collects a pledge will have their name placed in a drawing for a chance to win a Mystery Prize donated by local toy store 5 Little Monkeys!

    Cornell parents can look forward to a wonderful change to the event too. Thanks to local sponsors, Cordula Didier of Marvin Gardens Real Estate, and Barbara McDonald, graphic designer and owner of Sign Me Up!, the Fun Run now has its own event website. Says Jennifer: “By donating some money and their expertise, they’ve made it possible for people to sign up on our event website and pay for pledges online! It’s easy to make donations quickly and share on social media at the click of a button, and it’s a great way to reach all of those far-away family members and friends.”  When you visit the website, be sure to take a look at the new coyote graphic for the event– it was designed by Committee Member Ping Fahn. Many thanks to Ping for her work!

    So, On your Mark, Get Set, Go! It’s time to lace up those shoes and get ready for the Coyote Fun Run the week of May 15th! The starting line awaits!

    If you’d like to be a parent volunteer for the event, please sign up at: http://signup.com/go/byMWLtN

    If you’d like to sponsor a student & check out the website, please visit:  coyotefunrun.org

  • Dance-O-Rama: Where Cornell Finds All the Right Moves!
    Beth Ellis-Dickson, Dance-o-Rama Chair

    Dance-O-Rama: Where Cornell Finds All the Right Moves!

    When Cornell parent, Beth Ellis-Dickson, took a part-time job at the Albany toy store 5 Little Monkeys six years ago, she didn’t imagine that her connections there would lead to her running one of Cornell’s most anticipated and lively PTA fundraisers of the year for the school — Dance-o-Rama! “I was working there with Stephanie Sala, who is the owner, and who is also a former Cornell parent,” says Beth. “She started the event in 2009 as a really fun thing where Cornell kids could come dance together to raise money for the PTA. When my son Colin, who’s now at AMS, began at Cornell in 2009, Stephanie asked me if I’d take over. I didn’t have to think about it too much. I’ve been dancing since I was six years old. I love all kinds of dance – modern, tap, jazz, hip hop, and I teach classes all over Albany. I’m also not the kind of person who likes to sit in meetings. So, I was pretty happy to take it on!”

    Beth shadowed Stephanie for a year before taking over as the current coordinator in 2015, and then she really began to make the event her own. When Dance-o-Rama first started, “it was a great dance party with food and some prizes or raffles,” says Beth. And today? “It’s like a dance party on steroids! About 500 people come every year. Kids and parents dance in the main part of the gym. There are also things to eat and drink, a Bake Sale, and a free photo booth. And we have contests, raffles, a Prize Grid where you might win $100, and a Treasure Trove where you can buy lots of fun things that have been donated by Cornell families and Albany businesses! Every year, it gets bigger and more exciting.” In fact, Dance-o-Rama is so big now, it raises over $8,000 for Cornell each year, regularly making it one of the PTA’s most successful fundraisers.

    Warriors Fans! One of Four Quilts to be Raffled at Dance-o-Rama! Thanks, Darlene Hayes!

    Looking ahead, this year’s Dance-o-Rama seems fit to be no exception when it comes to fun. “There are going to be so many interesting things to do in addition to dancing your butt off,” says Beth. For example, kids can participate in one of four fun contests: Heads or Tails, Airplane Flying, a Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a Limbo contest, which is making its grand debut this year. Great prizes for the contest winners include a ChromeBook, a COZMO Robot, an iPod Touch, and an iPad Mini! There are also four beautiful quilts being raffled off: “One of our Cornell grandmothers, Darlene Hayes, made and donated the quilts to us this year,” says Beth, “and we’re so grateful. An event this big really can’t succeed without the help of so many Cornell families and Albany community members.”

    Some of the many volunteers who deserve a big shout-out for making the 2017 Dance-o-Rama possible serve on the event’s Planning Committee. These include hard-working Cornell parents, Jackie Bittner (Assistant Chair), Tina Chew, Lacy Cline, Jamie Fagan, Aubrey Fowler, Melanie Mickelson, Karmina Newell, Steph Ramos, Cristi Solomon, Melany Swift, Andrea Venezia, and Danielle Widemann. Local donating businesses, such as Mr. Rooter and Daniel Winkler and Associate Real Estate Services, are sponsoring the Photo Booth and the new Limbo Contest. And as usual, our own Coach Joel is volunteering his time – “He’s emceeing for us again!” says Beth. “He has also offered to host an event called Water World with Coach Joel, a water play session that will take place at Cornell sometime before the end of this school year for a limited number of kids. People can buy tickets at Dance-o-Rama.”

    This year’s event also sees one extra and out-of-state volunteer: Beth’s mother. “My mother lives in Arkansas, and she is actually a big volunteer there. She’s always been involved in leading events for community theatre and other organizations. She does so much, she’s even the Arkansas Volunteer of the Year for 2017! She taught me how to give back to my communities. So, I’m glad she’ll be at this year’s Dance-o-Rama to help out. She can see what a big influence she’s had on me!”

    You Could Win $100! Take a Chance with the Dance-o-Rama Prize Grid!

    This year’s Dance-o-Rama will be held on Saturday, May 13th, between 5-8:30 pm at the Albany High School Gymnasium, and the Planning Committee is looking forward to a big turn-out. “We get excited to see that each year, more and more families and sponsors donate time, money and prizes to Dance-o-Rama, and we’ve worked really hard to make sure that there’s more pizazz than ever.”

