Dec 012014
 

By Heidi Hill

Last week I sat at a children’s table, lovingly covered with a handmade tablecloth and laden with bread and homemade butter and soup, and was grateful once again to live in this very special community. I was taking part in the Harvest festival here at OCP, when the children prepare a soup from vegetables harvested from their school garden plots and share it with their families and friends. The children—ages two to five—helped take the vegetables they’d grown out of the ground, washed them, chopped them, and put them in the pot for the soup. They made the butter by hand (in a jar with marbles) and the decorations and place cards on the table. Their pride and enthusiasm over what they had done, even in my three-year-old’s class, speaks volumes about why it’s important to let kids create on their own terms. Their ability to work together and share in the rewards of that work speaks volumes about what it means to be a part of a strong community.

My experience growing up (in the suburbs of Atlanta) was very different from my kids’ experience. They learn in school about living sustainably and being good stewards of the earth. They get hands-on experience in growing their own food and preparing it. They talk about and have a chance to practice living in community—helping one another, doing your work, and taking care of your shared space. And they have a chance to learn from people who model good earth citizenship: gardening, recycling and composting and conserving, walking and biking to school and work.

OCP is a cooperative, so everyone pitches in—the children help determine what each day will hold, the teachers work together to present our curriculum, and the families are in the classrooms every day as parent-teachers. On Harvest, I was the parent-teacher, and I got to watch my son and his classmates prepare the soup that I would soon enjoy for lunch. I admired the table decorated with pumpkins and acorns and a tablecloth printed with vegetable stamps—all designed by little hands. When the other families joined us at noon, we all sat together (for a bit, at least) to eat, talk, and be thankful. For the food, the effort it took, and the community we all work so hard to create.

Reprinted from the Lake Claire Clarion, November 2013.

 

Nov 072014
 

Have you ever wondered about the financial aspects of running OCP? Did you know that the budget for the Committee work you do is one piece of a larger financial budget? Did you realize how important the annual fund and your tuition payments are to how the school functions? This post details the school’s total budget, to provide a clear understanding of how we both make and spend money. The category percentages are based on our projections for the current fiscal year, which runs from June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2015. The projections are based on past years, and are updated each February by Committee Chairs. The Treasurer uses these projections, as well as expected enrollment, to create a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

First, how does the school bring in money? As you can see below, tuition makes up the largest percentage of our income. However, we would not be able to offer many of the fun, extra activities that our members love without our fundraising events, which make up approximately 10% of our yearly income.

Total Income:

  • Annual fund and other donations – 4.5%
  • Festivus Auction – 1%
  • 5K Race – 4.5%
  • School Year Tuition – 84%
  • Summer Camp Tuition – 6%

Next, where do we spend our money? Each Committee has a budget that they use to implement their portion of the Strategic Plan, which amounts to just under 10% of our budget (remember that 10% of our yearly income made up by fundraising?) The major costs come from our operating expenses, which include rent, utilities, paying our amazing staff, and all the other items that are necessary to run OCP.

Total Expenses:

Committees – 9.5% of budget (as follows)

  • Communications Committee – 0.5%
  • Coop Community Committee – 1.5%
  • Curriculum Committee – 1.5%
  • Green Committee – 0.5%
  • Management Committee – 0.5%
  • Membership Committee – 0.5%
  • Personnel Committee – 0.5%
  • Facilities Committee – 4%

Operating Expenses – 90.5% of budget (as follows)

  • Payroll, Subs, Taxes, and Employee benefits – 67.5%
  • Rent, facilities supplies – 14%
  • Classroom and operating supplies – 2%
  • Technology – 1%
  • Utilities – 4%
  • Insurance, Legal and Professional Fees, and Banking Fees – 2%

Because we are a non-profit, every cent that we make gets put back into our school. Some is held in reserve for use during emergencies; we currently have over 30% of our annual operating budget in our bank accounts. However, during the years that we are able to increase our income, either through full enrollment or additional fundraising, our budget can also increase to allow for special projects, such as last year’s kitchen remodel.

If you have any specific questions about the information presented here, or other questions about OCP’s budget and fiscal policies, feel free to e-mail this year’s treasurer, Caroline Evans (treasurer@oakhurstcoop.com).

Oct 292014
 

Part of OCP’s strategic plan stresses engagement and cooperation with the wider community, and one of our favorite ways to get involved is to participate in the many local festivals in our area. Decatur hosts a number of family-friendly festivals throughout the year, from the nationally recognized AJC Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend to smaller, neighborhood-sponsored events like the Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival, held in October in Harmony Park. OCP volunteers at the children’s sections at both festivals, as well as at the Decatur Earth Day Festival, at the Wylde Center, and the Decatur Beach Party, in downtown Decatur.

