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Parents urged to get involved

December 03, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - Determined to keep parents involved in their children's education, the principal, PTSA and Citizen's Advisory Committee at Smithsburg Middle School have banded together to attract moms and dads to school.

"We have found that middle school is often when parents start thinking about college expenses. Both are working toward that goal and are more involved in their careers," said Principal Deidre Shumaker.

Add to that the feeling some parents have that their middle school children are becoming more independent and don't need as much parental involvement and the numbers start dropping off, she said.

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But Shumaker, CAC president Mark Martens and PTSA President Ed Marfut feel that just the opposite is true.

"We are trying to turn that trend around here at Smithsburg Middle," Shumaker said.

During the recent American Education Week, Nov. 16-22, the school was opened for parents to visit their children's classrooms.

Andrea Poet was there, spending time with both her sixth-grader and her seventh-grader.

"I believe it is very important for me to stay involved in their education," Poet said. "I can come in and find out what's going on."

Marfut, who is retired from the military, spent time in the school greeting parents that week.

"We also supplied the refreshments for the parents when they would come in," he said.

In his second year as PTSA president, Marfut has one son in middle school and another who is in high school. He has been active in trying to get parents involved.

One of those was Tracey Johnson, who visited the school during education week.

"We just moved here," said Johnson, the mother of a seventh-grader. She said she was active before moving here and will be here, too.

A newsletter brimming with news gets the word to parents about school activities, Shumaker said. Plans are afoot to have that newsletter available soon on the school Web site just in case the send-home copy doesn't make it home.

Through the year, the PTSA has special assemblies, provides extra supplies and materials for students and has a dance or two, Marfut said. There are about 15 dedicated core members and more are welcome, he said.

Another way Shumaker, Marfut and Martens hope to attract more parents is to hold more activities in the evenings when parents have finished their workday.

"For example, one of our math teachers had an evening program recently to keep parents up to date on the math curriculum and 35 parents were there," Shumaker said. "We have to do more of that."

After-school clubs also are a big activity that started last year in the school. Free for students, the events are monitored by parent volunteers.

Students can sign up for the chess club, stock market club, hair styling and others designed to keep kids occupied, Marfut said.

"We had 87 kids enrolled the first year," he said.

One of the PTSA's big money-raising projects is recycling printer cartridges, he said.

Shumaker said the CAC looks more at issues affecting the school. The October meeting was about the changing math curriculum.

Parents interested in getting involved can join the PTSA or the CAC, or both.

"I'm active in both," Marfut said.

Shumaker said she is impressed with the strength of both the PTSA and the CAC at Smithsburg Middle, where she is in her first year as principal.

"I taught at Boonsboro High for 13 years and then I got into administration," Shumaker said. She was assistant principal at Springfield Middle School before serving as principal at Northern, Boonsboro and E. Russell Hicks middle schools.

For more information on either the PTSA or CAC at Smithsburg Middle, call 301-766-8353.

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