To Cornell Parents, Students, Teachers, Staff, and Our Entire Community,
We embark on another exciting year of learning and growing together!
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
- Cornell Crew: Our Volunteers Who Make it Look Easy . . . and Beautiful!
Cornell Crew: Our Volunteers Who Make it Look Easy . . . and Beautiful!
By Rachael Stryker, Cornell PTA VP of Events
Have you ever heard of the motivational quote, “Successful people make it look easy”? The same might be said for fantastic schools like Cornell Elementary. But the truth is that it takes a lot of work to keep Cornell Elementary looking beautiful and running smoothly. One of the keys to Cornell’s safe and fun play yards, neat hallways, and classroom gardens is Cornell Crew, a parent volunteer group that meets several times a year for “Work Parties” to complete maintenance and fix-em-up projects around the school. And the man who currently leads our motley Crew is Kevin Reindl, Cornell Crew Chief.
Kevin’s introduction to Cornell Crew was somewhat strategic. When his son, Adlai, started Kindergarten at Cornell in 2013, he knew he wanted to volunteer, but it had to be an opportunity that fit his family’s busy schedule. “I was looking for a gig where I didn’t have to go to a lot of meetings, because I work full-time and so does my wife, Suzy (Wolff). But I like gardening, fixing things, I have tools, and I wanted to help out. So, after looking at all the options, Cornell Crew made the most sense.”
For Kevin’s first Work Party, the main goal was to help place half-ton rocks around the school for landscaping. The job happened to mix well with his former experience as a County Parks worker and Bridge Construction Crew member in Wisconsin. “We got to use forklifts! It was so fun!” he says. It was also an uplifting first volunteer event, because many Cornell parents were able to plant trees together. “It was a great introduction. We got our hands dirty with all sorts of cool stuff.”
Cornell Crew was founded in 2006 by former Cornell parent, Reece Halpern. He spearheaded the project with a group of other parents. The group was modeled after a similar project at Kensington Hilltop Elementary School called the “Dad’s Club.” The goal was to bring Cornell parents together on a regular basis to assist the school, the teachers, and the PTA with projects that otherwise would not (or could not) be completed by maintenance employees. “So basically, we hope to be a money-saver for the school“ says Kevin. “We do jobs that would otherwise go undone or would have to be outsourced or contracted by the District or the PTA.”
Over the years, those jobs have been many. Since Kevin began leading the Cornell Crew in 2014, over 100 different families have volunteered nearly 3,000 hours. Their work has included painting the hallways, making classroom repairs, keeping the Silly Olympics carnival games in working order, planting trees, and landscaping. They’ve even built over 100 meditation benches to help Cornell’s kids with their posture and focus in the classroom. According to Kevin, helping lead Cornell Crew has become a central part of the Cornell experience for his whole family. His son Adlai, now a third-grader, is the “self-appointed Assistant Crew Chief” who rarely misses an event, and this year, Suzy helped to coordinate the classroom plots in the Edible Garden.
And although Kevin became Crew Chief basically because of a challenge, he doesn’t regret his central role in helping keep Cornell looking great. When former Crew Chief Reece Halpern’s two sons graduated from Cornell in 2014, he tapped Kevin as his replacement. “Reece’s wife Kira is a real estate agent,” says Kevin. “At the time, our family was renting in Albany, and when our landlords decided to sell the house, I mentioned to Reece that we were starting to look at buying a house in other school districts. And Reece said, ‘You know, you’d be a good Crew chief. My wife’s a real estate agent. If she finds your family a place, will you agree to take my place?’ I said yes, because I never thought she’d actually find us a place in Albany. But she did! So I kept my end of the bargain. And I’m glad I did.”
Would you like to become a Cornell Crew Member? Sign-up opportunities to be added to the Cornell Crew Distribution List (to receive dates and details about Cornell Crew Work Parties) are usually made available throughout the school year at various events, such as the PTA Meet and Greet in August and PTA meetings. You can also look for information about future Cornell Crew Work Parties in the Cornell e-Pinkie, on the Cornell e-Tree, and on the Cornell PTA Facebook page. “It’s just such an easy way to volunteer,” says Kevin. “So many people want to give back to the school, but everyone’s busy. But people don’t have to become a member of the PTA Board to be a ‘real’ volunteer. Sometimes volunteering is simply choosing a few hours a year to pick up a paint brush or a hammer and going to town.”