    If you’d like to donate prizes or baked goods for the event, please contact Beth Ellis-Dickson at: beth.ellisdickson@gmail.com The Committee requests that people donate Bake Sale items either on Friday, May 12th or prior to the event on Saturday, May 13th by contacting Melany Swift at: melanyswift@gmail.com

    If you can’t donate prizes or baked goods, then make sure to come out and support the event by trying out your favorite dance steps. Everyone is waiting to see your best moves!


  • Cornell’s Got Talent! So Let’s Go on with the Show!

    Cornell’s Got Talent! So Let’s Go on with the Show!

    Dorothe Piluso, Founder of Cornell’s Got Talent!

    Where can you listen to the biggest hits; meet the future’s next big fashion designers; experience juggling, poetry, and jump-roping (sometimes all at the same time); and then, get to join in on a gigantic dance party at the end? You don’t need to head over to San Francisco – just head on out to Cornell’s annual entertainment showcase event for kids, Cornell’s Got Talent!

    The brain-child of Cornell parent, Dorothe Piluso, who began the event in 2010, it is one of the most anticipated events of the school year. “Cornell kids just love getting up on stage,” Dorothe says, “Between 70 and 120 kids take part every year. The auditions are really set up to help kids shape their performances, not to cut anyone. Anyone from grades K through 5 can audition and come perform in the show. It’s an opportunity for kids to get up there and sing or dance or do whatever it is that they really love to do, and just shine.” In the last few years, kids have also begun contributing to the event in many other ways if they like: those who don’t want to perform serve important roles as part of the stage crew – working the lights or sound — or help with concessions.

    There are many other “stars” of Cornell’s Got Talent! For example, the show’s success has always depended on the wonderful help of Cornell Coach Joel Gildersleeve, who emcees the event every year with energy and excitement. In fact, he’s never missed a year. “Even the year Coach Joel’s wife had their baby, he still came!” says Dorothe. “What’s great is that this year, that little baby, his daughter Grace, has entered Cornell as a kindergartner, and now she’s going to be in the show too.”

    Dorothe also credits the success of the event to Principal Terry Georgeson at Ocean View Elementary, who always graciously allows Cornell to hold the show in the school’s Auditorium. And of course, there are Cornell’s special parents who volunteer for the event’s Organizing Committee each year, such as this year’s team, which includes Jessica Cross, Stephanie Ramos, Gregory Sharpstein, and Ben Wallace. “I’m so glad to be a part of a school where you throw a crazy idea about an event or a fundraiser out there,” says Dorothe, “and the parents don’t blink an eye. They say, ‘Ok, sure, let’s go for it!,’ and then they help make it happen. The next thing you know, it’s a tradition. We have events that parents started 20 years ago, and we have Cornell parents today that still make sure that they happen. That’s very special.”

    Audrey Piluso Burns and Rachel Bernard-Pearl Make ’em Laugh at Cornell’s Got Talent!

    Over the years, Cornell’s Got Talent! has offered up some memorable performances. Indeed, some follow the trends. “One year, everyone wanted to sing “Happy,” and last year, it was the Shawn Mendes song, “Stitches.” And of course, there was a whole phase where everyone loved Frozen and we heard ‘Let it Go.’ A lot.” Some other performances, however, are truly one-of-a-kind. One year, a student directed a Fashion Show where garments were inspired by the elements; another, someone solved a Rubik’s Cube to music. Dorothe’s favorites, though? She’s loved watching her own daughter Audrey’s recurring annual “Vaudeville” skit where she tells jokes with her good friend, Rachel Bernard-Pearl: “Every year they do something different, and try to keep the audience on their toes.” But most of all, she loves it when kids simply try new things and really “nail it.”

    This year’s Cornell’s Got Talent! is coming up fast on Saturday, March 11th in the Ocean View Elementary School Auditorium. The first show will feature Grades K-2 and starts at 1 pm. The second show will feature Grades 3-5 and starts at 5 pm. Dorothe promises that it will be as entertaining as ever.

    It should be mentioned that at the end of this school year, Dorothe’s youngest child,  fifth-grader, Audrey, will be moving on to Albany Middle School. Says Dorothe: “We’re all definitely sad to move on. Our family has spent the last nine years as a part of Cornell. But we’re happy for the memories we’ve made here.” Of course, some of the greatest for her have been behind the scenes at Cornell’s Got Talent! “I tear up to think about the times right before the kids go out on stage. We always have a Backstage Circle, practice some mindfulness, and then let out a big roar together. All the kids put so much energy into the show.”

    And Cornell will miss Dorothe too. From serving as PTA President between 2009 and 2011, and then as the Board’s VP of Volunteers and VP of Events, to founding some of Cornell’s favorite events such as the Westbrae Pumpkin Patch fundraiser and Cornell’s Got Talent!, Dorothe has also helped create much of the Cornell spirit that so many enjoy. So, as Dorothe exits stage right, we want to take a moment to say Thank You! And to send much appreciation to all of the Cornell parents, students, and supporters that make Cornell’s Got Talent! possible each and every year. Let’s go on with the show!



  • Let’s Get Serious about Scrip!


    Let’s Get Serious about Scrip!

    The PTA Board is getting serious about Scrip! We are looking for someone to research possibilities for the best programs for Cornell Elementary and to revive our offerings as our new Scrip Coordinator!

    If you think you might be interested, please email VP of Volunteers, Natascha Puchner-Dopler at vpvolunteers@cornellpta.org for details. Or come attend the next general PTA Meeting on Thursday, March 9th, 6-7:30 pm in the Cornell MPR, where we’ll discuss best ways to make Scrip a part of the PTA’s fundraising efforts!