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Coordinator looks to get parents involved

December 20, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - As the mother of three children, Jenny Johnson knows how important and how hard it can be for parents to be positively involved in their youngsters' school experiences.

So as the new family and community partnership coordinator at Salem Avenue Elementary School, Johnson is looking into ways to achieve that involvement as painlessly as possible.

"Before this year, the job was called parent involvement coordinator and it is a full-time position in Title 1 schools," Johnson said.

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Schools that serve a lot of poor children qualify for extra money under a federal program known as Title 1. Those funds may be used to pay for such extra services as more teachers to cut class sizes, additional reading materials and positions such as Johnson's.

Since she began her duties in August, Johnson has been getting acquainted with the students at the school and working on ways to connect with as many parents as possible.

She said she wants to stress to parents that she's not necessarily trying to get them all into the building to volunteer their time, although that is part of her mission.

"Sending well-fed, well-rested children to school with their homework done each day is the most important parent involvement," said Johnson, 29.

Salem Avenue Elementary is in the midst of a huge renovation.

Because of that, the school's kindergartners have been relocated to Marshall Street School and the fifth-graders are at Western Heights Middle School. Currently, Salem has approximately 320 children in kindergarten and first through fourth grades, Johnson said.

Johnson attended first-grade orientation in the fall to meet as many parents as possible. She also made an appearance at Back to School night.

"I want to be familiar to the parents and let them know I'm here to help," she said.

"I also do a lot of referral work with parents who need help with agencies in the community, especially during the holidays," Johnson said.

She sends letters home to parents and compiles a newsletter to keep communication flowing.

Another goal is a mentoring/tutoring program during school hours.

"I have one tutor from Hagerstown Community College already and I would love to see more," Johnson said.

Prospective tutors may call her at 301-766-8313.

Johnson said she is enjoying the job so far.

"As I see needs, I try to expand to fill those needs," she said.

Johnson is a graduate of South Hagerstown High School and Frostburg State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in sociology and justice studies.

"I toyed with the idea of joining the FBI, but then I got married and had three children," she said.

Husband Dwayne is an accountant with Hagerstown Paint and Glass. The children are seven months, 4 years and 6 years old.

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