By: Sharon Aron Baron
The dream to update the Westglades Middle School media center became a reality thanks to the hard work of the school’s PTA, along with parents who donated towards the cost.
The Parkland middle school held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for “The Den,” which kicked off the beginning of literacy week. The celebration included Superintendent Robert Runcie, School Board Member Abby Freedman, Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, Commissioners Stacy Kagan, and Grace Solomon, founding principal Christine Flynn-Semisch and Media Specialist Jenny Stratos.
“I remember when we first started this process,” said Westglades Principal Matt Bianchi. “Ms. James, our PTA president, came to me and said ‘We want to redo the media center’ and I said, ‘That’s a nice idea’ and then she said the PTA is going to pay for it and then I said, ‘That’s a great idea.’”
PTA President Chandra James came up with the idea to remodel the media center in September of 2016. They heard about another school, Falcon Cove Middle School in Weston, who renovated their media center and took a walk-through. They loved the improvements and contacted Broward County Public Schools for a list of approved vendors. Members of the PTA shared their vision with two of the vendors, and they went to the drawing board. After a couple of weeks, they received proposals, settling on one company – and a $90,000 price tag. James had no idea how they would pay for it.
“I thought it [the remodel] was not happening,” said James. “ I looked at all the past fundraisers, and they never raised that much money before.”
James, who works as a wedding planner, went to work with her board. “I know when to push and not to push and how to get the vendors to work together. Yes, it was my crazy idea to do this, but if it wasn’t for the board that helped, we couldn’t have done it.”
The PTA made their annual “hassle-free fundraiser” more enticing for the parents by moving the recognitions for their donations from inside of the office to the outside of the school where drivers could see the banners with the donor’s names at the carpool lane. Parents bought the banners from $75 to $250, and those that donated less were still recognized on their website. Money was also raised at school dances, their outdoor activity Wolf-a-Palooza, and by selling apparel. In the past, apparel was only sold on registration day, but they upped the variety of clothing sold and made it available for purchase throughout the year on the PTA website.
Bianchi said the new media center would be the hub for the school to do research and a great place for students to come in, collaborate, and work in different areas using the different media technology. “This won’t stop with this group of students, but will carry over for years to come.”