BY VANESSA LANGDON
For Your Niskayuna
NISKAYUNA — A Rosendale Elementary School tradition got a face-lift recently when the school’s brand-new principal, Joe DiCaprio, filled the gym with his energy and booming voice for bingo night.
The night of family fun is sponsored by the Parent Teacher Organization at the school — an organization that DiCaprio calls irreplaceable.
“Our PTO is a wonderful group of people that embody the sense of commitment at Rosendale,” he said.
This commitment to the students was evident in the teachers and parents willing to dedicate their time on a Friday night.
“It’s heartwarming for me to see families spend a Friday night where their kids spend the week,” said DiCaprio. “It sends a message to kids that school is a cool place to be.”
DiCaprio’s cool elementary school vibe was evident as the families flooded in and extra tables and chairs had to be added to the already-packed gymnasium. The event had record attendance, according to event chair and Rosendale parent Amanda Romero. She was seen bopping from room to room checking on the bingo in the gym, the teacher raffle across the hall in a classroom and the bake sale in the cafeteria.
She was quick to pull a list of all the teacher and parent volunteers from her pocket and give credit to the team of 20 people working together to make the day possible.
While the evening is hectic and loud, making it happen is pretty straightforward, said Romero.
“At this point in the game, the events kind of run themselves,” she said. There’s just a lot of footwork.
That work allows the PTO to have a table overflowing with prizes to give to the students who excitedly scream “BINGO!” and wave their arms to and fro. The prizes ranged from gift cards for restaurants and entertainment activities to books and chocolate — all donated by area establishments.
The teacher raffle prizes were provided by the teachers and included items such as board games and lunch boxes as well as experiences like lunch with DiCaprio or kickball with Mr. Motto, a third-grade teacher at the school. When the time was drawing near to announce the winners of the raffle, kids were lined up trying to sneak a peak through the window in the door to see what was happening — the excitement was palpable.
After the bingo games were finished and all the prizes claimed, the bake sale began — all baked goods were donated by 16 families. The sale featured gluten-free options as well, offering something for everyone in attendance.
All proceeds from the three attractions went back to the PTO. The event was officially a fundraiser but PTO Co-president Cynthia Fairbanks spoke of the benefits that can’t be tallied up.
“The idea is to build a community,” Fairbanks said. “We don’t really set targets in the number of attendees or money raised.”
While community-building is important, the event fundraising aspect was a success as well — the event brought in a total of $876.98. The bingo card sales brought in $407, the bake sale $249.50 and the teacher raffle $220.48.
While bingo itself was the main attraction, the game allowed for the community to socialize, let the bingo caller make jokes, and allowed students and teachers to interact outside their normal classroom setting. Meanwhile, kids who just couldn’t bear to sit still any longer played tag, and older siblings got to come back to the school.
“It’s nice to have our kids meet their kids,” Romero said of the teachers who brought their own children to the event.
Special education teacher Beth Neild volunteered her time as one of the bingo callers and brought along her daughter Kate, who helped announce the numbers into the microphone.
Neild has volunteered at other PTO events throughout the year but had never called the numbers at bingo before.
“Our PTO in general is phenomenal,” said Neild. “They put students first and put on events that other school districts aren’t fortunate enough to have.”
The Rosendale PTO’s next event is a learning fair at 6:30 p.m. March 18. The fair allows all students, kindergarten to fifth grade, to choose a topic that they will present to the school community, in a format similar to a science fair but from all subject areas. The learning fair has the highest participation of all PTO events, according to Fairbanks.
“We have a lot of parents that donate many, many hours of time,” said Fairbanks. “Without our PTO the school would not function the same.”