March 2006 Newsletter


What’s up?


With the Annual Meeting scheduled for April 28 at 11 a.m. the Executive Board is focusing on some strategic and “big picture” issues facing La Causerie.  Some of our priority discussion items are described below. We welcome your input now, as planning is underway.  Also, our meeting time in April will be short, so please take the time to chat with a board member and get your two cents in ahead of time!


Nominating Committee.  The board is appointing a Nominating Committee to prepare a slate of officers for election at the Annual Meeting.  Cerise Harris, secretary, and Thad Carver, treasurer, have completed their terms and have asked to go off the board this year.  The vice president position is also open. The other officers are eligible for another term and have indicated willingness to serve longer. If anyone is interested in joining the Board and helping to steer our club through the coming year, please ask an officer for clarification of what is involved for each position.


Anticipating growth.   The Board is taking a business-like approach to anticipated growth and has generated budget projections by playing out various scenarios.  We project significant growth in the Spanish Department, already demonstrated by our need to hire Bill Lozano for an additional section of Advanced Spanish Conversation this year.  Because we need to plan for classroom space and teachers, planning must take place now.  Annette Howard has proposed several options to add new classes and rethink old ones.  We also turned away students last fall in Beginning Italian and French.  La Causerie tries to keep classes small for optimum benefit to members, but this raises our costs, as most members take multiple classes. 


Meeting member needs.  Some note that beginner language students “get the short end of the stick” at La Causerie.  While they pay full membership, they can generally take only one course.  In addition, it is difficult to make progress with only one hour of class a week.  The Board is considering scheduling changes that would allow beginning classes to last an hour and a half.  This, of course is contingent on space, teacher availability and cost. It has also been suggested that we could add a “Language Lab” hour to help beginning students with their pronunciation, perhaps run by a more advanced student volunteer. It has also been suggested that we add an Intermediate Italian Conversation.  All these decisions require planning and indicate another reason for the Board’s business-like approach.


Need for professional help. The Board is considering hiring an outside consultant to manage the enrollment process next fall.  This is a huge undertaking for any volunteer, and needs to move beyond the shuffling of hand-written papers. Computerized enrollment would not only set up our Livret, it would also easily produce the class rosters and let us know when a particular class is nearing the “full” point so we can start a waiting list and consider an additional section.  Members who want to make a class change would simply turn in a “drop/add” form, which would then open up a spot for someone who is waiting. 


While members indicate they would prefer to volunteer rather than to pay for services like this, finding volunteers to tackle large, complex tasks has proven difficult.  The Board has recruited volunteers heavily, without much success, leaving other board members to pick up the slack.  Professional help may be our only recourse.


Fee Increase in 2006-07 School Year. As discussed at the Fall Membership meeting, membership cost has only gone up only $10 in over six years, while costs of everything else have gone up and up. Also, we have increased teacher salaries and expanded course offerings several times. In addition, next year we will have two more weeks of classes than in the past (due to calendar changes made at the fall membership meeting). For all these reasons, the Board anticipates that fees for the upcoming year will increase by at least $40 for regular members.


Assuring quality teachers stay involved.  Helene will return to France next year (after having a July baby here in KC, she informs us), so the Board is looking for a replacement.  We all know she can’t be replaced, but we’ll do our best to find another teacher.  Nina has announced her intention to stay with us, even after her baby arrives. However, the Italian department may need to add another teacher, as her having to teach five hours straight this year caused some scheduling difficulties (and limitations). Teacher contracts and textbook decisions will be completed in May, before we all disperse for the summer.


Updating our by-laws.  Merrill Toms is carefully reviewing our By-Laws and has engaged member (and lawyer) Susan Gardner in this effort.  This is important to be sure that this important document supports our efforts to meet La Causerie’s current mission. Proposed changes will appear on the agenda for the April membership meeting, but your input is needed now (not at the last minute, in a short one-hour meeting).  The By-Laws are included in your Livret.  If you have suggestions, please share them with Merrill now. 


Developing a marketing plan.  Letting others know about La Causerie is important to keeping our membership strong.  Dalene Bradford, head of publicity, is putting together a marketing plan that will make best use of our limited resources, yet get the word out to key constituencies.  There will be plenty of roles for volunteers (like distributing fliers to libraries, and cards to friends).  We plan to invite prospective members to the Spring Fête, so think about who might be interested in taking classes next fall.


Spring Fête Slide Show


The Spring Fête will be held on April 28 at noon, after our Annual Meeting (which will include election of officers, updates to the By-Laws and other important issues.)


The Board decided to reprise (and expand) the travel slide show that was so popular at the Holiday Fete.  So, send in three to five of your favorite (digital) travel photos and we’ll add them to our existing group of slides.  Photos can be of ANY travel (not just European) and are special if they include people (like you).  They can be of your family or people you met along the way, gorgeous scenery or fabulous food.  Graceful gazelles or daffy ducks.  Whatever you’d have fun sharing.  We’ll show it before the Annual Meeting starts—and afterwards.


Sorry, but photos MUST be digital.  If you have photos in other formats, Kinko’s or a friend may be able to help you scan them into a computer.  


Email them to (see print version) by Friday, April 21. 


Livret Updates


La Causerie has its own mailing address (separate from the church). Please make a note in your Livret.    6320 Brookside Plaza, #253, KC, MO 64113.  Our box is checked weekly for mail.


