Friends of Jenks president, Haviva Goldman, tells the CHCA board about the goals and vision of the new parent-lead organization. (Photo by Pete Mazzaccaro)

by Wesley Ratko

The president of a newly formed nonprofit group called the Friends of J.S. Jenks [Elementary School] appeared before the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s board June 28 to introduce her group and talk about its vision for making the school better.

Haviva Goldman, mother of a Jenks 3rd grader, told the board that her group is made up of parents, teachers, and community members with an appreciation for quality public schools, an interest in raising the level of public dialogue about the value of public education, and the motivation to do something about it.

“We recognize that quality public schools are the foundation of building and sustaining communities,” she told the board. “A strong public school benefits everyone.”

She said the need for the group, which is a separate association organized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, came out of an inability for the Home and School Association to do “substantial fundraising” to provide the Jenks school with the resources it needs.

Goldman said that her group was inspired by a book called “How to Walk to School: A Blueprint for a Neighborhood School Renaissance,” about a group of parents that turned around a neighborhood school in Chicago.

“We’re bringing together the financial and creative resources of educators, parents, students, alumni, and the greater community,” she said.

Friends of Jenks is hoping to ensure long-term financial flexibility for the school through new partnerships between the cultural, business and academic institutions of Chestnut Hill.

Goldman said Friends of Jenks is gaining both momentum and membership, as more Chestnut Hill residents and business owners sign on to help the group. An early June kickoff fundraiser with a two-fold goal of raising money and publicizing the organization raised more than $8,000 and received an overwhelmingly positive response up and down the Avenue.

In its first year, Friends of Jenks hopes to raise $36,000 earmarked for the protection of the Jenks Arts and Music Program (JAM). Created three years ago by Principal Mary Lynskey, the program provides students with additional music and visual arts instruction and has been a huge success, especially with the middle school.

Money raised by Friends of Jenks will be used to bring in visiting artists to supplement art class instruction and compensate for the loss of the school’s full-time art teacher.

The J.S. Jenks School at 8301 Germantown Avenue has a student body of 475, drawn mostly from the 19118 ZIP code.

Board member Mike Chomentowski invited her back and encouraged a dialogue

“We’d like to hear your ideas about how we can help you,” he said.

She, in turn, said the group would welcome a representative from the CHCA at its board meetings.

The board took no formal action, but thanked Goldman for her presentation.

More information about the group is available on the web at

Magarity site update

The board approved a recommendation by the Land Use Planning and Zoning technical review subcommittee to make minor adjustments to the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions document agreed to by members of the CHCA negotiating committee and Bowman Properties.

The technical review committee, headed up by Joyce Lenhardt, recommended approval of the changes, but Lenhardt was present at the meeting to answer questions

Board president Brien Tilley told the board that the requested changes were “fairly immaterial” and involved changes to the boundary around the building of one or two feet.

Board member Richard Snowden, who is president of Bowman Properties, abstained from voting on the change. He explained that “little tweaks” around the building were anticipated early on in the process, saying that these changes and adjustments occur as a result of the ongoing give-and-take between Bowman’s design team and the technical review committee.

One board member, Mike Chomentowski, voted against the measure, saying he was reluctant to approve the changes without Lenhardt on hand to explain their significance. Board member Elizabeth Bales disagreed.

“Things have to be done and can’t be delayed just because a board member isn’t here,” she said.

Both she and Snowden suggested that the board depend on the experts they’ve put in place to handle these matters and trust their judgment.

LUPZ committee member Larry McEwen spoke for Lenhardt in her absence.

“I don’t think she’d be worried,” McEwen said. “My take is if things could move along that would be her wish.”

The board approved the recommendation with one dissenting vote.

AVI property tax

With only a few minutes left in a heavily scheduled meeting, board president Brien Tilley briefly raised the issue of how the CHCA should best address the Nutter administration’s so-called “Actual Value Initiative” property tax proposal. Now deferred for a year, Tilley told the board it was his intention in the coming weeks and months to get a sense of how board members and Chestnut Hill residents felt about the measure.

“We have a year to reach out to comment and make our thoughts known,” he said. “We need to get our neighbors to tell the CHCA what it is they want.”