Be an ECFS insider! Get more stories straight to your inbox.

April 30, 2024

By Molly Alpern, Assistant Director for Advancement Communications

Life at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School is shaped and defined by the great collective made up of the students, faculty, and staff on campus each day. But there’s another group that works tirelessly, and often behind the scenes, to create a meaningful, connected community: the more than 150 parent and guardian volunteers who make up the ECFS P+T. 

The P+T (ECFS’s version of a parent teacher association) has a wide variety of volunteer roles, ranging from event volunteers who assist with events such as the Fieldston Lower Celebration of Books, the Ethical Culture Spring Fest, the Fieldston Middle pre-concert socials, or the Fieldston Upper Senior Dinner, to committee leaders to the all school chair, an elected position which oversees the full scope of P+T operations. For the past two years, that role has been filled by Patty Moreno-Fletcher P’17, P’18, P’24. 

Senior Dinner, which is organized by the P+T and the ECFS Events Office, is a meaningful event celebrating the graduating class

“Our family became part of ECFS back in 2004 when my oldest, Harry Fletcher ’17, started Kindergarten, and I started volunteering for different events and in different roles that first year. I continued volunteering as a grade parent for Harry ’17 and Leilani ’18, got involved with the All School Multicultural Committee, and was a divisional co-chair when my kids made it to Fieldston Middle and Fieldston Upper,” Moreno-Fletcher shares. “Over the years, I’d been asked to consider nominating myself for the All School Chair role, but the timing never felt right until the last election — it was my last two years of being an ECFS parent, and I knew it was a way I could go out with a beautiful bang.”

Moreno-Fletcher’s term as All School Chair started in the 2022–2023 academic year, the first year that life at School had a strong sense of normalcy after two years of hyflex learning and physical distancing. Slowly but surely, many beloved events began to reappear on the calendar. These events go beyond providing opportunities for families and students to connect, they also represent precious touchstones and traditions that stay with students for a lifetime. With the support of the ECFS Events Office, the P+T is the engine behind many of the festivities and gatherings. 

 “Events like the Fieldston Lower Carnival and Ethical Culture Spring Fest, they’re institutions in and of themselves — and the parents who organize them are very invested,” says Grace Wang P’28, P’31, longtime P+T volunteer, current Fieldston Middle Co-Chair, and incoming All School Chair. “They take a lot of pride in the events. When I first started volunteering, I remember being on many of those committees that first year, and I was so impressed with how much thought and effort went into it.” This is reflected in how the events evolve, Wang adds, sharing that when Ethical Culture first introduced the “Green Carnival” event, now known as Spring Fest, they decided to move away from plastic prizes for games to reflect the “green” ethos. Instead, the organizers asked for donations, and when students had collected enough tickets from the carnival games, they could visit a room filled with new-to-them toys, books, and games to pick out their prizes. 

The Ethical Culture Spring Fest is a beloved tradition

That thoughtful approach and commitment is reflected across various volunteer roles, such as the Welcoming Committees at Fieldston Lower and Ethical Culture. With the recognition that starting a new school can be a difficult transition for both students and their families, the Welcoming Committee gets to work each spring when admissions acceptances come in, matching each new family with a buddy family that’s already part of the ECFS community. “At Fieldston Lower, where I volunteer, it all culminates in a welcome picnic,” says Darin Billig P’35, “where the incoming families will meet the school administration and their buddy family. Throughout the year, the buddy family will plan additional play dates and periodic check-ins throughout the year, easing the transition for the newest members of the ECFS community.” 

For Moreno-Fletcher, making sure both new and established members of the community have the opportunity to have their voices heard at all levels of the School is a crucial part of her role as All School Chair. “I really feel like I have an impact at the School, both in terms of building community and planning events as well as sharing how parents and guardians are really feeling to share a pulse of the parent/guardian community with the School’s leadership and provide real-time feedback to further improve the experience for students and families,” she shares. “It’s been important to me that I use my position to elevate their questions and concerns.” 

Throughout the year, the P+T finds creative and thoughtful ways to show gratitude to faculty and staff, like this holiday hot chocolate event 

Throughout the academic year, the divisional co-chairs ask class parents for any feedback they want shared, and each month the co-chairs sit down with their division’s principal and dean to share what they’ve heard from their peers. The all school officers then utilize the outcomes of those discussions, as well as other feedback they’ve heard from the community, to inform their regular meetings with Head of School Joe Algrant. “We’re able to really bring that feedback right to Joe, where we communicate what needs to be discussed further with the community, what themes are coming up frequently, or what parents/guardians are finding confusing,” Moreno-Fletcher says. Outcomes of the meetings are shared back with the community, helping strengthen the relationship between the School and the parent/guardian community. 

“We’re always talking about how the main role of the P+T is making everyone feel like they’re included and that they belong in our community,” Wang adds. Maintaining strong connections between parents/guardians can be harder as students get older, she says, and she’s excited to step into the role of All School Chair for a two year term beginning in fall 2024 so she can work to keep those relationships strong: “In whatever way I can, I’m going to try to find all the possible connection points and feed them all so they keep growing.” 

One way to keep building community is to volunteer with the P+T. “There’s a role for everyone,” Billig says, “from the people who have time to act in all school roles to the people who can help serve pizza at an event. It helps create an enriching experience for students and allows you to be part of a larger community.”

Moreno-Fletcher agrees, saying that “seeing the smiles on students’ faces — that really makes it all worth it.” 

Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month! If you want to get involved as a P+T volunteer, reach out to [email protected]. To be an Orange Fund volunteer, contact [email protected]. To learn more about being an Admissions volunteer, email [email protected]