The Kingswood School Parents Association was first officially established on Oct.12, 1922, at a meeting called by George R.H. Nicholson, the first Headmaster of Kingswood. The main idea behind the parents association was summarized in a speech given by the Headmaster of Loomis, Nathaniel Batchelder, at the graduation ceremony for the Kingswood class of 1923.
“There is a vulgar superstition that the school-masters and parents are mutual enemies,” he said. “Like all superstitions, this is untrue. They are natural allies… When the judgment of a schoolmaster and parent agrees, (and it does quite often) conditions are ideal. When there is disagreement, one is grateful for a telephone and the means of a quick and easy discussion. In this way, the School acts not as a substitute, but as a complement of the Home.”
Even back then, the meetings of the Parent Association, which were dinner meetings, were very well-attended. It was a great opportunity for parents to catch up on their children’s school lives. At one notable dinner program in April of 1956, alongside their student advisor, the students presented the student government constitution to the association. At another meeting in 1963, a formal debate was held on the stage of the Hewett Building.
Though deserving of much praise and recognition, the Parent Association deserves even more considerable credit for one of Kingswood-Oxford’s most popular traditions: the KITs. Though the original idea is attributed to “Frosty” Francis – Kingswood Oxford teacher, basketball coach, and administrator – the Parent Association truly made the KITs what it is today. They organized the event, promoted it, made food and coffee, handled tickets, and more. Like now, the event was extremely successful and in three years, the KITs had raised more than $4,000 for the school’s scholarship funds.
Our current Parent Association functions with much of the same goals as the original Parent Association: parents and faculty working together as partners for the betterment of the students. “Having a strong Parent Association working with the school shows that we as parents are here to support our students in any way, but that we also stand as a front, school and parents together,” current Parent Association President Megan Wildstein said.
Having a good relationship between the parents and faculty is incredibly important as, at the end of the day, both want the students to be as successful as possible. “We are here to educate together, we are here to talk together, we are here if there is an issue together, whatever it is,” Mrs. Wildstein said. “It’s a partnership for education, it’s a partnership for life skills, it’s a partnership for forming your identity, it’s a partnership for everything.” In fact, the Parent Association highly encourages all teachers, faculty, and staff members to attend their meetings and oftentimes, many do.
The Parent Association is set up similarly to a student government. There are two parent representatives for each form, and those parent representatives then work together with the form deans who they report to when planning activities or trying to garner volunteers for an event. There are committees assigned to each form which are open to all parents of students in that form. There is also a secretary, a vice president, and a president. Just like in a normal job, every member of the Parent Association operates on a budget and must keep up to date on their funds. They have to submit a purchase requisition when they make an expense and keep the receipts.
As an entirely volunteer-based organization, the Parent Association operates fully off a fundraising budget. Every two years, in partnership with the alumni office, the Parent Association holds a fundraiser, and profits must last until the next fundraiser. The only other fundraising opportunities they have are concession stands at big sports events such as Hewett Day or under-the-lights games. The average total General Parent Association budget for a year is $17,500 which is then divided between all the forms, both in the Upper and Middle School. All the forms are given funds to pay for events each year, which eventually accumulate to offset the high costs of senior week and senior prom.
The middle school forms, with an average of 50 students per form, are allocated $500 and the third and fourth forms, with an average of 85 students per form, are allocated $750. Looking at the junior year budget, they are allocated $750 in addition to the cost of junior prom tickets which, averaging at $50-$60 per person, cover most of the prom fees. Additionally, the General Parent Association supplies $1000 and covers the cost of the DJ and photo booth.
