Go ahead, call them the Mommy Mafia.
They’re OK with that. The nickname isn’t really accurate, but it is kind of a hoot. Even if the Rosemont Early Childhood PTA does run Oak Cliff, in a sense, their motives are more Oprah Winfrey than Tony Soprano.
The group started as the Rosemont Preschool Association in 1926, which makes it the oldest early childhood PTA in Texas. Their biggest fundraiser, a silent auction that rakes in close to $30,000 a year, is April 9.
The group funds arts programs at Rosemont Elementary, including an artist-in-residence program with the Dallas Children’s Theater. Through that partnership, a professional actor does workshops with every class four times a year.
“They’ve all been on stage,” Rosemont principal Ana Brining says of the school’s students. “They’re used to performing in front of people and making art. It carries over into academics, and helps them become more well-rounded.”
The group also supplements other Rosemont arts programs, such as the orchestra, to make them as rich as possible, art teacher Stacy Cianciulli says. Funding the arts at Rosemont is the group’s mission, but there’s so much more to what they do.
The group’s 250 members have access to a play-date schedule, babysitter contact list, an email group and a resource database where parents can recommend anything from a daycare to a shoe store.
It opens parents up to a community of people who want to raise good kids, says Cianciulli, who joined the group in 2004, when she was pregnant with her first child.
The resources, referrals and advice she receives from the group were invaluable to her as a new mom, she says.
“I’ve gotten the best potty training advice ever from this group,” she says. “Way better than any book.”
Besides that, the group fills in the gaps at Rosemont. For example, when the Chris V. Semos Campus, known as “the lower school”, opened a few years ago, Cianciulli found there was nowhere to display three-dimensional art. It’s a beautiful school with plenty of wall space for artwork, but that one detail was missing. So the Rosemont Early Childhood PTA raised money to build pedestals.
“That’s just one example of what they do,” Cianciulli says.
And then there’s the Sunshine Committee. That’s a network of parents who volunteer to bring hot meals to families with newborns or some other arresting circumstance.
Member Vida Redmond took advantage of the committee when her family first moved to Oak Cliff. Her daughter was only a few months old, and while unpacking, Redmond fell and broke her ankle.
“So there I was in bed for two months, and I had a 6-month-old,” she says.
For the first month, the Sunshine Committee brought her a meal every day.
“It was huge,” she says. “It’s that kind of thing that really makes you feel like part of a community.”
That word keeps coming up in interviews with the group’s members — “community”. It’s past president Jen Lochridge’s key word when she talks about the group.
“It’s amazing how my friends who live in North Dallas don’t know people in their own neighborhood,” she says. “We see people we know everywhere we go, and it really makes you feel like part of a community.”
Because the group is tightly knit, and because of the email group, news spreads quickly among them — that’s part of the reason they got tagged with the gangster nickname. If one parent doesn’t like something, the other 249 can find out fast.
“I think it’s funny,” Lochridge says of the moniker. “It has kind of a negative connotation. But we are not known for badmouthing businesses. We have rules against that. You can’t badmouth anyone on our email system.”
Besides, as Tony Soprano might put it, there is no such thing as the Mommy Mafia.
The Rosemont Early Childhood PTA’s Beatles-themed silent auction, “Come Together for Rosemont”, is at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 9 at the Hickory Street Annex, 501 Second Avenue. Tickets are $35 and available at recpta.org.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Oak Cliff.