Food, Glorious Food!


Ah!  We’ve enjoyed the wide range of treats at Friday classes, but seem to be having a mid-year slump some weeks.  Don’t let your classmates down.  Most EVERYONE indicated that they would volunteer to bring treats during the year, so step up (and follow through) now. 


Please sign up in the Fireside Room to help with this much appreciated service.

Anastasia Thompson has a list out for members to indicate that they will bring treats or help with set-up and clean-up for our Friday treats. 




Member Marti Moore has put us on to some great training offered by Concordia College in Minnesota. They operate Concordia Language Villages which provide a range of opportunities to learn or practice a language. While many of their programs are for children, they have quite a few for families and adults.  Check out the Elderhostel programs and the weeklong immersion programs in French and Spanish in the fall.

Other contact info:  901 8th Street South, Moorhead, MN 56562   1-800-222-4750


In the believe-it-or-not category, there is a website for people learning Klingon. Yes, the language of those alien beings on Star Trek.  Klingon claims to be the only artificial language created by a trained linguist.  Go figure.  They are a Pennsylvania nonprofit and have by-laws (which is how we found them, searching for by-laws samples of language groups).


Upcoming Alliance Française Programs.


On Friday, March 10 from 6 to 8:45 Rockhill Tennis Club members will watch “La Gloire de mon père” based on Marcel Pagnol’s childhood in Provence. Those saying for dinner will discuss “The Consants of French Civilization Revealed in the Film.”  Reservations required by March 7.


On Friday, March 17 (same time and place as above) the group will view “Le Château de ma mère,” with a discussion following at dinner. Reservations required by March 14.


On Sunday, Marcy 19, 5 – 8 p.m. a Rockhill Tennis Club, “The Congo Brazzaville,” a presentation by two people originally from the Republic of the Congo. They will address the etymological, historic and artistic aspects important in understanding the Congo Brazzaville but not normally covered in US press coverage.  Dinner and discussion to follow presentation. Reservations required by March 15.


For reservations:  EMAIL:   CALL 1-816-221-2049 (and choose option 3).  Please spell out your last name on the answering machine.  Indicate if you will attend the dinner (guests will order from the Rockhill menu ranging from $4 for soup or salad to $18 for a steak dinner.)


Upcoming Italian Book Signing


Round Trip Imports invites you to a book signing with Sarah Dunant on Thursday, March 2, 12:30 to 1:30, complete with Italian snacks. Dunant, author best-seller "The Birth of Venus" will sign her new book "In the Company of the Courtesan," (historical fiction, set in Renaissance Italy). Mary Lies, owner, called with a special invitation to our members and mentioned that they also import lovely things directly from Italy. Find them at 33701 W. 83rd, in downtown Desoto, KS. Visit their website for contact info and a map:


La Causerie Calendar


NOTE:        NO CLASSES will be held on Friday, April 28 (due to the Good Friday holiday at the church).


All programs are at noon, unless otherwise noted.  A group generally goes out to lunch with the speaker after the program and everyone is welcome to participate.


March 10     Two Programs will be held

French Program in the Fireside Room  Speaker TBD


Italian Program in the Library.  Maria Cristina Pilla will speak in Italian.  She is an engineer from the Emilia-Romagna area of Italy who is in KC to consult on a project with Black & Veatch.  No lunch is planned following this program.


March 17     Italian Program  in the Library.  Alberto Meloni will speak in Italian,  March 17, on the life and art of Michelangelo.  Mr. Meloni is director of the St. Joseph Museum


March 24     Spanish Program  Debbie Harris (Cerise’s daughter), will speak about “Seven Years in Ecuador".  Debbie married and had a daughter in Ecuador.  She will tell us about teaching school and adventures such as hiking Tungurahua, floating on the Napo River from Coco and traveling to the poor man's Galapagos. 


March 31     English Program  By popular demand, Helene Genuyt will reprise her presentation on “The Gardens of Versailles,” this time in English.  Helene returns to France later this year, so there won’t be a third repeat of this.


Académie Lafayette invites you to An Evening in Paris


In the heart of Brookside sits a school devoted to giving children a great education in one of the most academically challenging environments of any public school in Kansas City. Académie Lafayette opens its doors to every child in the Kansas City, Missouri School District. This diverse population of kindergarten through eighth grade students spends the entire day (with the exception of one hour for English) learning in French. Teachers from France, Belgium, Canada and several African countries teach in their native tongue, sharing the intricacies of their language and the love of their cultures.


On April 1, 2006, they will hold an adults-only fundraiser.  An Evening in Paris transforms the school into a Parisian bistro, decorated by Fiddly Fig and J'Adore, with food from a variety of award-winning restaurants (40 Sardines, Le Fou Frog, Boulangerie Philippe, and Gene Deming, executive chef, Mission Hills Country Club). They welcome donations for the auction and invite you to attend. 


Contact Mary Ann Deming at (see print version) 


Have a suggestion related to your class?


Then tell your department chair who is responsible for taking care of issues that need attention (such as class schedules and curriculum ideas).  Here’s who they are and how to contact them:


Department Chairs:

Italian – Carol Dirkes            (see print version) 

French – Peggy Rooney       (see print version) 

Spanish – Annette Howard    (see print version)