WHAT'S A CO-OP?
Chickpeas is a parent-run cooperative. Of the many things that make Chickpeas unique, none is more important than the deep involvement of parents in our cooperative model. Chickpeas could not function without families performing coop responsibilities. This model underlines Chickpeas’ aim to create a nurturing first school experience for children that fosters a lifelong love of learning and a deep respect for diversity, community, and justice.
Current families serve on the board of Chickpeas, and major decisions are made or approved at monthly board meetings. Families have one vote each, and are actively encouraged to attend meetings and participate.
Families are involved in almost every aspect of the school, including finance, recruitment, facilities, fundraising, information technology, and human resources. In fall 2020, for the first time in our almost 40-year history, Chickpeas hired an administrator to serve as our bookkeeper and Department of Health and Department of Education liaison.
Every family performs one job for each child in attendance (if you have two children at Chickpeas, your family does two jobs). Although the jobs are relatively uniform in terms of the sheer amount of work, they vary widely in how that work is distributed: some require hours during the workday and others don’t; some have marked busy/slow periods and others are consistent; and so on.
Below is a collection of jobs each year may consist of. Job requirements may change year to year, depending on the school's needs and circumstances.
The “co-cos,” as we fondly call them, are the CEOs of the organization. They run monthly meetings of the Executive Board and general membership, oversee the work of all parents and staff, and ensure that Chickpeas is in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations. Gretchen explains it thus: “Chickpeas works because we all pitch in. Cocos keep a bird's eye view, making sure that the year runs smoothly. And if we have questions, a long line of previous cocos help us out.”
Web/Digital Media and Photographer
Chickpeas has both external and internal sites, and this job maintains both: you’re currently reading the external site, and the internal site is reserved for all manner of documents, communication, and collaboration used by parents and staff, often in collaboration with the Secretary. This position also maintains the buy/sell app, which we use when a Chickpea is sick or away and wants to sell school days, and organizes our library of photos/videos of Chickpeas at work and play.
Everything that keeps kids and staff healthy falls to the health liaison. This means compiling paperwork on immunizations and physicals for kids and staff, organizing lice checks at the beginning of each term, and generally keeping Chickpeas in compliance with state and municipal law. As such, the job demands impeccable organization and good interpersonal skills. As Leah puts it, "I'll never be able to say ‘nit-pick’ again without thinking of these tenacious women."
Teacher Meeting Coordinator
Like the music/movement teachers, the teacher meeting coordinator engages directly with children during their school day. During the staff’s weekly meeting, the Coordinator supervises the Peas, giving the staff a breather so they can plan. S/he also pitches in on assembling kid’s portfolios for the Department of Education and other administrative tasks upon the staff’s request. In Elle’s words, “what a rewarding job, being able to spend time with all of my daughter’s schoolmates.'
Two jobs involve teaching children during school hours. The music and movement teachers both teach for one hour per week, splitting the group into two halves for thirty-minute sessions. Both classes emphasize fun, participatory play, and doing these jobs gives the staff much-needed time for planning and decompressing. The jobs also give teachers a chance to develop special relationships with each and every Chickpea.
The secretary takes minutes at monthly meetings, makes sure that members faithfully attend meetings, revises Chickpeas’ brochure and handbook as needed, and organizes our digital filing system for all documents relevant to Chickpeas’ functioning.
The teacher liaison is the link between parents and staff. As such, it moves in many different directions: leading the hiring process when there’s turnover, overseeing parents’ annual evaluations of teachers, helping coordinate field trips, mediating any parent-staff conflicts or issues that arise, communicating parents’ wishes to staff and vice versa, and more.
This position oversees all aspects of the physical plant, from coordinating opening- and closing-day scrubdowns and weekly sweeping/shoveling of the sidewalk to fix-it projects in the building to bigger construction projects. This year, for example, indoor/outdoor is overseeing construction of a new playground with startup funds secured through the UPK program. Pat adds, “you forgot that we specialize in removing anything that crawls, slithers, scurries, or lurks in and around the building!”
The recruitment team solicits applications to Chickpeas, organizes an annual open house and tours in January-February, admits new families, and assists in orienting newcomers to the co-op. The lion’s share of the work takes place in the winter months. Jillian claims, “by early March I’ll need a day-long nap, but it’s been enormously rewarding to represent what we do to prospective parents and especially to shape the next wave of Chickpeas in ways that reflect our values.”
Chickpeas depends on the creativity of this team to make ends meet, and fundraising has ways of making you give. The team meets regularly to plan and execute several events throughout the year. Past events have included wine sales, a spring gala at the carousel in Prospect Park, and an annual auction. In the words of Kerry, the auction “proves that there is no known limit to what drunk parents will pay for their kids to have a playdate with [beloved teacher] Yliana’s dogs.”
Chickpeas has three treasurers who collaborate on all things financial, including fiscal management and monitoring cashflow. Treasurers are responsible for collecting tuition and UPK funds, paying bills, fiscal reporting to the DOE, managing payroll and benefits, and managing the annual audit. They also provide regular budget reports to the Executive Board and advise the Board on the broad financial implications of Chickpeas’ decision making.
This job involves regular contact with the Department of Education to ensure compliance with Chickpeas’ Universal Pre-K contract. Responsibilities include database management, monthly meetings with UPK representatives, and coordinating with the treasurers/health liaison/co-cos to make sure all paperwork is current and policies are in compliance. Jeff writes, “although the bureaucratic wrangling would try the patience of the Buddha himself, nothing beats the feeling of nailing down the...
The Community Coordinator brings together Chickpeas past and present with fundraising and community building events. S/he also puts out an occasional newsletter and an annual yearbook.
Special Projects is the Swiss Army Knife of parent jobs: the job always entails some strategic planning regarding Chickpeas’ finances and programs, team members also dream up and implement more local, ad hoc projects. This year, for example, we’re redesigning the website (how’d we do?!) and creating a more user-friendly parent portal, among other projects.