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Parents said key to education issues

April 23, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

Participation by parents in their children's education was a chief topic of discussion at Wednesday night's Community Education Forum sponsored by Hot Spot Coordinator Carolyn W. Brooks.

A handful of parents were present for the first in a series of special programs to address issues in neighborhoods in the Hot Spot high-crime area.

"The focus is on education tonight. It's one of the main things I heard in listening to issues and concerns from residents," Brooks told those attending the forum at the Sumans Avenue Community Building.

About 15 people, including school principals and educators, members of the Washington County Board of Education, Hagerstown Housing Authority administrators and community leaders were on hand to discuss issues, share ideas, and answer questions about the school system.

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The guests at the 90-minute meeting gave brief presentations on what each school is doing to try to help students and to get parents involved.

The Hagerstown Housing Authority, through a grant from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, provides after-school homework clubs and tutors for children who live in Hagerstown's public housing developments.

South Hagerstown High School Principal Dick Martin ran through a list of programs the school provides, including Saturday school in place of suspension, a homework drop-in program, and a teen-parent support group, among others.

Special programs are held for 30 so-called at-risk children at Fountaindale Elementary School as well as a homework club for fourth- and fifth-graders and Saturday school, said Principal Sue Gordon.

Many of the programs are financed with grants and run by volunteers and mentors, officials said.

Although the different programs and special attention paid to children by the schools and housing authority were commended, some wanted to know where the parents come in.

"At what point does the parent interact and have involvement? What's their participation?" asked Sherry Ferguson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Washington County.

For more than 30 minutes, those present discussed ways to get parents and members of the community to meetings, schools and special programs.

Many children come from single-parent households in which the parents may be working full time or more, giving rise to the question of time and availability.

Martin suggested contacting employers of parents and setting up partnerships in which businesses would allow paid time off to parents so they could attend school activities or parent-teacher conferences.

"I think there's got to be a way we can start a dialogue with some of these businesses," he said.

Several officials said they would be willing to bring more school programs to the communities.

"You have to do something to empower them. The bottom line is, there's just not a vested interest in our youth the way there used to be," said Alesia Parson, a member of the community who's niece attends North Hagerstown High School.

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