These four festivals give us a chance to meet our neighbors, share our story, and be a part of the community building that happens when organizations come together to celebrate—whether it’s celebrating books, art, music, or the environment. For the past two years, our booth at the Decatur Book Festival has featured a selection from our carefully curated library and a collaborative “progressive story,” where kids (and adults) can each contribute a sentence or two to create a whimsical—and often hilarious—tale. Because literacy is an important part of our days at OCP (from reading aloud to kids to finger plays to sharing stories), we are always excited and honored to play a role at our local book festival.

For the other festivals we participate in, we brainstorm creative crafts that use recycled and compostable materials to highlight our emphasis on green, environmentally friendly practices at OCP. At this fall’s Oakhurst Arts & Music Festival, we were at the Kid Zone making toilet paper roll maracas with all the kids who stopped by. This neighborhood fall festival is always a great event, with food, music, art, kids’ activities, a parade, and other performances. We often get to see not only current OCP families but also alums of our school, and of course meet lots of families from the surrounding community. In the past, we’ve also created pinecone birdfeeders, toilet paper roll binoculars, and vegetable-stamped fans with children who come to our festival booths.

We value our partnerships with local organizations and try to get involved in a variety of ways. To celebrate fall, we recently installed a caterpillar “scarecrow” at the Wylde Center garden in Oakhurst. The caterpillar, made up of pumpkins decorated by all of our classes with recycled materials, will be on display for the Wylde Center’s member event on November 2. Please stop by and enjoy it with your kids while you can! You can see more photos of our insect friend on our Facebook page.

Sep 202014
 
By John ChescavageAutumn… a time for harvesting, changing colors, cool evenings, brisk air, and celebrations!  Each morning I can feel the cool of fall approaching, and it gets me excited for some of the best OCP celebrations of the year.  When Anna and I joined OCP a few years ago, we had motivations beyond the education of our children.  We were attracted to the community nature of the school and the prospect of meeting and befriending other young parents in our neighborhood.  As our daughter has moved from Chickadee to Lark, we can look back on all the great people we’ve met through OCP and know that many more friendships are in store!Two of my favorite celebrations are around the corner, and it has been at these gatherings that I’ve gotten to know many of the OCP parents beyond the daily drop-offs and quick passes in the hallway.  As you’ve already seen, the OCP Fall Bonfire (previously referred to as the Bonfire and Hootenanny) is just a couple weeks away (October 4).  Nestled in among the giant trees of the Wylde Center, this celebration serves as an opportunity to eat, drink, and dance with all of our members into the cool evening.  The kids love the s’mores, and I love seeing them all run around together exploring the friendly confines of what my daughter calls her “garden school.”

And before we know it December will come knocking, and with it Festivus.  I love this celebration for its community pot-luck dinner, the tables of handmade donations for the auction, and seeing what the kids have created in the classroom. This is really a pinnacle event for OCP with the focus on contributions into the community that everyone gets to enjoy.  It was impossible to try every bit of available home-cooking last year, but that won’t prevent me from trying again this year!

In between, of course, are other opportunities to get to know and enjoy the familial aspects of our OCP community, including facility work days (although hard, they are great bonding exercises) and Green Family Field Trips.  In fact, there’s a Green Family Field Trip scheduled for October 18, right about the time the weather in Atlanta is perfect for a good hike in the wilderness.

So make sure you mark your calendars for all the great celebrations that OCP has in store for the community, and make the effort to get to know fellow OCP parents!  After all, OCP is more than just a preschool!

Aug 082014
 
August 1 marked the last day of summer camp at OCP, and what a summer it was! The third year of OCP Summer Camp was our most successful yet, with both classes—Bumblebees (ages 3-4) and Dragonflies (ages 4-6)—full nearly every week. Our fantastic staff, made up of a camp director, two lead teachers, two assistant teachers, and one general assistant, created one-of-a-kind experiences for their campers, built around nature-based themes like the rainforest, gardening & insects, and reusing & recycling. It was a time of exploring, playing, learning, making new friends—and finding creative ways to stay cool in the summer heat!

In keeping with our emphasis during the school year on being good citizens of the Earth, the summer camp teachers found innovative ways to explore nature and the environment. The Dragonflies teachers introduced their kids to “The Living Rainforest” by helping them create a mural depicting the forest floor, the understory, the canopy, and the emergent layers of the rainforest. They built a shoebox tree up to the ceiling and made butterflies and snakes to flutter and slither around it. During “Young Scientists” week, the Bumblebees’ classroom became a laboratory, where the kids rotated through a variety of scientific stations learning about electricity with balloons, sound waves with liquid in glass bottles, germs with a black light, and gravity and force with rulers and tops.

“Farm to Table” week was a hit with everyone—the Dragonflies created a grocery store and farmer’s market, and all the kids were invited to shop. They learned about where food comes from, how it’s grown, and how it gets to our homes and tables. The kids cashiered, shopped, and reshelved. Best of all, they got to milk a “cow”—created with a broomstick, latex gloves, and evaporated milk. They capped off the week by making food together—bread and butter in the Bumblebees’ class and muffins in the Dragonflies’.

We loved having OCP kids and alums and new friends from the community join us this summer! Stay tuned for news about upcoming summer camp plans!