- Making Some Fun at Cornell’s Annual Winter Craft Fair
Making Some Fun at Cornell’s Annual Winter Craft Fair
By Rachael Stryker, Cornell PTA VP of Events
Look at most kid magazines these days and you’ll see that Junior Makers’ Fairs are all the rage. Well, Cornell has been sponsoring its own for over twenty years. And it’s one that you don’t want to miss next month.
“It’s kind of funny. Nobody seems to know how the Winter Craft Fair started, but it’s one of the most popular events that Cornell holds,” says event co-organizer, Danielle Eichner. For the last three years, she and other Cornell parents, Jen Dyment, Petra Martin, and Melanie Mickelson have been carrying on the tradition. “The Fair isn’t like most craft fairs. It’s really more like a craft-ing fair. Usually people come to craft fairs to purchase pre-made items, but with ours, the kids make everything themselves at the event, and then they can take them home.”
Here’s how it works: Kids purchase tickets in increments of 50 cents at the venue, and then they exchange them for participating in different craft activities (participation in each craft costs a few dollars). The crafts they make are theirs to keep, and many children later give them as holiday gifts. This year, kids have nine crafting activities to choose from to take part in. They can also use their tickets towards pizza, drinks, and donated Bake Sale items.
“We’ve inherited a lot of the craft ideas from years past,” says Petra, “like making snowglobes, tin art, and fleece pillows. Since we came on board, we’ve also added new crafting activities – the new activities usually come from figuring out how we can recycle and reuse some of the things that people
accumulate.” In recent years, organizers have added making greeting cards and beaded icicles to the list of things to do, and this year, kids can also put together jar lid magnets. Adds Jen, “We usually sell out of crafting materials for every activity every year. So people should come early!”
This year, the event committee asks that you also please donate goods for the Bake Sale (contact Jessica Cross at: firstname.lastname@example.org), and they’d love it if you can place any beads; small Lego figures; and/or small baby food or caper jars (20 oz or less) in the Fair’s Donations Box in Cornell’s front office in anticipation of the event. Thank you for also bringing your own bags to the Craft Fair to take finished items home.
If this sounds like something your Cornell kids would love, then be sure to stop by the Cornell Multi-Purpose Room on Saturday, December 3rd between 10 am and 2 pm. And be ready to make some fun!
- What Does it Take to Make Cornell Movie Nights a Success?
What Does it Take to Make Cornell Movie Nights a Success?
By Rachael Stryker, Cornell PTA VP of Events
The Bollin-Small Family:
Ryan, Derek, Kim, and Charlie
When Cornell parent, Kim Bollin, volunteered to coordinate her first Cornell Movie Night back in 2013, she didn’t realize how much she’d enjoy running the show. “When the kids come in their ‘jammies, and they lay their sleeping bags and stuffies out on the floor to get ready for the movies, it’s so neat . . . and when there’s a part of the movie that the kids all respond to, they yell and scream together, it’s so fun. It’s a good family event. And it’s something the kids just love.”
Kim, a Salesforce auditor, and mom to second-grader, Charlie, and fourth-grader, Ryan, first had the idea to volunteer as Movie Night Organizer when she attended a Cornell PTA Meeting three years ago. Fellow Cornell parent, Jessica Cross, was in need of someone to take over the event because she had just been elected PTA President. “I was at a PTA meeting, and I saw how much work it took to run the events we all enjoy,” Kim says, “and I thought to myself, ‘I should do my part. I should help.’”
