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School coordinator helps students stay warm in winter

December 18, 2007|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN - With colder weather comes the need for warmer coats, boots, hats and mittens. For Cindy Dean, it will mean many trips to the closet at Fountaindale Elementary School, where she keeps donated items.

Dean, 55, has been the Family and Community Partnership coordinator at the school for 16 years. She is one of eight in such a position in Washington County public schools.

When students come to school without the proper clothing for winter, it is Dean who will make sure they get what they need.

She said donations of new or gently used coats, clothing, boots, shoes, hats, mittens, gloves and new underwear are always welcome. School supplies also are appreciated, as the supply dwindles by this time of the year.

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"I can assure you they will be used," Dean said.

For Dean, her time originally was split between two schools. Then, as state and federal guidelines changed for the Title I job, she became full-time at Fountaindale, which has more than 400 students.

"My main job is to care for parents and make sure children have what they need - clothing and school supplies," Dean said.

She also puts parents in touch with local agencies that can help if they are having trouble paying the rent or utilities or feeding their families.

"We get a lot of community help. It's good to have a community relationship," Dean said.

A big part of Dean's job is home visits, to help parents understand the importance of education and to encourage them to volunteer at the school.

She said many new families at Fountaindale speak Spanish. Although Dean doesn't speak Spanish, she has the capability on her computer to translate written material from English to Spanish.

Dean also contacts parents when homework is not getting done, when report cards are not returned with a parent's signature or at the suggestion of a teacher.

She also coordinates mentors, reading and math programs with volunteer tutors, take-home reading programs and Family Nights.

The Washington County native, who lives in Halfway, said she kind of "fell" into this job. She graduated from South Hagerstown High School in 1970, then took one year of secretarial training at Hagerstown Business College.

Dean worked at Hagerstown Community College, then stayed home to raise her son and daughter. She volunteered at Lincolnshire Elementary School, where her children attended school, and the principal suggested she apply to be a substitute teacher.

After two long-term substitute jobs at Hickory Elementary, she landed the job at Fountaindale. The best part of the job was having the same hours as her school-age children and having summers off.

In her free time, Dean likes to do crossword puzzles and watch "Desperate Housewives" and "Dancing with the Stars." She enjoys time with family, especially her 6-year-old granddaughter.

Bird watching and spending time outdoors are also favorites.

As for her job, Dean finds her work rewarding.

"It's the satisfaction of being able to help a family with needs and knowing the children are being taken care of. Most parents really appreciate the help," Dean said.

For more information about making donations, call Dean at the school at 301-766-8161.

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