Friends of McPherson Elementary Form Community Group

By Mike Fourcher | Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bob Farster and Dana Stein are leading the effort to organize Friends of McPherson Elementary. Also pictured (left to right) Simon and Louis Farster, Jonathan and Cristian Stein. Photo by Mike Fourcher.

Homegrown email chains have been spreading among parents, neighbors, and teachers of McPherson Elementary (4728 N. Wolcott Ave.) about “a group interested in improving [the] neighborhood elementary school.”

These emails suggested a booster group similar to the ones already operating for public schools like Ravenswood Elementary and Waters Elementary. They’re calling it Friends of McPherson Elementary, and the group’s beginning goals are modest.

Organizer Dana Stein said they’ve already spoken with the principal to ask what the school needs.

“She said they need paper. It’s a really basic need. But we’re looking at laptops [and] an afterschool program where we bring in a community group like Old Town School or Lillstreet Art Studio.”

Stein is a new parent at the school, as well as a former public school teacher and owner of It’s A Paws World (1964 W. Montrose Ave.) “[Originally] McPherson was not on our radar because they just had no PR,” she said.

Her oldest has special needs, and for his first three years of school she and her husband chose to send their kids to a private school in Lincoln Park. It ended up being a bad choice. Two McPherson teachers were shopping in her store and heard her story. They encouraged her to consider McPherson.

“To be honest, I didn’t know anything about the school,” Stein said. “I ended up coming to talk to [McPherson Principal] Ms. Mendoza, she was just so nice, [telling me] ‘We’re gonna do this and do this.’ It was neat. I decided we were going to go to McPherson.”

Currently, there are about 20 active members of Friends of McPherson, including eight teachers.

“That has been one of the most impressive things,” said Friends of McPherson President Bob Farster. “The teachers are really driven. And it’s not just one or two.” He went on: “They start boy scouts, girl scouts. I saw one of the teachers running with a student just the other day. It’s summertime. They don’t have to do all this.”

“They’re going into their own pockets to pay for supplies,” added Farster. “Dana and I thought, the least we can do is help them pay for stuff.”

Although the Friends are planning a spring auction and fundraiser, the group does not want to limit themselves to raising money.

“We have an awesome preschool teacher, Dawn McCarthy, and she really wants to get together a toddler time,” said Stein.

“Maybe an open play[time],” Farster added. “The school has so many rooms and facilities.”

He said that the school is supportive of anything the groups want to do that’s reasonable. The next step is to reach out to the community.

“Lincoln Square is full of so many unique, smart adults, photographers, artists. We’re trying to engage the community to come back. With classes, tutoring, and building more awareness of how great McPherson is and how much better it is going to be.”

Interested parents and neighbors can email Dana Stein or Bob Farster. The group has started a discussion board and a website.

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