The senior budget, however, is a different animal altogether. By the time that senior year rolls around, the class accounts should have accumulated to create a budget of around $15,000-$18,000 for the year. That budget covers the cost of the many senior activities that take place in students’ final year at Kingswood Oxford. These activities include a senior breakfast, celebrations at key points in the college application process such as the Nov. 1 early decision deadline or the January regular decision deadline, the 100-day breakfast sponsored by the Advancement Office, the senior prom breakfast, and the senior week activities and gifts. Senior week encompasses numerous events to say goodbye to the senior class, starting with senior prom. Like junior prom, the senior prom is primarily covered by the price of tickets, which average at $85-$110 per person. The General Parent Association also contributes $2000 in addition to the cost of the DJ and photo booth.
Along with the budgets allocated to each form, a budget is given to each aspect overseen by the Parent Association. The arts committee is given $500 per year, Boppers Entertainment and Event Service is given $4000, community outreach is given $1000, Giving Wyverns Wings is given $2000, parent education is given $1500, sports are given $500, and The Zone is given $300.
Just as the Parent Association of the past was responsible for many of the traditions and events that were enjoyed by the students, so too is our current Parents Association. In conjunction with Director of Alumni and Parent Relations Elizabeth Bellingrath, the Parent Association works hard to ensure that the students are having the best possible experience at KO. Though they are responsible for many of the events that we love, one common misconception is that the Parent Association plays a role in the planning of homecoming, but that is planned exclusively by KO’s student government. “That’s not to say that we don’t check in with Mrs. McKee and make sure that, if something has come up with the student government, if the parents association can help with that or support them, we’re more than happy to do so,” Mrs. Bellingrath said.
Many don’t realize that the Parent Association has worked with the Fox Middle School for over a decade. Every December, they provide the holiday bazaar for the kids there, as Fox doesn’t have a functioning library. Additionally, many also don’t realize that the Parent Association runs something called parent education. With a minimum of two events per year, the Parent Association tries to do something that is of interest to the parents. For example, the one that was held this year on Oct. 3, centered around the wellness team at KO, so that parents could hear about the resources that the wellness team provides for students. The Parent Association is even involved in providing the food and drinks before a KO musical or play.
An exciting Parent Association meeting will take place in February and will include, for the first time, the parents of the international students at KO. Though there is an international committee, there has never been an official meeting of the Parent Association that has included international parents as well. In true Parent Association spirit, they wanted to make sure that opportunities were available for all KO parents, whether they live in West Hartford or in China. “They can log on and maybe they can see some familiar faces and get an understanding of where their kids are,” Mrs. Wildstein said.
Those who volunteer for the Parent Association are all current KO parents with varying amounts of free time. Some members, many of whom end up assuming high positions in the Parent Association, are able to devote a good portion of their time to the Parent Association, though help in any form is highly appreciated. “Everyone has different amounts of time that they can give, so if it’s two hours, we’d love you to give the two hours,” Mrs. Bellingrath said. This time can also be used for many different things. For example, one parent, who is a psychologist, offered to give a talk at KO.
In another effort to include and welcome all parents, the Parent Association organizes a mentorship program in which a current parent welcomes new parents to the school. Right before the start of the school year, the parent mentor calls the new parents and then follows up around the end of September to see how the year is going so far and if there is anything they can do to help. “There are some parents that have done it over and over again every year but also some that are brand new, but they love it because they get to meet someone, which is a great opportunity,” Mrs. Wildstein said.
Ultimately, the Parent Association operates on a deep appreciation for the KO community and all that it offers. “I’m an alum of the school; my dad went here and my four sons were able to come here, so I truly love Kingswood Oxford and I love people, so this alumni role and parent association role really worked for me because I got to give back to Kingswood Oxford,” Mrs. Bellingrath said. Mrs. Wildstein feels similarly. “I really fell in love with it because it allowed me to meet people, different parents, learn different things, and, because my kids were coming over from east of the river, it allowed me to see what their everyday activities were,” she said.
Looking ahead, on Thursday, Nov. 30, the Parent Association is hosting a lunch and book discussion from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. to discuss Chris Herren’s memoir, “Basketball Junkie,” prior to his visit to KO on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
The KO community is so lucky to have such a committed Parent Association and we thank them for all their hard work!