Schools want more parental involvement

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 30, 2005

Natchez &8212; The teachers at every school in the Miss-Lou are only second string.

They are great backups in the educational ballgame, but they are really only just that, backups.

It&8217;s the first string, moms and dads, that can win or lose the game, principals and teachers say.

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But all too often, the first string benches itself too early in the game.

West Primary, a school of about 400 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students, attracts 75 to 100

parents at PTA meetings. Principal Cindy Idom said she routinely has parents in the building, especially for special events.

But, the parental involvement decreases as the grades increase though, principals said.

At Ferriday Upper Elementary, a school of 350 second- through fifth-graders, parents still come to the special events, but they aren&8217;t necessarily doing all they can at home, Principal Lillian Franklin said.

&8220;(It&8217;s more important) that parents are extending learning,&8221; Franklin said. &8220;(Students) take homework home, and that doesn&8217;t get addressed.&8221;

Franklin said her school needs parents to establish a study routine for after-school hours.

Even if there&8217;s no specific homework assignment for the day, there&8217;s always work to be done, she said.

&8220;Reread a book from class with your child,&8221; she said. &8220;Study on Tuesday for a test on Thursday.&8221;

By middle school/junior high, children start pushing mom and dad away and parents start increasing that freedom.

But that&8217;s exactly the opposite of what needs to happen, school officials said.

&8220;This is a difficult age,&8221; Robert Lewis Middle School Parent Center Coordinator Marilyn Turner said. &8220;Parents tend to let them be more responsible for themselves, but this is the age we need (parents) the most.&8221;

Despite the attitudes and what the kids say they want, Ferriday Junior High Principal Dorothy Parker urged parents to stay involved.

At FJHS there&8217;s limited parental involvement, she said. And what they do have relates mainly to athletics. So she&8217;s starting with the basics.

&8220;More than anything we want parents to send children to school ready to learn,&8221; Parker said. &8220;Getting them here on time, properly dressed in uniform, having pants that fit.&8221;

Next she said she needs working phone numbers for parents so they can be contacted. And ultimately she wants to see parents in the hallways volunteering and homework that&8217;s been checked by an adult.

Parker said she makes herself available to parents at all times, including weekends.

At RLMS in Natchez the parent center is open all day long and hosts special events at night occasionally. The center has brochures on everything from helping children adjust to middle school to drug abuse prevention, coach books for state testing, computer programs on different subjects, videos on instruction and computers available for checkout.

Turner leads quarterly lunches for parents, workshops daily and monthly PTA meetings.

Parents can check out books their children are reading in class, and use the center to meet with Turner or teachers on their child&8217;s specific needs.

Most weeks between six and 10 parents visit the center a day, Turner said. PTA meetings bring in about 150, with 341 as the high mark in August.

Turner and Principal Bettye Bell also want parents to be more involved in the daily operations of the school

&8220;We have an open door policy,&8221; Turner said. &8220;Just let us know you are here. You don&8217;t need an appointment to go to your child&8217;s class or have lunch.&8221;

At the middle school age children also need positive parental influences to battle peer pressure, she said.

Nearly every public school in the Miss-Lou has a parent center similar to the one at RLMS. Each school hosts special events like plays, family math night and safety day as attempts to draw parents into the buildings.

Parents who have been active in their child&8217;s school said they&8217;ve seen positive benefits.

&8220;If we had more parents involved and just coming up and sitting in class, trying to get involved, we&8217;d see a difference in our kids,&8221; mom Lisa Busby said.

Busby has a child at RLMS and Natchez High School and said she is unable to be in the schools as much this year as she has in past year&8217;s because of work.

&8220;With the extra job it&8217;s hard, so I can understand why some parents don&8217;t,&8221; she said. &8220;But if you can get there, it&8217;s worth it.&8221;

Peggie Cochran said she tries to stay heavily involved in the school life of her granddaughter, a third-grader at McLaurin.

&8220;It&8217;s important for me to be here and help her with her homework,&8221; she said. &8220;I think it will help her if I&8217;m in there for her.&8221;