Representatives from Friends of J.S. Jenks spoke at Thursday night’s Chestnut Hill Community Association, relaying their group’s goals for school and community and seeking to establish a relationship with the CHCA.
Friends of J.S. Jenks [FOJ] is a non-profit organization that will provide strategic fundraising and community partnerships for Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill, which has approximately 475 students and draws students from the 19118 and 19150 zip codes. FOJ grew out of the Jenks’ Home School Association.
Speaking for the FOJ was Haviva Goldman, a Chestnut Hill resident and president of FOJ.
“A vibrant public school option will keep young families in the neighborhood, fostering community and business growth, and raising real estate values,” said Goldman. “In other words, a strong community public school benefits everyone.”
Strategy behind Friends of Jenks
Noting that HSA’s are ill-equipped to perform strategic planning, Goldman said her group determined that a separate organization, organized as a non-profit 501c3, could be created to help meet these goals by raising the level of public dialogue about the value of public education in Chestnut Hill, and raise money along that way in a systematic fashion.
A Board of Directors for FOJ was formed in December 2011, with incorporation following in March.
With their organization in place, Goldman said FOJ’s primary goal for 2012 is a focus on instrumental music and visual arts. $8,000 was raised at a fundraiser held earlier this month. She said that a final goal of $36,000 will ensure that the programs are protected from district-wide budget cuts.
“The support we received has given us confidence that this community sees the value in supporting a strong public school in Chestnut Hill,” said Goldman.
Goldman also explained that there are five core programming initiatives at Jenks, which she said provides insight into the direction the school is heading.
In addition to reinforcing performing and visual arts programs, FOJ hopes to buttress information technology offerings, support healthy lifestyles through nutrition and physical education, work to “green” Jenks’ physical plant, and strengthen science education at the school.
“Obviously some of these goals are quite lofty and will take time, commitment, money and vision to get there,” she said, “but there are many ways in which the school and community association can begin to work together now, even with limited funds.”
School budget cuts prompting action
In response to the FOJ presentation, CHCA board member Mike Chomentowski asked Goldman about the existence of similar organizations in the city.
“It really a trend in the city a whole,” said Goldman, pointing to existing organizations in West Philadelphia and Center City.
In Northwest Philadelphia, a similar undertaking is developing at Mifflin Elementary School in East Falls. In June, the East Falls Community Council voted unanimously to approve a Friends of Mifflin School Committee, which will be administered not by parents but by the EFCC.
“There are groups like this popping up all over the city,” she said, and invited CHCA board members to attend FOJ’s meetings.
CHCA President Brien Tilley offered praise and support for FOJ.
“We’d like to participate in some way,” he said, “and learn how we can be of assistance.”