Since Kim became the organizer for Cornell Movie Nights, Cornell has shown about fifteen films, including summer blockbusters like Big Hero 6, The Lego Movie, and Minions. But how does Kim choose the movies for Cornell? It turns out her sons Charlie and Ryan are integral. “When it’s time to pick a movie, I always ask them for ideas first, because they’re definitely in touch with the crowd that will be coming!” She also always takes care to pick new releases for Movie Nights, because they’re the tried and true favorites. Finally, she considers the age of Cornell kids, most often choosing animated features, and she always picks non-violent movies. “I only show movies that I’ve screened for myself.”
As a PTA Fundraiser, each Cornell Movie Night raises between $400 and $500 for Cornell Programs. Admission is suggested at $4 per person, and dinner and snacks –including real movie popcorn – are available for purchase. “I guess we try to maximize the profits at the same time we try to maximize the fun,” kids Kim. But for her, organizing Cornell Movie Nights is also an opportunity for her whole family to be a part of something for Cornell. “The kids help, and we have great volunteers too. And I really couldn’t do it without Derek [Kim’s husband]. He makes sure we’re ready every time. We’re definitely a team.”
Finding Dory is
showing on November 18th
Cornell Movie Nights are held on select Friday evenings throughout the school year in the Cornell Multi-Purpose Room. Cartoons are shown at 6 pm, and the main feature starts at 6:30 pm. On Friday, November 18, Cornell will show Finding Dory.
Movie Nights are also scheduled for January 20, March 24th, and April 21st this school year. So don’t forget to mark your calendars — and if you think you’d like to help transform Cornell into the nearest theater near you, you can reach Kim at: email@example.com
- The History of Cornell Elementary’s Westbrae Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser
The History of Cornell Elementary’s Westbrae Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser
By Rachael Stryker, Cornell PTA VP of Events
Eight years ago, Jeff Eckart, Cindy Eckart, and Chris Szybalski became interested in linking their business, Westbrae Nursery, with helping to meet some needs of the local community.
They approached it methodically, like the self-described former computer “techies” they are. “We had a daughter in elementary school in Oakland, and my sister was heavily into fundraising for her son’s school. We were all aware of the impact of funding cuts to schools in Albany and Berkeley – on music and art. So it was an area we were drawn to.” In 2008, they approached four elementary schools in Albany and North Berkeley with the idea of a month-long Halloween fundraiser. Cornell’s then-PTA President, Dorothe Piluso, was the first to take Westbrae Nursery up on their offer. The collaboration went well, and after a few years of rotating between elementary schools, the Westbrae Pumpkin Patch fundraiser is now strictly an annual Cornell event. Today, former PTA President, Jessica Cross, serves as point person on the event. Says Jeff Eckhart, “Cornell is always enthusiastic, our whole staff is involved, and we look forward to it every year.”
With pumpkins sourced from various growers in Northern California, the event offers a unique fundraising opportunity. Throughout the month of October, 100% of pumpkin purchase proceeds are donated to Cornell Elementary School. Every year, there is a Pumpkin Patch Event, with a magician and Bake Sale. This year’s Pumpkin Patch Event will take place between 12:30 and 2 pm on Sunday, October 23rd. Says Jeff, “More and more people come every year.” And whereas the event once earned Cornell about $2,000 a year, it now raises almost $7,000 annually. It is one of the most successful fundraisers that Cornell Elementary holds each year.
Westbrae Nursery has been operating since the 1930’s, when the Lasagna family –Italian immigrants– opened its doors. The Lasagnas had immigrated to America in 1911. “The business was passed down through several generations. Most recently, when the father passed away, his daughter decided she’d like to sell, and Cindy and I bought it with my sister, Chris, in 2008. This was a second career for Chris and me.” Eight years later, the three owners are still happy to work with Cornell. “We make it happen every year because Cornell and our staff are very excited about it. We provide the pumpkins, but parents are always the ones who single-handedly make the Bake Sale work, do the public relations, and bring all the people in. It’s great.”
Westbrae Nursery is located at 1272 Gilman Street, in Berkeley, next to the Westbrae Biergarten and across the street from Toot Sweets Bakery Cafe. Remember to join us at the Cornell Pumpkin Patch Event on Sunday, October 23rd!